The controversial embryos Bill could complete its passage through Parliament today if it is passed without amendment by the House of Lords.
While still objecting to the principle of the Bill, many Peers are keen to address several perceived weaknesses in the proposed legislation.
The debate in the Lords is scheduled for later today and may run late into the evening. Peers may only debate issues involving amendments passed by MPs in the Commons.
Pro-life Peers are keen to address several matters including:
An amendment was passed during Commons stages which allows scientists to use tissue from children, mentally incapacitated people, and people who have died, to make human or animal-human embryos without explicit consent from the donor.
Although many people may have given ‘general consent’ to their anonymous tissue being used for research, many would draw the line at their cells being used to create animal-human embryos. But under the Bill as it currently stands, those people would be ignored.
Many are concerned that the definition of an animal-human embryo is not clear enough. They are concerned that some types of embryos containing some human DNA may fall outside the Bill’s protections.
Will an embryo that is 90% animal and 10% human be treated under animal legislation rather than human embryo laws? Many are calling for greater clarification.
The Bill strips out a law which requires doctors to consider a child’s need for a father before referring a woman for IVF. It replaces it with a need to consider a child’s need for “supportive parenting”.
Critics say this undermines the role of fathers and sanctions the deliberate creation of children without a male role model in their lives.
Pro-life Peers want to introduce the ‘Hunt Test’ into the Bill. This is a requirement that scientists seeking a research licence must demonstrate that research using human embryos or animal-human embryos is a last resort, that there is no other option.
Specifically, this would require that alternatives such as non-embryonic stem cells (e.g. from umbilical cord blood) be used instead when possible.