Action Alert March 2010

This is an archived edition of Action Alert.

Tell Our National Political Leaders “No!” to Therapeutic Cloning

On 7 November 2006, the Senate – by a margin of 34 votes in favour to 32 votes against – passed the Prohibition of Human Cloning for Reproduction and the Regulation of Human Embryo Research Amendment Bill 2006.  The House of Representatives, on 6 December 2006, passed the same legislation by a margin of 82 votes in favour to 62 votes against.  This Bill maintained the existing ban on reproductive cloning (creating a cloned human embryo, implanting it into a woman’s womb, and developing it normally to birth as a human baby).  However the Bill allowed for the legal introduction of so-called therapeutic cloning.  In the hope that research scientists would find cures for a range of illnesses and injuries, our national political leaders were conned into legalising a process in which ova would be collected – either from women who chose to donate or sell their eggs, or from the bodies of aborted female babies – and for those ova to be implanted with the genetic material from already existing human beings suffering with an illness or an injury.  Each ovum’s twenty-three chromosomes of genetic material would be removed from the cell’s nucleus and replaced with the forty-six chromosomes of the existing person in a process called SCNT (Somatic Cell Nuclear Transfer), and the resulting cloned cell would be ‘jump-started’ to begin development.  This would be allowed to continue for up to two weeks, at which time the developing cloned embryo would be killed to ‘harvest’ its embryonic stem cells so that the ESC could be inserted into the existing person in the hope that they could be triggered into healing the illness or repairing the injury.

Despite there being no successful treatments utilising embryonic stem cells, and despite Professor Alan Mackay-Sim (then Director of the National Adult Stem Cell Centre at Griffith University in Brisbane) testifying that therapeutic cloning was “irrelevant and impractical” and urging a focus on the development of adult stem cell (ASC) technology, the two Houses of Federal Parliament passed the Bill.  In 2007, each State and Territory Parliament also debated similar legislation (for the purpose of maintaining a uniform standard across the nation), and, with the exception of South Australia, each enacted similar laws.  The Federal law, however, had a provision for a review after four years!  So, in 2010, there will be a review of the Bill, and therefore an opportunity to persuade our national leaders to repeal this appalling legislation.

The 2006 Senate inquiry into the matter relied heavily on the findings of the Lockhart Committee that had been appointed to report on cloning and embryonic stem cell research (and which, unfortunately, was ‘stacked’ with scientists who were already in favour of ESC research and therapeutic cloning).  The Federal Government has not yet announced the terms and process of the 2010 inquiry, but it is definitely an appropriate time to remind our political leaders that ESC technology has still not produced any ‘miracle’ cures, that the experimental use of ESC (in mice, for example) have resulted in tumours (because the ESCs are inherently tumorigenic and develop wildly), and that ESC use poses enormous ethical problems in the deliberate creation of a living being for the purpose of killing it to ‘harvest’ its stem cells.  ESC research is absorbing funding that could be better spent on ASC research, something that is already leading to a range of successful treatments of some eighty medical conditions.

In fact, scientific advance has overtaken the need for therapeutically cloned ESCs anyway!  In November 2007, Dr Shinya Yamanaka and his team of researchers in Japan, announced the development of a technique for creating stem cells virtually identical to ESCs from the skin.  Now called induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSC), these cells have the potential to grow into specialised cells to be used in medical treatment, and their use does not involve any ethical problem (because an embryo is not being created through therapeutic cloning and then killed to ‘harvest’ its ESCs).  These iPSCs do not produce tumours and do not result in a patient’s immune system rejecting foreign cells (because they were collected from that patient’s own skin in the first place).  Initially Dr Yamanaka’s process involved the introduction of a small amount of genetic information from a virus to trigger the development of the iPSCs, but more recent research has now eliminated the need for the viral genetic factors.

So, we have a very real chance of turning around the unethical and ungodly procedure of therapeutic cloning in Australia.  Contact Hon Kevin Rudd, Prime Minister [PO Box 6022, House of Representatives, Parliament House, Canberra, ACT, 2600, email at the website http://pm.gov.au/PM_Connect/Email_your_PM,    or phone (02) 62777700] to urge that the Prohibition of Human Cloning for Reproduction and the Regulation of Human Embryo Research Amendment Bill 2006 be repealed and replaced with legislation that prohibits all forms of human cloning (as existed before 2006).  Mr Rudd voted against this Bill when it was debated in the House of Representatives and he was Leader of the Opposition, so urge him to stand by his convictions in this matter.

Also contact your local Federal MP.  Go to www.aph.gov.au for a list of MPs.

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Who will stand up for me against evildoers?
Who will take his stand for me against those who do wickedness?
Psalm 94:16

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This monthly release is prepared by Pastor Brian Robertson (P O Box 2367, Bundaberg, 4670) to inform Christian people about issues within our society.  “Action Alert” does not promote any one political party, but encourages its readers to be “salt and light” by speaking out on some of these matters.  The views expressed in “Action Alert” are those of the author and are not necessarily those of a local church or a denominational organisation.  To the extent permissible by law, no church or denomination accepts liability for anything contained in this publication and any use made of it.