The comparison drawn by Cologne Cardinal Joachim Meisner between preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) and the infanticide of Bethlehem by King Herod has sparked debate – and generated support from unusual quarters.
The Parliamentary State Secretary in the Federal Ministry of the Environment, Ursula Heinen (CDU), expressed her disappointment. Meisner "with his PID comparison fails to recognize the actual plight of parents who have already suffered miscarriages or stillbirths," she told the "Kolner Stadt-Anzeiger" (Thursday). Heinen belongs to the group of parliamentarians who want to allow PGD for cases of severe hereditary predisposition of the parents concerned within the limits set by the Federal Court of Justice.
Protestant theologian Friedrich Schorlemmer has called on Meisner to resign. Schorlemmer said Wednesday on news radio MDR Info in Halle, "a man who argues so should withdraw from office."Meisner had put "theological principles against a pastoral concern".
The biblical infanticide of Herod is a genocide of healthy children, a comparison with PGD is "downright absurd". Meisner defamed with the comparison the supporters of the PID "in a bad way". Furthermore, the Wittenberg theologian said that the sharpness of the discussion about PGD was "not justified".
In contrast, the first parliamentary director of the Green Party and human rights policy spokesman for his parliamentary group in the Bundestag, Volker Beck, jumped to the cardinal's defense. Criticism of his statements from the CDU/CSU is incomprehensible, Beck said in Berlin on Wednesday. PGD aims at selection and killing of embryos. In this case, one cannot complain to the bearer of the bad news, but must "perhaps re-examine one's own positions," said Beck, who in the past had not spared criticism of statements made by the Cologne cardinal.
Meisner had strongly condemned genetic testing of embryos in PGD on Tuesday evening. Whoever allows PGD says no to life, says the cardinal. The human being has his full dignity as soon as an egg cell is fertilized. At that time, Herod also made a selection according to criteria such as place, age, sex and the state of research. This comparison, however, Meisner himself had immediately called "politically incorrect". Finally, the proponents of PGD would have struggled for their decision.
Green politician: Do not judge the value of life with PGD
Green Party member of the Bundestag Priska Hinz has warned against a broad embrace of preimplantation diagnostics. In an interview with the "Hamburger Abendblatt" (Wednesday), she advocated limiting the controversial genetic diagnosis to the viability of the embryo. "To me, the ie is the viability of the embryo, not whether the embryo is worth living," the research policy expert said.
Hinz wants to present her own bill with SPD member of parliament Rene Rospel by the beginning of February, according to the newspaper. It provided for a limitation of the examination to those diseases "which may lead to miscarriage or to the very early death of the child born". These did not include, for example, Down syndrome or Huntington's disease, a hereditary brain disorder that is as yet incurable and does not break out until adulthood. The two, who served on the Parliamentary Ethics Advisory Board during the last legislative period, plan to present their concept "in January or early February".
Hinz opposed the bill presented before Christmas by a cross-party group of members of parliament led by Ulrike Flach (FDP) and Peter Hintze (CDU). This sorted out also embryos with life-threatening illnesses, which appeared only in the age. "To decide before birth whether a person is allowed to live with such a hereditary disease, I think is wrong," Hinz said. The examination for such diseases is also forbidden in prenatal diagnostics (PND) during pregnancy, which has been practiced for a long time, he said. "The draft of Flach and Hintze, however, would pierce this prohibition," said the Green.
Meanwhile, criticism continues over consideration of allowing PGD in limited form. The Association of Catholics in Economy and Administration (KKV) stated that whoever gives away human life "once, no matter from what point on, ultimately plays himself out as the master of life and death". Human dignity is not an invention that can be "taken away from or acknowledged to people when needed," says KKV Federal Chairman Bernd-M. Wehner. He rejected pleas by CDU politician Hintze and the president of the German Medical Association, Jorg-Dietrich Hoppe, for allowing PGD.
PGD involves testing fertilized eggs created in a test tube outside the womb for genetic defects and destroying damaged embryos. In Germany, it was considered forbidden until the summer of 2010 according to the common legal interpretation of the Embryo Protection Act. At the beginning of July, however, the German Federal Supreme Court (BGH) ruled that genetic testing of embryos is not yet prohibited under the wording of this law. The Bundestag is currently debating new regulations; proponents and opponents are presenting various draft bills on the subject.