Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of March 22, 2004
Reproduction Bill C-6 passes
Sen. Doug Roche explains support
By ART BABYCH
Canadian Catholic News
Acontroversial bill to ban some assisted human reproduction measures and regulate research on human embryos has been passed by the Canadian Senate without amendment.
Over the past decade, Bill C-6, the Assisted Human Reproduction Act, had been introduced and resurrected several times in Parliament under a variety of names but failed to clear both houses before Parliamentary sessions ended. All that is required now is for the Governor General to give the bill royal assent - a formality - before it becomes law.
The bill bans human cloning, sex selection, commercial surrogate motherhood contracts, the sale of sperm and eggs, and sets out rules on human embryonic stem cell research.
The Catholic bishops of Canada were among pro-life organizations opposed to stem cell research on human embryos because it results in the death of the embryo, considered a human being.
The position of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops - one of the more than 50 individuals and organizations to appear before the Senate committee that studied the bill - was noted by several senators before the bill was passed March 11.
Senator Yves Morin pointed out that Archbishop Terrence Prendergast of Halifax had reiterated the Church's opposition to embryo research "and, for that matter, to all assisted human reproduction" during his presentation on behalf of the CCCB. "That being said, however, he recommended that senators consider the positive elements of the bill, which he saw as being its provisions to ensure the protection of the human embryo and to correct the current alarming absence of regulations concerning embryo research," said Morin.
Morin also noted that representatives of the Jewish and Muslim faiths had reservations about the bill but urged the committee to approve it nonetheless.
In his closing arguments in support of the bill's passage, Senator Wilbert Keon said Prendergast highlighted the challenge faced by senators "who must reconcile our observations about this bill to the need to end the legislative vacuum in this country.
"The archbishop said, 'I think each person who will act, informed by faith, informed by reason and making the proper decision - I do not think anyone can reproach that person.'"
The bishops' conference had not taken a position on the bill.
Senator Douglas Roche, founding editor of the Western Catholic Reporter, also voted in favour of the bill, while admitting, "This has been the most difficult bill that I have faced in my years in the Senate," he said in his closing argument March 10.
Added Roche, "While almost everyone believed that this bill could benefit from substantive amendments, most witnesses believed that passing the bill without amendment was preferable to postponing the legislation yet again by amending it and sending it back to the House of Commons to a likely death. I share this view."