Last Updated: Tuesday - 01/04/2011
June 18, 2001
Draft bill watered down — COLF
Catholic group wants government to get tougher on reproductive technologies
CANADIAN CATHOLIC NEWS
OTTAWA — A national Catholic organization is disappointed with the federal government's proposed legislation to regulate new reproductive and genetic technologies (NRGTs).
The Catholic Organization for Life and Family (COLF) said the proposal waters down a bill introduced in the House of Commons five years ago.
"The preamble to this draft legislation has seriously diluted the content and reversed the priorities of the preamble that was in Bill C-47," COLF said in a presentation to the standing committee on health.
It was also a "serious oversight" not to include in the preamble an explicit reference to Parliament's interest in protecting human life, said the brief.
Jennifer Leddy, co-chair of COLF and Dr. Bridget Campion, assistant professor of moral theology at St. Augustine's Seminary in Toronto, presented the brief to the Commons committee.
"It is very disappointing to see the strong language in the preamble of Bill C-47 about the 'health and ethical dangers inherent in the commercialization of human reproduction' watered down in the draft legislation," said the brief.
COLF, founded by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Knights of Columbus, was one of several presenters from various faith traditions to appear before the committee June 7.
Bill C-47, introduced in June 1996, would have banned 13 NRGT practices but died without passage after Prime Minister Jean Chretien called a spring election in 1997.
Health Minister Allan Rock unveiled the new draft legislation May 3, asking the committee to conduct broad public consultations and submit a report by the end of January 2002.
The proposed bill would ban practices such as human cloning and the sale and purchase of human embryos. It would also prohibit embryos from being created solely for research purposes and would ban genetic alteration, sex selection, the sale of human sperm or eggs and commercial surrogacy.
The Canadian bishops and Catholic health organizations have called commercial surrogacy "particularly exploitive."
Leddy and Campion restated the Catholic Church's teachings that a human being exists from the moment of conception. They said it is a position shared by medical and other professional opinion, including the Law Reform Commission of Canada.
"Human life from its very beginnings is a gift beyond all measure," said the brief. "Each human being, created in the image of God, has incalculable worth and inherent dignity. Life is the most precious gift that is given to us and it is our duty to love it, respect it and keep it from harm."
Leddy said the Catholic Church's position on abortion is clear, as is its position that an embryo is a human being and an entity to be respected as a person.
She added, however, that common ground might be found with those who don't share that view, when it comes to assisted reproduction technologies.
"In abortion, there is a unique life situation in which one life is within another life," Leddy said. "There are competing charter values."
"In the case of an embryo that might be experimented upon, the embryo is standing alone by himself or herself and there are no competing charter values."
Campion said COLF is interested in protecting women's lives as well as in saving the lives of embryos and fetuses.
"A lot of this technology is still very, very experimental," she said. "We are still feeling the effect of DES - for instance - turning up in grandchildren of women who abused it."
DES (diethylstilbestrol) is a synthetic hormone that was prescribed to pregnant women between 1940 and 1971 to prevent miscarriages. It has since been linked to genital and reproductive tract abnormalities in the daughters and sons of the women who took the hormone.
"We do not know the long-term effects of the hormone therapies that women are routinely undergoing," Campion said. "I am especially concerned that a lot of this medicalization - this intervention - is aimed at women and turning women into producers."
Campion said, "Our interest is in the (protection of the) embryo, which you may or may not agree with, but with adult lives also, and the lives of children who may be born."
Representatives of the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada as well as Jewish, Buddhist and Muslim faith communities also made presentations to the committee.
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