Spotlight falls on abortion and embryonic research

PUBLISHED: 17:00 21 May 2008 | UPDATED: 10:52 12 August 2010

MPs were gearing up for one of the most controversial House of Commons votes of the year on Tuesdayto legislate on the legal cut off point of abortion.

MPs were gearing up for one of the most controversial House of Commons votes of the year on Tuesdayto legislate on the legal cut off point of abortion.

Women are currently allowed to terminate a pregnancy up to 24 weeks although current records show only two per cent women in the UK have abortions between weeks 20 to 23.

Pro-life activists are staunchly opposed to the current time limit which they see as being inhumane.

But pro-choice campaigners say the long-term limit is a safeguard for those seeking abortion who are vulnerable or suffering from domestic violence.

MP for Beckenham, Jacqui Lait, gave a speech in favour of keeping the law at 24 weeks on the second reading of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology bill on last Monday.

She told the Times: "It's absolutely vital that we keep the time as it is. The very small numbers of women who have an abortion at 24 weeks tend to those who are most vulnerable such as rape victims, young girls who have been in denial or menopausal women.

"Also, women mistake being pregnant for the menopause and don't realise until very late on. There is no evidence to suggest that a foetus has a better chance of survival at 24 weeks than it did when the original laws were made."

On Monday MPs voted in favour of creating human-animal hybrids known as "human admixed embryos" which can be manipulated to research cures for common diseases such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's.

MPs voted against a ban of so-called "saviour siblings" whereby parents of a sick children in need of tissue donors can test specially created embryos to see if there is genetic matches and then implant it.

Donna Zammit, 36, of Chatterton Road, Bromley, had her daughter Donatella in the hope she would be a bone marrow match for her critically ill nine-year-old son Jamie but she was not compatible.

Jamie has Fanconi Anaemia and currently needs blood transfusions every day.

Mrs Zammit said: "Obviously we were devastated when Donatella was not a match but we still love her just as much as any of our children. We were willing to try anything for Jamie but Donatella is very special too."

MP for Thamesmead John Austin, also believes there is nothing ethically wrong with creating saviour siblings. He said: "Any parent if faced with that horrible situation would consider having another baby to save the life of their sick child.

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