Australia Parliament Overturns Nation’s Ban on All Human Cloning

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Dec 6, 2006   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Australia Parliament Overturns Nation’s Ban on All Human Cloning Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
December 6
, 2006

Canberra, Australia ( — The Australia parliament put its final stamp on legislation overturning the nation’s ban on all forms of human cloning. As a result, scientists will now be allowed to clone human beings and destroy them days later to use their stem cells in unproven research.

The Australia House approved the pro-cloning bill, sponsored by Liberal Senator Kay Patterson, despite last-minute lobbying from Prime Minister John Howard and new Labor leader Kevin Rudd.

"I don’t think the science has shifted enough to warrant the Parliament changing its view (since the 2002 vote to ban therapeutic cloning)," Howard said during the debate.

House members knew the outcome would be in favor of the bill and decided to call of a request for the actual vote tally of each member. The last vote taken on the bill prior to its final passage was 82 to 62 in favor of it, according to the Courier Mail newspaper.

The House also defeated an amendment that the newspaper said would have prohibited extracting stem cells from the eggs of aborted late-term female babies. Liberal MP Michael Ferguson’s amendment would have sent the bill back to the Senate, which approved the measure by just two votes last month.

Senior cabinet ministers Peter Costello, Tony Abbott and Kevin Andrews also spoke against the bill.

Workplace Relations Minister Kevin Andrews said of the bill, "Instead of nurturing our offspring, we as a species will have agreed to plunder them."

During the debate, Independent lawmaker Peter Andren said research on adult stem cells was showing more promise and has actually been used to treat patients with dozens of diseases or medical conditions.

He said he feared the legislation would wind up exploiting women to get their eggs for research and would lead to the destruction of hundreds of human lives.

"This is about creating life in order to dismantle it," Andren said. "In rejecting this bill, I urge us all to follow the only ethical path, that of adult stem cell research."

This is the second conscience vote Howard has allowed in the Australia parliament. Earlier this year, lawmakers will allowed to vote outside their party position on a bill promoting the dangerous abortion drug RU 486, which has resulted in the deaths of twelve women worldwide.

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.