LONDON - Across Britain, debates heated up on ethical issues concerning unborn babies as the media revealed some of the inhumane practices of medical professions, especially on the issue of abortion and designer babies.
Under the current law in the UK, legal abortion is permitted for unborn baby under 24 weeks in case of severe disabilities detected after screening and testing. However, medical professions revealed that the development of embryos nowadays have become much faster. A new type of ultrasound scan has produced vivid pictures of a 12-week-old fetus "walking" in the womb. Moreover, cases of failed abortions were reported, in which disabled babies survived shortly after the abortion. They were then left unattended til death regardless of the possibility that they can keep their lives. It raised the ethical dilemma whether they should be treated as a normal baby and be saved in such cases.
"Advances in medical technology mean that a large number of problems and abnormalities are now detectable at an earlier stage than they were in previous years. Also, a fetus can survive at an earlier stage than it could in the past,"
Lord Steel, former liberal leader, said the current limit of 24 weeks was outdated. It was suggested that the upper time limit for terminations should be reduced from 24 weeks to 22 weeks, or even halved to 12 weeks. Prime Minister Tony Blair admitted that the legal time limit for abortions could be re-examined based on the new medical findings.
The Christian Medical Fellowship (CMF) in Britain welcomed Tony Blairs comments that the Government is to consider a review of the law on abortion.
Peter Saunders, General Secretary of CMF, especially addressed the right of disabled babies after a failed abortion in the Press Release, There are currently huge inconsistencies in the abortion law whereby babies of the same age and with identical chances of survival can be aborted if inside the womb, but receive full neonatal care if outside it. The Government must urgently address this ambiguity.
But all this raises the much deeper question of whether only fetuses who kick, walk and stretch are deserving of legal protection. The current law simply discriminates against some human beings purely on the basis of age or neurological function. The real question is whether a democratic society should tolerate such legislation at all.
Yesterday, the CMF called on Christians throughout the UK to look into the most recent issue about Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority (HFEA)s plan to relax the so called "designer baby" regulation to allow more screening on genetic traits and selection of embryos.
The IVF technology could be used to create a baby whose umbilical cord blood can provide cells to save the life of a sick sibling. Now, a three month consultation Choosing the Future run by the Human Genetics Commission (HGC) will be launched for public response to a wide range of issues ranging from screening of embryos and genetic research, to fertility treatments and the prospect of designer babies.
Peter Saunders, General Secretary of the CMF, expressed his disappointment with the Governments attitude to the life of the less fortune ones, "The HGC consultation is sadly much more about eugenics than designer babies. For some years leading medical voices have shamelessly promoted search and destroy techniques for Down's syndrome on the grounds that the costs are less than a lifetime of care.
Saunders also noted that presently over 90% of babies diagnosed with Down's syndrome before birth in the UK are aborted. The relaxation of the regulation on designer babies will inevitably lead to more prenatal eradication of children with Special Needs, supposedly in the interests of free choice and sound economics.
"We should not minimize the considerable physical, financial and psychological cost of raising children with special needs, but the way we treat the most vulnerable members of our community speaks volumes about the sort of society that we are, he further commented.
The CMF strongly encourages Christian in the UK to play a full part in the HGC consultation process so that a Christian voice of reason is heard by both the government and the medical profession. It reminds Christians about their mission to stand at the forefront of providing support for the families of Special Needs children.
Prof Jack Scarisbrick, national chairman of Life, a pro-life group, said during an interview with BBC that alternative methods to save Special Needs children need to be found, stressing that it can never be right to manufacture human beings to repair other human beings.
He warned, "The HFEA is a feeble, unprincipled group. They will say yes to these plans and it will be another move down the slippery slope.