Junior health minister Jet Bussemaker has withdrawn her letter to MPs giving the green light for the selection of embryos without a gene causing a severe form of breast cancer.
The letter was withdrawn following protests from the deputy prime minister Andre Rouvoet who leads the orthodox ChristenUnie party – one of three parties in the coalition government.
Currently embryos created using test-tube baby techniques may be screened for genes which always lead to life-threatening inherited diseases such as Huntingdon’s.
Labour minister Bussemaker said she had not consulted with cabinet colleagues before announcing the changes because it was a technical change in the law. She now accepts that ministers should have been consulted, news agency ANP reports.
Prime minister Jan Peter Balkenende (Christian Democrat) said after the cabinet meeting that the issue should have been discussed by the cabinet, given the medical, technical and ethical aspects of the case.
‘It is an extremely sensitive subject,’ Balkenende was reported as saying by ANP.
Femke Halsema, leader of the green party GroenLinks, said the affair was an ‘amateurish row over the back of women with a serious illness’.
D66 leader Alexander Pechtold said it was unbelievable that the two Christian parties had managed to talk the Labour party into withdrawing its support for wider embryo selection.
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