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Call to protect human embryos from destruction - 27 June 2002

Spokesperson for the Australian Federation of Right to Life Associations, Mary Joseph, has called on members of the Australian Parliament to reject legislation which would facilitate the destruction of so-called 'spare' human embryos for their stem cells. The Research Involving Embryos and Prohibition of Human Cloning Bill 2002 was introduced into the House of Representatives today.

"This legislation signals the end of the principle that all human beings are worthy of our respect and protection, even from their earliest beginnings. It legitimises the concept that human beings are disposable and can be destroyed for their parts", said Ms Joseph.

"Getting approval to dissect 'spare' embryos is only the first step for the embryo stem cell industry. It is on the public record that their next goal is to get approval to clone new human embryos - the euphemistically named 'therapeutic cloning' - so they can then destroy these 'fresh' embryos for their stem cells.

"Earlier this year the Government appointed a new science adviser who is on the record as a supporter not only of 'therapeutic' cloning, but also of reproductive cloning. Dr Thomas Barlow's appointment as science adviser to the Minister for Education, Science and Training is another warning of the next step in the embryo stem cell and cloning debate, should this legislation be passed.

"Despite frequent claims of the likelihood of cures being developed, no treatment for Parkinson's Disease, Alzheimer's Disease or any of the other speculated uses for embryonic stem cells will employ stem cells from IVF surplus embryos. The stem cells of IVF embryos are foreign tissue and not compatible for transplant to other patients.

"The demand for this legislation is generated by certain sections of the biotechnology industry, wanting to maximise profits from 'entrepreneurial' cloning.

"Not one therapy has been developed to help human patients using embryonic stem cells. By contrast, adult stem cells - stem cells that can be collected without destroying a human being - are an ethical alternative that have already been used for successful therapies in areas such as juvenile diabetes, spinal cord injury and immune deficiency."

Contact:     Mary Joseph, spokesperson for the Australian Federation of Right to Life Associations, telephone 02 6253 3100.