British Labour Government Will Let MPs Abstain on Pro-Human Cloning Bill

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Mar 7, 2008   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

British Labour Govt Will Let Pro-Life MPs Abstain on Human Cloning Bill Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
March 7
, 2008

London, England ( — British Labour Party leaders have relented and will let pro-life Catholic members of the caucus abstain on a vote on a bill that would promote human cloning. Some Catholic MPs were concerned they couldn’t vote for the Human Fertilisation and Embryology bill that the ruling government wants its members to approve.

Three British cabinet ministers, including Ruth Kelly, Des Browne and Paul Murphy, voiced objections.

On Friday, chief whip Geoff Hoon told the London Guardian newspaper that the members will be allowed to abstain. The unusual move will help them avoid having to vote for the measure, although the Conservative Party is going further by allowing a full free vote for its members.

Hoon said pro-life MPs would be able to use special "standing orders of the parliamentary Labour party" to not vote on the bill.

"Nobody will be required to vote against their conscience," he told the newspaper.

The news comes after a group of 108 scientists, attorneys, and religious leaders signed a letter to the London Times saying they didn’t think the political parties should force MPs to vote for the bill.

Though they differ on the outcome of the bill, they said they are united in "a single common view" that "political parties should not erode the principle of a ‘conscience vote’ on controversial bioethical legislation."

The bill allows the creation of clones that are 99 percent human but also have animal DNA infused. Scientists want to clone and kill these chimeras to search for cures for diseases.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown has previously indicated he would allow a free vote on the issue but worried it would upset other party members who have been loyal to the government.

John Smeaton, the national director of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, a leading British pro-life group, sent a statement to about the situation.

"Of course it’s right that politicians should demand the freedom to vote according to their consciences, without being penalized by their party, on a bill which, if passed, will cost the lives of countless human beings," he said.

Smeaton urged MPs to stand their ground despite what the party leadership may allow.

"Whatever their party leaders may threaten, politicians have a moral duty to vote against the bill," he said. "No punishment meted out by Gordon Brown on cabinet ministers or backbench politicians, however dreadful, absolves them of their moral responsibility to vote against such a bill."

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