November 6th, 2002
By Tory Maguire
THE use of human embryos in stem cell research will be legalised next week when the Senate votes on controversial legislation, a Daily Telegraph survey has found.
More than half of Federal Parliament's 76 Senators, who have been given a conscience vote on the issue, have decided to support the legislation allowing the use of surplus IVF embryos in research.
Thirty-nine from both sides of the political fence have stated their intention to vote yes or are believed to be in favour of the law. Twenty-one are opposed and 16 have yet to decide.
The Research Involving Embryos Bill 2002 passed through the House of Representatives in September with a majority of 99 in favour to 33 opposed.
Originally part of a Bill encompassing a ban on human cloning, but the two pieces of legislation were split in a historic move for the Lower House so that they could be considered separately.
The Prohibition of Human Cloning Bill 2002 is expected to be passed by the Senate unanimously.
The vote in the Senate on the stem cells issue will be closer and a number of high profile Senators have been vocal in their disdain for the Bill.
Essentially the new law allows scientists access to the 70,000 excess embryos from the IVF scheme which are currently in storage.
Embryonic stem cells are harvested in a way that means the embryo must be destroyed, which is the major sticking point for Right to Life groups, church organisations and other opponents of the Bill.
However, advocates of the legislation say the research could lead to cures for a host of afflictions including diabetes, alzheimer's disease and multiple sclerosis.
The Senate's Community Affairs Legislation Committee delivered its report on the Bill last month.
Senators including Liberals Bill Heffernan and Guy Barnett, the National's Ron Boswell, Labor's Stephen Hutchins and Jacinta Collins and Independent Brian Harradine signed "Qualifying Comments", saying there was no ethical reason to allow the Bill's passage.
The Democrats' Natasha Stott Despoja and Labor's Jan McLucas and Ruth Webber joined to support the legislation.
The Senate will spend a large portion of next week's extended sitting hours, which include the unusual step of sitting on a Friday, debating the Bill.
Of the 12 Senators from NSW, George Campbell, John Faulkner and Aden Ridgeway have confirmed they will vote for the Bill while Michael Forshaw, Senator Heffernan, Senator Hutchins, Ursula Stephens and Sandy Macdonald are against.
Helen Coonan, Kerry Nettle, Marise Payne and John Tierney are undecided or would not comment.
WHAT THEY SAID ABOUT THE BILL
"[The Bill] would pave the way for the commercialisation and commodification
of human embryos and create for the first time a biological underclass
to be exploited for destructive research."
- Brian Harradine, Independent
"It is most disappointing that those opposing the Bill decided to personalise
their attacks against supporters of the Bill."
– Sue Knowles, Liberal Party
"This legislation is a sensible response to the ethical questions raised
by the use of human embryos in research."
– Jan McLucas, Labor
"A clear case has been made that human embryonic stem-cell research
may lead to successful therapeutic applications."
- Natasha Stott Despoja, Democrats
"Human embryos surplus to assisted reproductive technology purposes
should not be exploited in destructive research,"
- Guy Barnett and Bill Heffernan, Liberal Party; Steve Hutchins, Mark Bishop, Jacinta Collins and John Hogg, Labor; Ron Boswell, National Party, and Brian Harradine, Independent.
© 2002, Davies Bros