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Cloning bill may be returned to the Senate.

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Wednesday 6 December 2006

Cloning bill may be returned to the Senate


TONY EASTLEY: A Liberal backbencher may have thrown the embryo-cloning bill into doubt by revealing an unintended consequence of the legislation.  


Tasmanian MP, Michael Ferguson, will today seek an amendment in the House of Representatives to stop the use of eggs from aborted female foetuses. 


The Private Member's Bill to allow creation of cloned embryos for research was expected to easily pass through a final conscience vote in the House today, but a plan to amend it could draw enough support to mean the bill has to return to the Senate. 


Four weeks ago when the Senate narrowly passed the bill, its supporters said they would not risk sending it back to the Senate for a second time. 


Emma Alberici reports. 


EMMA ALBERICI: After months of debate in the Senate, former Health Minister Kay Patterson's Private Member's Bill was largely expected to pass through the House of Representatives today, unchallenged  


By now politicians and the public understood the new law would allow scientists to create cloned embryos and extract their stem cells for medical research.  


What was not as widely discussed was that the Parliament would be giving science the opportunity to remove and use the eggs of a female foetus aborted late in a pregnancy, something Tasmanian Liberal backbencher Michael Ferguson rejects. 


MICHAEL FERGUSON: Well, I think that the notion of having an aborted female foetus actually becoming, if you like, a mother of a future embryo, both of which eventually have no life, is very objectionable. 


You don't have to be a Christian or an atheist to have a fair bit of sympathy with that view, and you don't have to be an opponent of the bill to agree with me on this issue. 


The amendment is quite necessary. I think it's an oversight by the authors of the bill that they left it in at all, and even in the inquiry that took place, the Lockhart review, no rationale in their report was ever given for the inclusion of being able to obtain cells from this source. 


EMMA ALBERICI: Why didn't you bring this up earlier? 


MICHAEL FERGUSON: The reality is that I'm like a lot of others. As time goes by, you become more aware of features of the bill, which you weren't aware of before, and that was my position. 


A week ago, I did not realise that this aspect of the bill was included - the notion that aborted female foetuses could be raided for their eggs. 


EMMA ALBERICI: The bill only passed through the Senate by one vote and an amendment means it has to return to the Senate to be voted on again  


This last ditch effort to derail the legislation is being supported by former Deputy Prime Minister and Nationals Leader, John Anderson. 


JOHN ANDERSON: Well, the Senators, I think rightly removed from this bill one abhorrent proposal, the creation of embryos using animal eggs and human DNA. 


I think the House of Representatives should remove from this bill the also abhorrent proposal to make an embryo from the eggs of a second or third trimester aborted baby girl. 


The idea that you would actually use an aborted baby girl's genetic material to create an embryo, to then destroy that for research, I think most people will find is one step too far. 


What's more, is that while we, in the case of IVF, insist that parents be given the right to have a say in such a proposal, no consent here, it obviously couldn't be given by the aborted baby foetus, and there's no requirement for consent from the parents, in the bill. 


EMMA ALBERICI: So, hypothetically could those eggs be used by an infertile couple? 


JOHN ANDERSON: That is possible, and that is being tried in other parts of the world. It has resulted in uproar, but there might at least be provisions for some sort of consent, if such a thing were to be happened. 


And I would say that the state laws that cover the use of foetal tissue in this country will be pointed to by those who say this ought to go ahead as providing for this sort of thing, but I think there's a world of difference between using foetal material - tissue and so forth - as is allowed for today, and actually going to the point where the genetic material could be used to create another human embryo. I think that is a very different matter. 


TONY EASTLEY: Former Deputy Prime Minister, John Anderson, ending Emma Alberici's report.