Last Updated: Tuesday - 01/04/2011
May 14, 2001
Rock unveils plan to ban cloning
Catholic groups favour most proposals, but oppose use of embryos in stem cell research
CANADIAN CATHOLIC NEWS
OTTAWA — Health Minister Allan Rock has unveiled a long-awaited draft bill that would ban practices such as human cloning and the sale and purchase of human embryos.
But Rock also dashed hopes that Parliament will pass the legislation soon.
The draft bill would also prohibit the creation of embryos solely for research purposes and ban genetic alteration, sex selection, the sale of human sperm or eggs and commercial surrogacy.
Other new reproductive technology practices will be allowed but strictly regulated. They cover areas such as limiting the number of embryos that can be transplanted into a woman and the licensing of certain types of research.
Rock asked the standing committee on health May 3 to conduct public consultations and submit a report on the draft legislation by the end of January 2002.
"We want to make sure that reproductive technologies, which offer some women a better chance of having a child, are sage and that Canadians are able to make informed decisions about them," he said.
Dr. Richard Haughian, president of the Catholic Health Association of Canada (CHAC), told Canadian Catholic News the organization is pleased the federal government has brought forward the draft legislation but noted there has already been considerable public consultation.
"We're just hoping that this lengthy process doesn't continue to delay this legislation," he said.
Jim Roche, policy analyst for the CHAC, suggested the "long saga" involving the regulation of new reproductive technologies is far from over because of the new consultation phase.
But he said the recommendations in the draft bill are "certainly what we and the CCCB (Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops) have been calling for."
But Roche also said some areas of the draft bill are unclear, particularly if it will ban the cloning of human embryos for non-reproductive purposes.
Britain earlier this year passed legislation allowing cloning for the purposes of organ and tissue replacement.
However, the Catholic Organization for Life and Family and the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada say the federal government's proposal to legalize the use of embryos for stem cell research is unethical, the Ottawa Citizen reported.
The newspaper quoted Bridget Campion, spokesperson for the COLF, as saying the human embryo should be legally protected from experimentation that uses stem cells from frozen embryos that fertility clinics were planning to discard.
The Catholic Church believes the use of stem cells from frozen embryos involves damaging or destroying a human life for the good of another.
A four-year study by the Royal Commission on New Reproductive Technologies, which cost $28 million, was completed more than eight years ago. Its report made 293 recommendations including calls for a ban on human cloning, sex selection clinics, surrogate motherhood and the sale of human eggs, sperm, embryos, fetuses or fetal tissue.
A bill that would have banned 13 of the technologies was introduced in June 1996 but died when Prime Minister Jean Chretien called a spring election in 1997.
Rock defended the decision to have more consultations. "I guess by putting the draft legislation before the committee I've told them where I stand, but I don't corner the market on wisdom," he said.
"So I'll ask the committee to consult broadly . . . to listen to those involved in the field, to listen to experts as well as regular Canadians and to come back with recommendations."
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