BERLIN, January 31, 2002 ( – On Wednesday the German parliament voted for the first time since the Nazi era to authorize deadly experimentation on human beings – human embryos. In a close vote ending months of heated debate, 340 of 618 deputies voted to allow imports of human embryo stem cells for research. A motion to allow eventual production of embryonic stem cells in Germany was rejected with only 106 votes in favour.

German law still forbids the destructive use of human embryos in Germany, but the new law encourages that destruction in other countries in order to service the German market for embryonic stem cells.

Government leaders were split on the measure with Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder in favour of the imports and President Johannes Rau and Justice Minister Herta Daeubler-Gmelin against. The Catholic and Lutheran churches issued a joint statement lamenting that the “right to life and the unlimited protection of human life from the moment of conception are no longer assured.” However, they urged politicians to ensure “this decision doesn't burst the dam.” Earlier in the debate the churches accused politicians in favour of embryonic stem cell research of approving “the killing of little human beings in order to save bigger ones.”