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Human cloning and human embryo experimentation: ban both

Human cloning could be a reality in the ACT within a few years under legislation to be debated today in the Legislative Assembly, warned Mary Joseph, president of the ACT Right to Life Association.

The Human Cloning (Prohibition) Bill and the Human Embryo (Research) Bill are expected to be debated in the ACT Legislative Assembly today.

“The announcement in February that a South Korean team of scientists had created the first human embryo clones means that human cloning is no longer just a theory, but a frightening reality”, Ms Joseph said. “The Stanhope Government should legislate to ensure that human cloning is never allowed in the ACT.

“The legislation places a ban on human cloning that is to be reviewed in a couple of year’s time. That legislated review allows the ban to be overturned. This loophole could mean allowing human cloning either to produce children or to produce embryos for experimentation.

“There is no practical difference between the procedure of cloning for reproduction or cloning for research. Both produce a cloned human being. Once a cloned embryo has been created it is either implanted in a woman to develop and be born, or it is destroyed for research.

“If we are serious about banning human cloning, we should permanently ban both cloning for reproduction and cloning for research.

“The Human Embryo (Research) Bill allows so-called ‘excess’ human embryos to be destroyed for research.

“The extraction of embryonic stem cells from embryos would be just a small percentage of the research allowed. Human embryos would also be used for drug testing, for examining the effectiveness of new culture media in assisted reproductive technology and for training clinicians in ART techniques. The legislation regulates the use of embryos but does not regulate the use of human embryonic stem cells.

“Human embryos are more than a chance collection of cells which can be used without consequence. The Government has ignored the deeper ethical issues of what it is to be human, and how we should respect that humanity.

“Every human being deserves our respect, whether embryonic, foetal, child or adult and no human being should be sacrificed for the good of another. This legislation directly counters these very important principles. It would give tacit acceptance to the commodification and commercialisation of human life.

“The legislation is presented as a choice between harming embryos or harming adults who have illnesses or conditions which might possibly be cured.

“But the science behind human embryo research has been questioned by prominent experts. There are also ethical alternatives through adult stem cell research – research which has already produced therapies. Embryonic stem cell research has not produced any therapies or treatments for human patients.”

Issued:    1 April 2004
Contact:  Mary Joseph, president of the ACT Right to Life Association Inc,
telephone 02 6253 3100.