The Telegraph reports today that Ruth Kelly is preparing to defy the Government's three-line whip - an order to vote as directed - and oppose the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill (HFE). When she was Transport Secretary, is until last month, it would have been very difficult for her to vote against the Bill as she would have been tied into the Cabinet's collective responsibility for all Governmental legislation.
It's generally accepted that Kelly's membership of Opus Dei, an organisation of Roman Catholic laypeople whose mission is to "help people turn their work and daily activities into occasions for growing closer to God, for serving others, and for improving society", was a factor in her resignation, and Telegraph blogger Jonathan Isaby states that the Bill's passage through the House of Commons was delayed so as not to make abortion an issue in the by-election in Glasgow East (which Labour lost), commenting that the constituency has a high proportion of Catholics.
I don't deny any of this, but I come from around that area, and it is not short of non-Catholics who also oppose the dangerous innovations of the HFE. Not just Glasgow: John Smeaton recently addressed an anti-abortion rally in Stormont, site of the Northern Ireland parliament - a country in which all legislation is subject to public consultation, and the public in Northern Ireland isn't having abortion.
I mention abortion because the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill is not all about abortion, but the sort of tortured and twisted situationalist ethics that fuel abortion legislation have been let out of the box to inform the mindset of laws that are drafted to curtail the right to life of people from conception to assisted death. But abortion, the original cause, is so important that Harriet Harman, Leader of the House of Commons, is drafting an amendment to the HFE Bill that would prevent any amendments to lower the abortion limit. She seems to think that she is standing up for a woman's right to do what she wants with her body.
I don't have any problems with the concept of a woman's ownership of her body. But an unborn child , while in its mother's body, has its own individual DNA profile and is therefore not part of it. This seems to have been recognised by the organisers of a staff poetry competition in Cambridge's Addenbrooke's Hospital. It was written by Paul McGhee, the Programme and Information Manager in the Research and Development Department, about stem cells, specifically "how you get from just a few cells, which seem to know what they are doing, to a real working human being that is aware of itself". It's called "Hi, Mum!" and here it is:
John Smeaton asked for our prayers for Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Speaker of the House of Commons Michael Martin as the HFE Bill sails down the river of legislation like a ship bursting with buccaneers. I would add that Ruth Kelly deserves all our prayers as she faces what is possibly the most difficult decision of her career. All I can say to her is that the best political survivors of the present Labour Party will be those who dared to defy the party line; many of the rest will sink with the ship.
I was two cells – one each from him and you.
Fused, not confused, seems they already knew
From all they could be, what they had to be.
Divided, they decided to be me.
With every split decision that they took,
Each chose a route, put on a different look;
A cage of bone, a flow of blood, some skin,
A web of nerves, a mind to keep things in.
Some time amongst that maze I saw a light,
Felt a sharp pain, took unexpected fright;
Heard your heart, sure, but then I heard my own;
Became aware of just how much I’d grown.
Rough-hewn from what heredity portends,
Hi, mum! I’m ready now to shape my ends.