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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2004 Week 4 Hansard (1 April) . . Page.. 1564..


MR SMYTH (continuing):

embryo really does create a new life. I think that at the basis of all good law is a respect for life. I think the danger for us as a society is that, when you degrade that respect for human life, you actually degrade the society in which you live. I personally will be supporting the Human Cloning (Prohibition) Bill 2004 as it regulates and prohibits the creation of human embryos as clones in the ACT.

MS TUCKER (8.04): Together with the Human Embryo (Research) Bill, the Human Cloning (Prohibition) Bill 2004 implements in the ACT the same prohibitions and allowances for human cloning and research on human embryos related research activities as were passed in the federal parliament two years ago. The rationale for these bills was negotiated at the Council of Australian Governments. The ACT is of course in an interesting position when the relevant minister agrees to something at COAG, as it cannot be guaranteed that the Assembly as a whole will take the same view.

There is also the problem that these bills are presented to us as "just what the feds have", as though there was no discussion there either. In fact there were several changes made to the federal bill in debate. It is not democratic to suggest that this parliament has any less right to consider and change the scheme. I will be supporting this bill; however, I will make some comments on its content.

Clause 19 requires some comment. The title of this clause is "Offence-collecting viable human embryo from woman's body". It creates an offence if a person removes a human embryo from the body of a woman, intending to collect a viable human embryo. The maximum penalty is imprisonment for 10 years. I interpret the word "collect"as meaning gathering for another use. This should not and cannot be confused with an abortion. It would be very unusual to have a termination of pregnancy at that stage and it would also be very unusual for the embryo to be viable. The embryo is very small at that stage. That is one of the reasons for which terminations are carried out later. It is so small that it can be missed. So I am stating for the record that it is clear to me, in supporting this bill, that this clause does not refer to anything done in order to terminate a pregnancy. The purpose of this clause, as I understand it, is to prohibit harvesting of embryos for other purposes.

Another curious clause is the definition of "woman"-"a female human". It is a curious definition because it does not specify that a woman is an adult, or at least a reproductively adult female human. I regret I have not pursued that question with the minister but perhaps he can explain, or perhaps the definition should be adjusted. We would not want to allow the placing of human embryos in the reproductive tracts of children. There is no definition of "man"-presumably "a male human". This is presumably because it is an offence to implant an embryo anywhere other than in a woman's reproductive tract.

The bill also restricts IVF processes to those which mirror fertilisation by one man and one woman. It is technically possible to create an embryo from two women or to mix the components of two women's eggs before fertilisation with sperm. It prohibits mixing animal and human genetic components; importing, exporting or implanting prohibited embryos; creation of a human embryo outside the body for any purpose other than to achieve pregnancy in a particular woman; creating a human embryo from precursor cells taken from an embryo or foetus-cloning; intentionally developing a human embryo outside the body of a woman for longer than 14 days, which is the time for implantation;


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