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Last Updated: Saturday, 26 March, 2005, 12:00 GMT
Cardinal 'horrified' at IVF plans
Cardinal Cormac Murphy O'Connor
The Cardinal will return to the issue during Saturday's mass
The head of the Catholic Church in England and Wales says he is "horrified" at MPs' proposals that IVF parents could choose their baby's sex.

Last week's Commons committee report also called for re-examination of 'taboo' subjects such as cloning and implanting animal cells into humans.

Cardinal Cormac Murphy O'Connor said on Saturday this would lead down "a very, very dangerous path".

He also paid tribute to the Pope in the interview on BBC Radio 4's Today show.

Is it not right that citizens of this country should consider these matters and question their parliamentary candidates?
Cardinal Cormac Murphy O'Connor

On Thursday the Commons Science and Technology Committee published their report saying there was no "compelling evidence" to prohibit couples undergoing IVF being able to choose to have a girl or boy to "balance out" their family.

It also looked at other issues across the field of reproductive health.

"In many ways I was horrified by their recommendations that there should be - as it were - experimentation on human embryos, cloning, gender selection and so on," the cardinal said.

"It seemed to me that we were going a very, very dangerous path."

Faith leaders should be more intimately involved with the policy-making process on these issues, he said.

"Science has made such advances that we really need to think about it very, very carefully."

US-style politics

Cardinal O'Connor sparked a debate on abortion earlier this month when he spoke out in support of Tory leader Michael Howard's view that the legal time limit should be reduced to 20 weeks.

He was later backed by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, who also said there should be an urgent review of the law.

The prime minister has made it clear he has no plans to change abortion law, saying it should be a matter for a free vote, and conscience.

Cardinal O'Connor will return to the subject during Saturday's Easter mass.

He said he agreed with Mr Blair that abortion should be a matter for the conscience of every MP.

"But I'm not sure I agree with him when he says it shouldn't be a part of the election process.

"Surely every Catholic - every citizen - when thinking about election issues will consider these matters that concern life.

"After all it is parliament that will decide matters concerning abortion, euthanasia.

"Is it not right that citizens of this country should consider these matters and question their parliamentary candidates?"

Range of topics

He said voters should not make up their mind on single issues, but should bear in mind a range of different topics.

"I don't tell people how to vote - I give them advice on what they should think about - but every citizen is free of course to vote as he or she would wish."

He said he did not want to see US-style religious politics in the UK, but that the British people supported him in raising the issue.

"I think we have a different way of doing things here in Britain."

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