Late amendment puts cloning bill passage in doubt

A late move by a Liberal backbencher to amend the cloning bill has thrown its passage into doubt while upcoming Labor frontbencher Peter Garrett, a Christian, signals his intention to vote against the bill.

The private member's bill introduced by Kay Patterson to allow creation of cloned embryos for research had been expected to pass easily through a final conscience vote today in the House of Representatives.

But the Sydney Morning Herald reports that Michael Ferguson will seek an amendment to the cloning bill to outlaw the use of eggs from aborted foetuses to create embryos.

Mr Ferguson says Israeli scientists in 2003 found ovarian tissue could be cut from late term aborted female foetuses, and eggs matured from the tissue.

"The most disturbing aspect of this bill is the proposition that licences may be issued to authorise the creation of a human embryo using eggs taken from an aborted female unborn baby," Mr Ferguson will tell parliament, the Herald says.

"I challenge each and every one of my colleagues from all parties to consider the prospect of returning home to their electorates next week to say that they didn't take the opportunity to remove this worst aspect of an already bad private members bill."

Former Deputy Prime Minister John Anderson is expected to second the amendment.

"This provision allowing aborted baby girls to be made posthumous mothers by pillaging their remains for eggs is a sick science that no decent Australian could approve," Mr Anderson said.

But Liberal MP Dr Mal Washer warned any amendments would be voted down when he introduced the bill to the lower house last week.

"Any attempt to have further amendments in this house would be totally unacceptable as we all know the bill would not survive a further review by the Senate," he told the lower house.

The bill previously passed the Senate 34 to 32 but Australian Democrats Senator Andrew Bartlett later admitted having second thoughts about his vote.

Meanwhile, former Midnight Oil frontman and upcoming Labor frontbencher, Peter Garrett, says he will vote against the bill that would overturn the ban on therapeutic cloning.

Mr Garrett said ending the ban would open the door to even more contentious research.

He said allowing researchers to clone human embryos to harvest their stem cells would see scientists eventually push for reproductive cloning to be allowed.

Mr Garrett said the bill, which is based on the recommendations of the expert Lockhart committee, set a clear line of allowing clones to develop for 14 days only.

But he was worried that lines and legislative boundaries in similar matters had been pushed out and deliberately breached.

"It is inevitable... that pressure to move those lines that have been identified would eventually be brought to bare if there was evidence there would be a better scientific result," he told parliament tonight.

"The passage of the laws would bring subsequent pressure for further changes, both to extend the development of the human embryo clone past 14 days and later still to consider the implantation of a human embryo clone into a woman."

Hundreds of eggs would be needed to create a single clone, he said, and allowing therapeutic cloning would also inevitably lead to calls to amend guidelines to encourage and facilitate greater supply of eggs.

But Liberal MP Malcolm Turnbull, a Catholic, says he will support a bill to lift the ban on therapeutic cloning because he does not believe a cloned embryo has the same value as a human.

Doubts over embryo cloning bill (Sydney Morning Herald, 6/12/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Peter Garrett (Wikipedia)
Prohibition of Human Cloning for Reproduction and the Regulation of Human Embryo Research Amendment Bill 2006 (Australian Senate)

Pell in last minute appeal against cloning vote (CathNews, 27/11/06)
Cloning fight not over, say clerics (CathNews, 9/11/06)
Lobbying fails in narrow Senate vote on cloning bill (CathNews, 8/11/06)
Cloning bill still to be won, says Catholic Health (CathNews, 6/11/06)
Pell slams "pro-cloners" (CathNews, 2/11/06)
No cloning cures for Catholics, says Bishop Fisher (CathNews, 23/10/06)
Bishops step up campaign against cloning (CathNews, 20/10/06)
Proponents of therapeutic cloning should cool it: Pell (CathNews, 25/8/06)
Catholic groups reject claims of stem cells breakthrough (CathNews, 24/8/06)
Poll shows Australians against cloning, Campion Director says (CathNews, 22/8/06)
Abbott lashes "evangelical" stem cell scientists (CathNews, 21/8/06)
Catholic parliamentarians in firing line again over stem cells (CathNews, 16/8/06)
Catholic union official compares therapeutic cloning to Nazi experiments (CathNews, 4/8/06)
Premiers face stem cell backlash as Hart criticises debate (CathNews, 24/7/06)
Catholics divided over stem cells (CathNews, 14/7/06)

6 Dec 2006