Rally for Life – On the Steps of Parliament House WA 25 May 2006

Filed on 25 May 2006 in Food For Thought category. Print This Page

It seems like yesterday yet it was four years ago that we had a historic debate in our nation and in our parliaments. As a result of that debate two acts came into being the likes of which would have seemed very strange to a previous generation. These were to prohibit human cloning and to allow research on ‘spare’ human embryos left over from IVF. We called them ‘spare’ because there was no further use for these embryos by their parents – they did not want them implanted to eventually become independent living people.

The third millennium has brought change and challenge in ways that only the most far-sighted could see, not the least of which was brought into sharp focus by this debate, and that is the very definition of what it means to be human.

This is a critical time in the history of this nation and in our world. At this point Australia has prohibited human cloning and is a signatory to the United Nations ban on cloning. There are some things we have done right and our government deserves credit for these things.

But this is now under threat. Two significant things have happened.

First, we had the debate on RU486. This was a good debate that opened up the abortion issue in a more transparent way than before despite the claims that it was not about abortion. We began to get real about the real issues and good and bad motives and agendas also became transparent. However, the outcome was not good. Why? I’ll tell you why – because we handed over the moral direction of our country to a committee that will not even consider the moral direction of our country. The Therapeutic Goods Administration will only consider objective medical evidence – we call this approach evidence based medicine as if this is a good thing – and will not look at what RU486 actually does. What does it do? It kills a real human being that has all its programs running that determine full adult characteristics – even the way he or she smiles and whether he or she has dimples. With RU486 we abdicated our responsibility on the moral compass of our nation.

And this touches on the second significant event. Forever to be enshrined in history is the Lockhart Report and its recommendations following an examination of the cloning and research acts of 2002.

What are those recommendations? Well, in brief they move from the use of ‘spare’ embryos to the explicit creation of embryos for the purpose of destructive research. Worse still they move to the creation of embryos bycloning and the mixing of animal and human genetic material. This is the stuff of evil science fiction. The suggestion is made that we change the definition of embryo to allow research to occur without breaking the law.

The report also looks at the issue of the slippery slope, says it does not apply and then shows how it does apply. On the grounds that we already allow this for this reason, it says we should allow that for that reason, and if we allow that then we should allow this next thing for this next reason. A more brilliant and open example of the slippery slope would be hard to find.

Why is this so significant? Where are we going? It will only be a matter of time before someone in need of a formed liver rather than just stem cells will argue that they need a later stage clone from which to take that liver. It will be argued that the clone is not a real person but just – as it is argued in the report – a cellular extension of the original subject, and that therefore it belongs to the original subject.

It will be argued that parents who have lost a child should have the right to clone that child. Cloning will also be argued on the basis of not discriminating against a right to parenthood either by a couple with a hereditary defect, or for that matter a single person.

Then the way is opened for the enhancement of various characteristics only being limited by the imagination. The potential for evil is huge.

At this point we should be starting to shudder.

But the pressure will be on – is already on – for government to adopt the recommendations. And unlike the body looking at RU486, the Lockhart committee did look at ethical issues even though they came to the wrong conclusions. So there will be a lot of pressure on government to simply adopt the report – leave it to the expert body; leave it to objective scientific evidence.

But it is not sufficient for expert committees to determine the future direction of our nation or its moral compass.

There will also be enormous emotional pressure to adopt the report and people will be brought out in their wheelchairs to achieve this. But this blackmail completely ignores the gains that ethical adult stem-cell research has made and for which recently there was a $22 million grant to Griffith University in Queensland for the world’s first adult stem cell centre.

Praise and great credit is due to our WA State Premier, Mr Alan Carpenter for his personal opposition to cloning. Mr Premier, we salute you.

In conclusion I want to read from a letter to the Prime Minister signed by nineteen WA church leaders.

We regard these proposals as abhorrent to the intrinsic dignity of human life, which in all stages of vulnerability and dependency is worthy of respect.

Stem cell science from adult tissues is advancing rapidly. If our nation is faced with a choice between science that honours all human life and that which does not value our most vulnerable, then the choice should be clear. We must not clone and we must not kill.

Medical research in Australia has a bright future without cloning. We believe that research which pays respect to all human life will in turn be honoured.

We are thankful that the Australian Government supported the United Nations Declaration on Human Cloning and we ask for all Australian legislation to be consistent with the Declaration.

We look to our Members of Parliament to uphold ethical and moral values that have made this country strong. Our nation requires this leadership.

Lachlan Dunjey.

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