Thursday, March 09, 2006

Unbelievable – Questiontime panellists express touching concern about the child’s need for a father in the Natalie Evans case, as a justification for destroying the child’s life

I couldn’t believe my ears hearing the panellists on Questiontime cite the child’s need for a father as a reason for agreeing to the destruction of Natalie Evans embryos, following her losing her case for custody of the embryos against her ex-partner Howard Johnston who withdrew his consent to IVF treatment after the embryos had been created. As much as I support the child’s need for a father, how on earth can a need for a father be more basic than life and the right of the embryos not be destroyed once they have been created? Add in the fact that Hazel Blears representing the Government have been responsible for undermining the child’s right to a father without any parliamentary debate, through the HFEA, whose unelected and unaccountable ex-chair, Suzi Leather, made pronouncements last year about the child’s right to a father being removed from statute so that single women could receive IVF, and the whole thing struck me as ridiculous, muddle headed and more than a little hypocritical.

I was also astonished that Michael Nazir Ali, Bishop of Rochester who chaired the HFEA’s ethics committee admitted frankly that he did not know who had the right to custody of the embryos, Natalie or her ex-partner. While the HFEA should not be a decision making body, this just goes to highlight the total inadequacy of the HFEA’s understanding of ethics and the fact that the HFEA ethics committee is not just a democratic farce but an intellectual shambles. It is clearly endowed with a power far in excess of its capabilities.

In any case are the ethics really so complex? How on earth can anyone weighing what each party loses side with anyone other than Natalie and the embryos who respectively lose their right to motherhood and life against a man who loses nothing by the implantation of embryos he previously consented to creating? Natalie has undergone a much more serious invasive procedures to produce the embryos than her ex-partner, why should all the egg harvesting, injections and invasive treatment be all in vain because he has changed his mind? The physical consequences of terminating the embryos or implanting them concerns Natalie and the embryos and has no physical impact on her ex-partner. Any attempt to turn this scenario on its head and ask if a woman could be forced to carry embryos if the woman withdrew her consent instead, simply misses the point that the Natalie Evans case does not in any way involve a lack of the woman’s consent to pregnancy.

The current law on consent may side with Howard Johnston but that only proves that the law must change. Consent should only apply to the creation of the embryos and should then be irrevocable, just as marital separation doesn’t give the male partner the right to insist on the destruction of children. It is not as though Howard Johnston’s sperm was used against his will. Writing in the Evening Standard, Will Self says that “Mr Johnston has made statements that exhibit an emotional intelligence all too often far from men’s minds during the act of conception. He has said that IVF is “something that you should undertake as a couple in a stable relationship where the key consideration is the welfare of any offspring. And that he couldn’t countenance having nothing to do with his child, despite knowing that he was somewhere in the world” . All of which is fine and admirable in the context of good fatherhood, but how can it be good fatherhood to insist on the destruction of embryos? Shouldn’t consent to IVF involve a commitment to the children first that isn’t subject to a future change of mind?

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Wednesday, March 08, 2006

International Women's Day - Hands off our Ovaries! International Woman’s Day brings launch of a new coalition of women to campaign against exploitation of women in biotechnology

This is the press release from a new international coalition, check it out:

More information or email

On Wednesday, 8 th March, International Women’s Day, a coalition of pro-choice and pro-life women, concerned at the growing exploitation of women in biotechnology will launch a new campaign against the harvesting and marketing of human eggs. The campaign. ‘Hands off our ovaries!’ will highlight the short and long-term risks involved in egg harvesting and its significance for the health and dignity of women.

Concerned feminist representatives have joined together on this common ground, outraged by the casual attitude of the biotech industry towards the female body. Like-minded leaders and groups from around the world are invited to join a list which already includes representation from the USA and Europe.

‘Egg extraction as currently practiced poses inadequately understood, yet clearly significant risks to women’s health. It is criminal to encourage young women to take these risks purely for research purposes.’ says Diane Beeson, Professor of Sociology at the California State University, East Bay, and founder member of ‘Hands off our Ovaries’.

‘Women must quickly come together so that these life threatening concerns for our health and safety are heard. We can no longer sit idly by while women altruistically put themselves in harms way,’ stated Jennifer Lahl, President of Every Woman First.

Leading Italian Feminists, Paola Tavella and Alessandra Di Pietro, authors of the newly-published, ‘Untamed Mothers – Against Technorape of the Female Body’ *, support the campaign and comment, ‘We believe that current biopolitics are separating men and women from natural reproduction and are robbing women of their biological tissues for experimental technoscience. We will fight together with other feminists for the freedom of women and the welfare of future generations.’

‘Women can die from egg harvesting, or suffer irreversible infertility, and the long term effects of the drugs which are used in the process are still being questioned,’ said Josephine Quintavalle on behalf of Comment on Reproductive Ethics. ‘None of these issues has been adequately addressed by the stem cell scientists eager to get their hands on women’s eggs and ovaries. And all for scientific research which still remains in the realm of hypothetical benefit.’

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Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Exploitation of women totally disregarded by biased and ridiculous Times comment piece "The crazy coalition holding back science"

Instead of giving factual and accurate information on why women internationally are opposed to the harvesting of eggs from women in invasive and dangerous procedures, the Times today dismisses this as the crazy coalition holding back science". There is no mention of the fact that women have died from egg donation, no mention of the invasiveness and dangers of the procedure to women's health, and no mention of the ludicrousness of the scientific procedures that require vast numbers of eggs and have achieved nothing to date or the profit motives driving these scientists.

If you want information about how women could be exploited, don't go to the Times, see CORE's information about women exploited by egg trading in Romania, and the woman who died during IVF treatment from ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome.

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