Australia could possibly legalise therapeutic cloning, after Federal cabinet was roundly criticised for recommending that a national ban be extended. Health Minister Tony Abbott reportedly feels that there have been no scientific breakthroughs which warrant lifting the ban. Nonetheless, Prime Minister John Howard softened under pressure after the premiers of the states of Victoria and Queensland threatened to break ranks on the issue. They believe that therapeutic cloning and the burgeoning field of stem cell research will be a bonanza for their local economies. Now Mr Howard promises to discuss the ban at a conference with the states later this month and with his Parliamentary colleagues in August.
Mr Howard tends to be a conservative on social issues, but he has no firm beliefs on stem cell research and could be swayed either way. The easiest solution would be to adopt the permissive recommendations of a committee appointed by Federal Parliament. Its acting head, law professor Loan Skene, complains that reforms are being held up by “fundamentalism”. Her view is that: “Where people can benefit, it is hard to accept that research should be prohibited because of religious or philosophical objections from others, however sincerely held.”
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