Australia Official: Keep Human Cloning, Embryonic Stem Cell Research Regs

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Mar 20, 2006   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Australia Official: Keep Human Cloning, Embryonic Stem Cell Research Regs

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by Steven Ertelt
LifeNews.com Editor
March 20, 2006

Canberra, Australia (LifeNews.com) — Australia Health Minister Tony Abbott is arguing that the island nation should keep its regulations limiting human cloning and embryonic stem cell research. Fresh from a defeat on the dangerous abortion drug RU 486, Abbott says he won’t back down on keeping the restrictions in place.

The laws on the controversial practices are slated to come before Parliament before the next Council of Australian Governments meeting in May.

A committee chaired by former Federal Court judge John Lockhart has suggested that the restrictions be removed or lessened.

But the Sunday mail newspaper reports that Abbott, parliamentary secretary, Chris Pyne, and junior minister Santo Santoro are already beginning a lobbying campaign to keep the restrictions in place.

Industry Minister Ian McFarlane is expected to lead a campaign to change the laws and the newspaper reports it is unclear where Prime Minister John Howard stands on the issue.

He will likely oppose any attempts to legalize human cloning, it reports.

Australia was criticized in November 2004 for changing its position to support a U.S.-backed proposal at the United Nations calling for a ban on all forms of human cloning.

Howard’s government quietly changed its position to support a coalition of 60 nations, led by the United States and Costa Rica.

In 2003, Australia opposed the treaty and supported a competing proposal pushed by a Belgium and a smaller group of nations to allow human cloning for research.

Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said Australia was just taking a stand backing up its national law currently prohibiting all forms of cloning.

"We’re just upholding Australian law and this sort of conspiracy theory that somebody has lurched in from the far right of some church or something and told us that we should change our position, and we decided to respond to that, is just complete nonsense," he told ABC radio.

In June 2004, Australia’s National Stem Cell Centre announced it would make new human embryonic stem cell lines "freely available" for scientific research. The stem cell lines are being derived from a Melbourne in-vitro fertilization clinic.