Australia Poll Shows Opposition to Human Cloning, Embryonic Stem Cell Research

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Aug 21, 2006   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Australia Poll Shows Opposition to Human Cloning, Embryonic Stem Cell Research Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
August 21, 2006

Canberra, Australia ( — As Australia is in the middle of a wide-ranging debate on whether to legalize human cloning for research purposes, a poll finds a majority of Australians oppose human cloning and ten time more Australians prefer adult stem cell research to studies involving embryonic stem cells.

John Fleming, president of Campion College, sent a letter to members of parliament yesterday about the poll.

The survey, conducted by Sexton Marketing, found 51 percent of Australians opposed human cloning, 30 percent supported it and 12 percent had no opinion on the issue.

The survey of 1,200 people also found that 90 percent of those polled were aware of stem cell research.

Assuming each type of research brought equal benefits to patients, 40 percent preferred using adult stem cells and just 4 percent preferred using embryonic stem cell research. Some 51 percent had no preference.

The Sexton poll also found that 48 percent of those surveyed would change the way they vote in the next election depending on how their local MPs stood on the issue of human cloning.

Australia MPs will likely vote on one of competing proposals to overturn the nation’s ban on human cloning. Opposition Democrat senator Natasha Stott Despoja had led the fight to legalizing cloning and been the only one proposing legislation but Victorian Liberal Senator Kay Patterson says she will also draft a private members bill backing human cloning for research purposes.

Last week, Prime Minister John Howard has reversed himself on whether or not to allow a free vote.

Previously Howard said no free vote would be taken and that the government would retain its position against all forms of human cloning. But, under intense pressure, Howard has changed his mind.

Previously, Health Minister Tony Abbott argued there have been no scientific breakthroughs due to human cloning that warrants lifting the ban on the grisly practice.

Abbott also pointed to the vast number of ethical problems associated with the embryonic stem cell research scandal in South Korea. The scandal saw scientists completely fabricate the results of their embryonic stem cell research and they claimed to have cloned a human embryo and embryonic cells, but were found to have lied about it.

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. Prime Minister John 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.