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Hands off state laws on frozen embryos, says bioethics expert

The Director of Adelaide's Southern Cross Bioethics Institute Dr John Fleming has called on the Federal Government to adopt a "hands off" approach to States which already have laws restricting destructive embryonic research.

He issued the call in a statement released yesterday in support of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference for its letter to Prime Minister John Howard opposing the destructive research on frozen embryos.

"They should leave States such as South Australia, Victoria and Western Australia alone," he said. "States with more restrictive laws on embryonic research should be allowed to keep them. We already have principled laws, we protect human embryos from destructive research so don't impose any national decision on us."

Dr Fleming said States should be free to be more restrictive in this area if they choose to do so.

"New South Wales and Queensland have never bothered to regulate in the area of reproductive technology so anything goes for those States and anything the Commonwealth imposes on them will be an improvement," he said. "But for those of us who have bothered to have regulations - that is South Australia, Victoria and Western Australia - why should we have imposed upon us a regime which allowed the destructive research we have prevented?

"Why can't our morally more sensitive position be allowed to stand?"

In its letter to the Prime Minister John Howard, the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference expressed deep concerns with the decision to allow destructive research on embryonic human beings. This follows a Council of Australian Governments (COAG) decision in April to legislate for a more permissive regime of farming and harvesting human embryonic stem calls from "surplus frozen embryos".

Catholic bishops call on PM to present all the facts on stem cells (23/5/02)
Text of Australian Bishops' letter to the Prime Minister
ACBC (media release)
Southern Cross Bioethics Institute


24 May 2002