Australia MP Threatens Bill for Human Cloning, Embryonic Stem Cell Research

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Mar 23, 2006   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Australia MP Threatens Bill for Human Cloning, Embryonic Stem Cell Research Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
March 23, 2006

Canberra, Australia ( — If the government of Prime Minister John Howard fails to change Australian law to allow for human cloning and embryonic stem cell research, a member of parliament says she will file a bill to do that and ask for a free vote on the issue.

Democrat Senator Natasha Stott Despoja told The Age newspaper she would sponsor a private member’s bill and has discussed the possibility with other senators who back the grisly research.

"A group of us will want to push (embryonic stem cell research) forward," she told The Age. A private member’s bill is certainly on the cards."

The laws on the controversial practices are slated to come before the next Council of Australian Governments meeting in May. A committee chaired by former Federal Court judge John Lockhart, who recently passed away, suggested that the restrictions be removed or lessened.

He favored allow human cloning for research, in which days old unborn children would be created and destroyed — a practice that draws strong opposition from pro-life groups. He also wants Australia to establish a national stem cell bank that would be a place for embryonic stem cells.

The Howard administration has not announced an opinion on possible changes to the law, but Australia Health Minister Tony Abbott is arguing that the island nation should keep its regulations. Fresh from a defeat on the dangerous abortion drug RU 486, Abbott says he won’t back down on keeping the restrictions in place.

Abbott, parliamentary secretary, Chris Pyne, and junior minister Santo Santoro are already beginning a lobbying campaign to keep the restrictions.

The Age newspaper reported that a representative for Opposition Leader Kim Beazley said the issue would probably require a private member’s vote, as did the vote to promote the dangerous abortion drug.

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.