This is the second challenge by the ProLife Alliance against the HFEA. Three years ago the ProLifers challenged regulations passed in 2001, allowing the use of embryos in stem cell research aimed at treating diseases. The Lawlords stated that when situations arose before a court, which Parliament could not consider at the time the Act was passed, the court must consider whether it fell within Parliamentary intent. The purpose of the legislation would be fulfilled if it were interpreted to include the new situation. Indeed, the Newcastle research does not strictly speaking fall within the scope of the Regulations, although Parliamentary debates at the time of the passing of the Act evidences that it was intended for the Courts to interpret the regulations purposively, so the Courts will hopefully endorse the HFEA's decision.
I say 'hopefully' because although the ProLifers argue that, 'human cloning is profoundly unethical' I would argue that it is profoundly unethical to fail to endorse therapeutic cloning. The ethical objection of the ProLifers lies in the use of the embryo as a research subject. They argue that life begins at conception, thus cloning is the use of a living being as a means to an end rather than an end in itself. However, the numbers of those that stand to benefit, whose suffering might be alleviated, whose lives might be lengthened is large, larger than those who would seek to inhibit the research.
Millions of embryos are destroyed every day by those attempting to reproduce sexually, because of the body's natural biological processes which discard embryos that have or are likely to have abnormalities. What is the difference between these embryos and ones used in research? Prolifers have never mentioned embryos lots 'naturally' - they simply did not seem to care about embryos previous to advances in cloning techniques, so why the change of heart?
Lobbying against therapeutic cloning seems to re-enforce anti-abortion views. Perhaps it is hoped that if a court will find it unacceptable to research on a 14-day-old embryo, then it will become unacceptable to abort a fetus. If it can become considered a legal wrong to research on a days-old embryo then the fetus about to be aborted must have an even more special status, and must be protected too. This is an unlikely result since abortion laws have sat quite comfortably with the courts for the past 38 years. It does however seriously question whether the ProLife Alliance have a place in the cloning debate at all, since they enter the discussion and the courts with quite a unique agenda.