Australia Bill to Overturn Human Cloning Ban Faces Uphill Battle

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Apr 4, 2006   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Australia Bill to Overturn Human Cloning Ban Faces Uphill Battle Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
April 4, 2006

Canberra, Australia ( — An Australia private member’s bill to overturn the nation’s ban on human cloning had an uphill battle to begin with. Now, its chances of passing are difficult, even with a conscience vote, thanks to new opposition from Australia Treasurer Peter Costello.

A government sponsored commission review late last year suggested removing the ban on human cloning for research purposes.

However, Costello said he opposes "creating human embryos for the purposes of experimentation."

He said he agreed with using so-called leftover human embryos from fertility clinics for embryonic stem cell research.

"But I do not believe we should go around creating embryos for the purposes of testing … there does have to be some moral restrictions," he said.

Mal Washer, a Liberal backbencher, said Costello’s comments indicate to him that it will be tough to come up with enough votes in the Australian parliament to approve the human cloning legislation. He said it was wrong to compare human cloning for reproductive purposes with human cloning for research.

Democrat Senator Natasha Stott Despoja is sponsoring the bill to lift the current limits.

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

The administration of Prime Minister John Howard 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.

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.