Monday, March 24, 2008

The rights of the uncured disease

Labels matter in politics. Hence anti-abortionists (which is precisely what they are) call themselves ‘pro-life’, positive-sounding as it is (and accurate, as long as embryonic life is the only sort that exists).

They call their opponents variously ‘anti-life’ and ‘pro-abortion’, rather than ‘pro-choice’. Which is interesting: you’ll certainly find one lot camped outside US abortion clinics, urging women with varying degrees of rudeness to keep their ‘babies’; but you never, strangely, find the other lot camped outside ante-natal classes plugging abortions. It’s almost as if they’re not ‘pro-abortion’.

Anyway. In the current debate on the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill, one side supports using microscopic hybrid embryos in petri dishes for research on debilitating diseases; the other side is worried about the tiny clumps of embryonic cells.

Ophelia Benson has the perfect label for those opposed to this research:



(Aside: when people talk about MPs having a ‘free vote’ so that they can listen to their ‘consciences’, isn’t it curious that these are so often issues when religious MPs are being whipped into line by their churches rather than their parties? All part of the pathology that makes people think you have to believe in ghosts to believe in right and wrong.)


m said...

I disagree and I think you’ll find people that aren’t even religious still wish to raise more questions about this and they should be able to do so. I don’t agree with the concept behind the Catholics and the vote of conscience, I think if you’re elected you should be able to put that aside. I’m actually happy they’ve opened the bill up for more debate.

From what I know about the research, which I’ll confess isn’t that in depth, there are different claims about what process has the most promise. If we can look into an alternative that wouldn’t cause as much of an uproar, why aren’t we (or you in this case…damn)? I want to hear the debate on it and have the scientists involved, I think there is a lot the public needs to know and probably the MPs; if not a lot of misinformation to dispel. In the end, I imagine people would support the more efficient practice.

Also, continuing with the distasteful labels brought on by extremists…isn’t that great, just my opinion though.

Tom Freeman said...

I’ve got no real objection to a free vote on this – it just strikes me that as almost any political issue involves matters of ‘morality’ and ‘conscience’, the cases on which free votes are given (or asked for) seem mostly limited to matters of sex, fertility and reproduction. And religious voices take a greater prominence when these things come around.

There were plenty of Labour MPs who rebelled over the Iraq war, or pre-trial detention limits, or schools reform, but virtually no suggestion from anyone that those should have been free-vote issues.

Also: all MPs can vote any way they like at anay time. The ‘free vote’ device merely means their party leadership will be less annoyed when they do.

And I’m all for looking into lots of alternative options. Alas, it’s not always easy to know where the best routes will be before you’ve taken them. Science proceeds by trial and error. And I can’t see that this particular case actually causes anybody any harm. People who believe a 14-day embryo is a person with rights will disagree, but they’re far fewer in number than the current furore would suggest.

As you say, a public debate that makes a few facts clear is no bad thing at all.

m said...

I think people are still really annoyed there wasn't a free vote on and more of a fight put on by the MPs and others where the war and the EU referendum (possibly retrospect at play, I'll admit that). I've been reading the comments and people haven't forgot about it (well, some people) and I've also seen it come up a lot when people try to make a case for changing the voting system. Also, I think the whole argument that it wasn't in the manifesto brings some of those issues to mind too, along with the election gaff (in the public's perception).

I think they should be allowed a free vote on all issues, and I don't like the 'conscience vote' or whatever the term is being used interchangeably with 'free vote'. Obviously, I'm from a country that has weak whips and pretty much all free votes, so I'm biased and it's benefits to British Parliament and British citizens may be something I'm failing to realize. Plus, I do believe they can't really vote whatever way they want to without facing consequences, hence the lines of whips, right? Perhaps you're just saying you'd like them to be less cowardly and accept whatever backlash they'll get when voting freely? Feel free to enlighten me.

I'm all for the religious being allowed their point of view, I think some of the blame is with the press and general public not paying attention to these issues before the almighty church wants to stomp about. Also, I think it is natural for them to shout the loudest. As I've said it before, I don't believe MPs should allow their religious affiliations to get in the way of such votes, they should have the capacity to separate themselves and represent who's elected them. If the religious groups have an issue it should be a matter that all MPs consider, as they're just another group with a right to their opinion and just like every other group, they have a right to be heard and their thoughts taken on board.

Harping on about this before it becomes a full-blown abortion debate again. I’m really surprised the animal rights groups haven’t jumped on board a bit more (I’m not saying it would be logical, but…well I’ll dig myself a hole here). I was once in a casual debate with someone who suggested they use the prison population to experiment drugs on, rather than mice or a rabbit.

Also, some parts of the bill that caused some tension among members that actually wanted to use IVF seems to be taking a downturn. (Including people who were upset that the bill is putting a limit on the number of embryos being allowed to be implanted at a given time. I’m not sure if this has been resolved yet though, as the last time I read about it was in December.) Hopefully, when this finally is voted on cooler heads from both sides (I do believe both sides are contributing to disinformation) will prevail.

I’m sad that all the hype and extremes leaves out other information from the science community and even the government about fertility/infertility/subfertility. And from the government’s position, possibly trying to push some more/new career options and/or family planning information. Just talking to my own peers, males and females boarded up in ivory or cathedral towers, I know many of them aren’t informed about such things, are the type to plan, and most of them do want children.

m said...

Argh, you'll just have to figure out what I mean there. (I've left out some words and punctuation. Sorry.)

m said...

I’m sorry, I obviously don’t have the ability to make constructive comments and leave it at that. Given the nature of blogging and the simple fact I’m not up to scruff, I won’t be commenting anymore.

Thanks for your patience and good luck!

Tom Freeman said...

Yeah, the whipping system is (from what I gather in my extensive West Wing research) weaker in the States than over here. I’m pretty usre that has something to do with the fact that the UK government derives from the legislature – there’s much more scope for disciplining MPs as you can offer them front-becnh jobs.

Also, I think (this is pretty much a guess) that the main focus of campaigning and fundraising over there are more national than local (even if you compare with a House election). An individual MP doesn’t have that much status. Then again, MPs can only be whipped if that’s what they really want…

The government needs to be able to get its legislation through – although there’s a very fair argument that whipping only really has legitimacy when you’re talking about manifesto pledges.

I don’t know. I think I’ll hedge a bit here and let it rest at that..

On this particular case, I’m utterly against religion in government, but not necessarily religion in politics – people should be able to advance whatever case they want for whatever reasons they have. But I think that explicitly relgious politicking can be divisive and I wish people would tone it down. For instance, another bishop has said:

“It's a very important part of our society and a very important part of the Christian faith that you should have respect for human embryos. If you stop obeying God you start to limit the rights of human beings and this is a case in point.”

It’s almost as if it’s deliberately designed to alienate anyone who doesn’t already wholly agree. There’s no interest at all in democratic debate there.

And M, I think your comments are intelligent and constructive. You’re brighter, more knowledgeable and readier to think out loud than many bloggers. You’re very welcome to come back and give me a friendly kick anytime!

m said...

Hmm, the importance of whips when passing legislation...I will admit it is more complicated in London than it is in Washington, as you have a strong(er) third party. I still don’t agree though. (I’m not going to rehash the MP ultimatums, I obviously disagree and I would never want to whip anyone to such extremes, but I respect your opinion)

As for manifesto pledges….technically the government is right on some current outcries, but the perception of the public is still important, which was why I focused on that (if indeed you were hinting at questioning that, I could have just misconstrued that).

I won’t go too much into religious lobbying, there is a lot of blind faith and resentment when religion is involved (on both sides). It doesn’t seem fairly covered either, weren’t there Imams and others who were unhappy with the bill as well? That is why I really focused on the question on conscience factor and all that it implies to those who choose to be religious. Catholics in the government face a different atmosphere here, right from the start, so that may impact my reaction and defense.

I do welcome to see the results of the vote in a couple of months (I think that is when they’re voting on it?), I don’t know a great deal about individual Mps (that doesn’t mean I don’t think they deserve respect- in the most boisterous, Aretha Franklin way- straight from the diaphragm, although dancing skills may suffer), but I have read quite a few reports that believe everything will go through.

I’ll just point out that what you’ve expressed concerning the religious and the alienation they appear to assert can and has been applied to being in a debate with the extreme liberals as well (not that I think you’re one, just pointing out the ruby slippers).

Anyway, the concept of a blog is for your opinions, not a long discussion. It is a bit rude; plus, I’m finding the topics that I’m riled up about make me look like some obento-packing housewife, hopefully the middle-class, wine friendly kind. Fortunately, I don’t wish to insult my youth with that, especially while I still have it (you’re in the clear, as you’ve conceded to watching the West Wing).

Luckily, I can remain silent about Camera-on (I know, it doesn’t have an ‘a’), spokes, and Kryten (Hague- smeg head). Plus, I should really focus on our own problems, it’s the first time I’m eligible to vote in a Presidential race and I’m actually in the U.S. to experience all the balloons, lapel pins, and sex scandals you could ask for, it’s beautiful. Plus, Brown will be stopping over in no time, so hopefully something eventful will result from that.

And thanks for the virtual pat on head, that was sweet, I wasn’t looking for that though (just to be clear). I was just asserting my weaknesses with word count, blog etiquette, and the pangs of being a bit more passionate than usual (and its result on grammar- it was painful for me to read about 1 minute after posting).