Issues - Abortion
New fertility laws say dads not needed to make babies
British scientists have applied for permission
to produce embryos that would be 99.9 per cent human and 0.1
per cent animal
A major relaxation of IVF rules was announced
by ministers today.
The changes will make it easier for single people and lesbians
to receive fertility treatment on the NHS.
The move, which is part of a shake-up of laws on the use of
human tissues, will also allow the creation of " Frankenstein"
embryos - human and animal cells mixed together - for medical
Under current laws, fertility clinics have to consider the
baby's need for a father before providing treatment. But today's
draft Human Tissue and Embryos Bill says this is no longer
The draft legislation bans couples from choosing the gender
of their child. It also tightens the law on screening embryos
for diseases, a subject of heated ethical debate as it could
lead to parents aborting potentially unhealthy babies and
see insurance companies refusing people with a genetic illness.
Permitting the use of hybrid embryos for medical research
is a major Uturn by ministers.
Initially, the Government had come out against Frankenstein
embryos, fearing a backlash from religious groups. Health
Minister Caroline Flint said today she been persuaded by the
arguments from the science communities and MPs.
Under the proposed laws, scientists will be allowed to create
human-animal chimeras - human embryos that have been mixed
with animal cells.
Sir David King, the Government's chief scientific adviser,
said he welcomed the move: "I believe that the approach
to the creation of embryos containing human and animal material
is the right one."
Dr Stephen Minger, director of King's College Stem Cell Biology
Laboratory, said: "This research is important because
these stem cell lines could help us to understand what goes
wrong in catastrophic neurological disorders like Alzheimer's
disease and Parkinson's disease."
Pro- life groups have reacted with anger to the draft bill.
Josephine Quintavalle, of the campaign group Comment on Reproductive
Ethics, said: "It is appalling that the government has
bowed to pressure from the random collection of self-interested
scientists and change its prohibitive stance.
Ms Flint defended the Government's change in attitude towards
hybrid embryos saying medical advances had allowed "us
to get in the place where we are now".
She said all the proposals would be subject to scrutiny by
a joint parliamentary committee before being introduced as
Other measures in the draft legislation include:
• Banning couples from choosing the gender of their
• Couples in same sex civil partnerships should have
equal rights as parents in traditional marriages.
• The regulation of internet sperm services.
• Tightening of laws on screening embryos for genetic
• Allow donor conceived children to find out if they
have donor conceived siblings.
The Government is also recommending a change to the rules
over the use of frozen sperm and the issue of withdrawal of