Canadian Bill to Ban Cloning, Allow Embryo Research Will Become Law

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Mar 12, 2004   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Canadian Bill to Ban Cloning, Allow Embryo Research Will Become Law

by Steven Ertelt Editor
March 12, 2004

Ottawa, Canada ( — Members of the Canadian parliament gave final approval on Thursday to a "clone and kill" bill that prohibits human cloning for reproductive purposes but allows scientists to clone human embryos solely to destroy them for their stem cells.

The Senate-approved bill came after a tumultuous debate.

Liberal Senator Yves Morin, a physician who supported the bill, called it "compassionate" because the destructive research could yield cures for different diseases he said.

"It strikes me as utterly macabre to be talking about legislating permission to experiment on humans," responded Liberal MP Tom Wappel. "Ultimately, that is exactly what we are talking about."

Pro-life groups oppose allowing "leftover" human embryos at fertility clinics from being destroyed for research.

The Senate passed the bill Thursday after a long wait following passage of the legislation by the House of Commons last October on a 149-109 vote. The bill had been presented numerous times over the last 10 years in different forms and Liberal MP Paul Szabo was able to lead a group of legislators to oppose it each time.

Szabo said that, under the Assisted Human Reproduction Act, cloning for experimentation and research would not be banned, only reproductive cloning.

Maureen McTeer, a lawyer who has written a book on ethical issues such as embryonic research, said human embryos should be protected, just as a severely handicapped child is protected from being killed to harvest his or her organs.

"We do that for a purpose because … we believe that human life is important and that it has to be protected, and that the vulnerable among us need to be protected," said McTeer, who is married to Conservative Party leader Joe Clark. "Embryonic life deliberately created in the lab is valuable as human life. It doesn’t have to be a person with legal rights in order for us to know that it is vulnerable and in need of some protection."

The bill, which will officially become law as soon as it receives royal assent, but that is normally considered a formality.