Last Updated:Friday - 09/24/2010
October 9, 2000
A disturbing failure to act
It is likely the greatest political crime of the decade. In the fall of 1996, the federal Liberal government introduced Bill C-47 to regulate reproductive technology in Canada. The bill would have banned the selling or trading of human sperm, eggs and embryos. It would have prohibited the cloning of human embryos, surrogate motherhood and the removal of sperm and eggs from fetuses and corpses.
The bill was far from perfect. It should have defined all human zygotes, embryos and fetuses as human beings and banned the creation of embryos for research purposes. But it would have been a start at regulating reproductive technology and it should have been passed.
However, instead of taking the small step of giving the bill third and final reading, the Liberal government called an election only three and a half years into its mandate. Since the government's re-election, Health Minister Allan Rock has promised several times to introduce a bill to restrict reproductive technology. It has failed to do so, even though it had Bill C-47 ready to be dusted off. Now, we sit on the cusp of another federal election with this major issue still undealt with.
It was in 1989 that the then-government of Brian Mulroney realized the development of reproductive technologies was an urgent and significant enough issue to establish a royal commission to investigate. The commission, headed by UBC geneticist Patricia Baird, took four years and spent $30 million to produce its 293 recommendations.
In the intervening 11 years, reproductive technologies have grown by leaps and bounds. The industry which benefits from the selling of eggs and sperm has grown stronger, an American researcher says he wants to clone human beings and the U.S. has decided to fund research on embryonic stem cells, which necessarily involves the destruction of embryos. The Brave New World draws ever-closer and the Candian government fails to act.
The federal government gets away with this because the media and opposition parties refuse to hold its feet to the fire on the issue. Instead of seeing the threat to human life, human dignity and the family posed by unregulated reproductive technology, they have bought into the ideology of choice. "Why should we deny women the right to sell their eggs or to be surrogate mothers?" asked The Globe and Mail in one of its editorials.
Why? Because the creation of a human being is something sacred and not a mechanical process. Human bodies are not industrial manufacturing plants with babies as the end product. Children have a right to be conceived as the fruit of marital love and a right to real parents. When they are not born in ideal circumstances, we ought to intervene to raise them as well as we can. But we as a society should not deliberately create circumstances where their nurture is compromised.
Why? Because a baby is not a thing. Parents do not have a right to order up babies with their choice of physical and other characteristics.
Why? Because a new human being comes into existence at the moment of fertilization. This is a biological fact, not a religious presumption. When we create several new zygotes, implant some in a woman's womb and trash the rest, human life is treated with callous disregard. Or when we create new life in order to experiment with it and then kill it, human dignity is grossly violated.
Virtually all of these reproductive technologies represent an attack on the foundation of the family - the creation of new life through acts of marital love. We are playing dangerous games when we toss away marital love and fidelity and the foundation of human life and society. We undermine the dignity - and even the lives - of individual human beings, but we also jeopardize the future of society itself.
The federal government seems to have no sense of this. Through its own ongoing negligence it allows people to be treated as things and a cornerstone of society to crumble.
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