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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2008 Week 03 Hansard (Thursday, 3 April 2008) . . Page.. 924 ..


Federal law now allows the use of precursor cells from an aborted foetus. Precursor cells are those cells that have the potential to develop into human eggs or human sperm. An amendment was introduced in the federal parliament and the Tasmanian parliament to prevent the use of aborted baby girls in this way. In his amendment speech arguing for a ban on the use of precursor cells from aborted babies, former MP Michael Ferguson pointed out that eggs could only be derived from aborted female foetuses of at least 16 weeks gestation because younger foetuses have not yet reached the required stage of development. His description of what is involved in harvesting these cells was gruesome because the practice itself is grotesque. He said:

The method of abortion would have to result in the foetal body being delivered intact and as near to alive as possible in order to harvest the ovarian tissue while it was still fresh, and immediately frozen for its subsequent use.

Both amendments failed and it is now legal in many Australian states and under federal law to use aborted baby girls as a source of eggs for cloning.

A further great question mark over embryonic cloning is: where can the numbers of eggs needed be found? The process of extracting them is highly dangerous to the health of a woman and offers her no personal benefit. That is why there is no rush of women to donate eggs for this purpose. This leaves only the use of eggs from animals, with all the problems that are involved with this, or the harvesting of dead foetuses.

I think that Australians would be horrified and repulsed, Mr Speaker, if they realised that this is what is entailed and what is happening now. When you consider that all the great therapeutic developments have been in adult stem cell research, which does not involve the death or destruction of embryos or the use of embryos, it should be a no-brainer. We have been caught up in the quest of some scientists to go where no scientist has gone before. It is a moral failure of the legislature that these repugnant practices, with no proven benefit to mankind, should have passed into law at the commonwealth level and that we are now duplicating it at the state and territory level.

Mr Speaker, you will note that Mrs Dunne will move some amendments. I hope to have a chance to add comments on that later. I will leave it until then.

MRS DUNNE (Ginninderra) (11.02): Like my colleague Mrs Burke, I will be opposing this legislation. A lot of my reasons for opposing it have already been outlined very eloquently by Mrs Burke in her well-thought-out and sensible presentation. I would like to add a little history as to why we are here today debating this issue and underline that with my own personal history.

I want to put on the record at the outset that I am in favour of using stem cell research in a moral and ethical way to help to address the myriad health problems that can possibly be addressed. But we have to be very careful here. What we are talking about is potential cures and potential improvements—the potential to do things. There is a sort of Galileo argument going around that says that we must keep going down this path because we do not know what we will find unless we do. To a certain extent, I agree with that. Most of the stem cell research that is done is very much experimental, and we are going down that path simply to see if there are cures ahead of us.


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