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Embryo cell row clouds PM's visit to Pope


Pope John Paul II should snub John Howard during his European tour in protest at his plans to allow embryonic experiments, a Labor MP said yesterday.

MP John Murphy exchanged notes with Mr Howard on the stem cell issue during Question Time, receiving this reply: "In the end, we are all answerable to our own consciences, particularly on those issues regarding questions of life and death."

The debate also dominated a partyroom meeting of Coalition MPs, prompting calls for proposed laws to be split allowing MPs to support a ban on human cloning but defeat measures allowing experiments on "spare" IVF embryos.

More than 25 conservative Liberal MPs, including Workplace Relations Minister Tony Abbott, Special Minister Eric Abetz, Finance Minister Nick Minchin and SA Liberal MP Christopher Pyne have signed a petition outlining their concerns about embryonic stem cell experiments.

Mr Howard's audience with the Pope at the Vatican is scheduled during his two-week European tour. He leaves on Sunday.

In response to Mr Howard's support for embryonic stem-cell research, Mr Murphy called on the Prime Minister to cancel his visit to the Pope.

"What's the Prime Minister trying to do, organise a cynical photo opportunity to suggest His Holiness agrees with John Howard while he is introducing laws to destroy human embryos," Mr Murphy said.

"It is unethical and it is an outrage."

A spokeswoman for Mr Howard declined to comment.

LINKS
John Murphy, Member for Lowe

SOURCE
The Advertiser

26 Jun 2002