OTTAWA, May 9, 2002 (LSN.ca) – Health Minister Anne McLellan introduced the federal government's long awaited bill on Assisted Human Reproduction today, a bill which allows for human embryos to be destroyed, saying that her bill “represents the values of the vast majority of Canadians.” Pro-life organizations, opposition critics and Liberal backbenchers, all expressed grave concerns that the bill could pave the way for destructive research on human embryos and other possible abuses, such as mixture of animal and human genetic material and commercial surrogacy.
The legislation brings in new regulations on such practices as in vitro fertilization, and prohibits both reproductive and therapeutic cloning. However, it would allow the use of surplus IVF embryos for research in situations where they would otherwise be “thrown in the garbage,” according to McLellan. The bill creates a new Assisted Human Reproduction Agency of Canada, reporting to the Minister, which would be responsible for implementing regulations, and also making crucial ethical decisions, such as when embryonic stem cell research is “medically necessary.” The bill bans direct financial incentives for surrogacy, but does allow compensation for expenses to be paid for surrogate mothers.
In several areas, the bill allows more than the recommendations of the House of Commons Health Committee last year, which supported using embryonic stem cells only when there was no possible alternative, and called for a ban on any compensation for surrogacy.
In a statement, Campaign Life Coalition President Jim Hughes said that while the bill contains some useful measures, “the recommendations regarding the extraction of stem cells from human embryos, a procedure which kills the embryo, can never be condoned.”
In an interview with LifeSite, Canadian Alliance Health Critic Rob Merrifield said that “this opens the door to changing the moral base we have in Canada. This allows for the destruction of life just to do research on it.” Merrifield also expressed concern that the mandate given to the new agency was “taking the policy making responsibilities out of the hands of politicians.” the Alliance has called for a three year moratorium on embryonic stem cell research to allow research on adult stem cells, which does not involving destroying life, to proceed. “We're saying, let's let science catch up before we open this Pandora's box of…destroying embryos. So much promise is in the other stem-cell research.”
Liberal MP Paul Szabo, who has written a book entitled The Ethics and Science of Stem Cells, said that he and other Liberal MPs oppose embryonic stem cell research. “For me, personally, life begins at conception, and to destroy that life for the possibility of assisting another life is not only unethical, it's immoral,” said Szabo.
Szabo expects Parliament to debate this bill until the end of the year, and presumes that it will be subject to a free vote. Minister McLellan, however, hopes to push the bill through before Parliament breaks for the summer.
Campaign Life release: