In the forward to the newly introduced British legislation regarding human embryo research, Labour Health Minister Carolyn Flint wrote, “The birth of the first in-vitro fertilization baby in the world in 1978, the establishment of the Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority in 1991, the screening of embryos for serious disease and the introduction of cloned embryos for stem cell derivation are clear examples of why the United Kingdom has long been regarded as a leader in assisted reproduction technology and embryo research.” To pro-life ears, this is as much as an admission of guilt and an assertion that the slippery slope theory, much derided by abortion proponents, is correct. But Flint was not looking back far enough.
Eigthteenth-century philosopher Jeremy Bentham rejected Christian moral principles and began a philosophical movement that would lead ultimately to the anti-life ideologies of the 20th century. A short list of Bentham’s goals for British society will sound familiar: the absolute separation of church and state; animal rights equivalent to human rights; unrestricted divorce and the decriminalization of homosexuality. Bentham’s creation, utilitarianism, swept the world in the 20th century, proposing that an individual human being has no inherent worth or, consequently, rights of his own. The only good in society is the pursuit of “the greatest good for the greatest number” – the natural consequence of which could easily carry the rider: “at the expense of the few and of the individual.”
In-vitro fertilization and cloning, and legalized abortion, as well as legalized euthanasia, towards which the British medical establishment is steadily drifting, along with the utilitarian bioethics supporting them, are indeed British exports to the world, a drumbeat to which Canada has marched from the beginning. Britain legalized abortion in 1967 and Canada followed suit two years later. Britain passed its Human Fertilization and Embryology Act in 1991. In 1993, Canada’s Royal Commission on New Reproductive Technologies issued its finding that this country required similar legislation.
The British legislation establishing the Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority has become the most notoriously permissive and anti-life regulatory agency in the world. A key recommendation of the royal commission was the creation of a matching regulatory body for Canada. Since then, Canadian legislation has been passed that matches the British law, allowing practises that have become virtually the international standard template for such legislation.
The next phase has been developed by the cumulative actions of the HFEA over the 17 years of its existence. The HFEA has allowed cloning, eugenic “selection” of embryos, the creation of embryos for use as sibling tissue donors and, most recently, the combination of human and animal elements to create “hybrid” or “chimeric” embryos.
This British philosophical and scientific contribution to the world will continue to drive the international medical and scientific establishments. In the near future, look to see Canadian, Australian, European and, usually last, American moves to follow the leader to the next phase.