Australia Catholic Church Restates Opposition to Human Cloning Bill

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Nov 27, 2006   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Australia Catholic Church Restates Opposition to Human Cloning Bill Email this article
Printer friendly page

by Steven Ertelt Editor
November 27
, 2006

Canberra, Australia ( — As the lower chamber of the Australia parliament prepares for a vote on a bill to allow some forms of human cloning, the Catholic Church there is restating its opposition to human cloning and hoping to persuade lawmakers to vote against it.

This week, the Australia House will consider a Senate-approved bill that would legalize human cloning for research purposes.

But Cardinal George Pell of Sydney, says the lower house should reject the measure.

He said removing the current prohibition on all forms of human cloning to allow it for dubious research purposes would "waste government money on unproductive research."

Pell told the Sunday Telegraph newspaper that no studies have shown that embryonic stem cells taken from human embryos cloned and destroyed for their cells have helped any patients.

On the other hand, he pointed out that adult stem cell research has yielded treatments that are already helping patients afflicted with various diseases and conditions — and without destroying human life in the process.

Pell also told the newspaper that media coverage of the debate has clouded the issues involved.

"Few Australians would know that the bill proposes to legalize the manufacture of cloned embryos with only one genetic parent; hybrid embryos with multiple genetic parents, and embryos whose mother is an aborted girl fetus," the cardinal told the Telegraph.

Polls show Australians having a mixed position on the debate.

The polling firm Research Australia released the results last week of a survey it conducted on the Internet and claims 58 percent of Australians back human cloning for research. The survey included 802 participants.

If the results are authentic, the survey still indicates a drop of 14 percent from the last online poll the firm conducted showing 72 percent backing human cloning.

The new survey claims that just 20 percent of Australians oppose research cloning while the rest are undecided.

The results of the online poll differ greatly from an August survey showing a majority of Australians oppose human cloning.

That survey of 1,200 people, 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 new survey also shows that two-thirds of those polled believe that the use of adult stem cells for research is just as effective as using embryonic cells.

But the August poll found ten times more Australians prefer adult stem cell research to studies involving embryonic stem cells.

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, according to the August poll. 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 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.