Statement by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops on Bill C-13: An Act Respecting Assisted Human Reproduction

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1- The House of Commons Standing Committee on Health has provided its report to the House of Commons on Bill C-13 (formerly called Bill C-56) and it now awaits third and final reading.

2- The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) and the Catholic Organization for Life and Family (COLF) have each appeared twice before the House of Commons Standing Committee on Health to make presentations on the draft legislation, Bill C-56 and Bill C-13.

3- Legislation in response to the Report of the Royal Commission on the New Reproductive Technologies has been ten years in the making. Since June of 2001 the Standing Committee on Health has worked very hard to craft legislation that would respect human dignity, health and safety.

4- There is much that is positive in Bill C-13 and that can be supported such as the prohibitions concerning animal/human hybrids, germ-line alteration, the ban on commercial surrogacy, the prohibition on the marketing of embryos and gametes and the intention to prohibit cloning for the purposes of reproduction or research.

5- In our presentations to the Standing Committee on Health we outlined our vision of the human embryo as a human being who should be protected as a person. By giving the green light to research on embryos who remain after fertility treatments, Bill C-13 fails to protect the human embryo. We urge members of Parliament to strengthen Bill C-13 by amending it to prohibit research on embryos.

6- Over the course of many months of testimony, the Standing Committee on Health heard both scientists and ethicists define the embryo as a human being. Even those who consider the term “human being” more philosophical than biological would agree that embryos are human, that we all began as embryos, that human life unfolds as a continuum, that in a very real sense the embryo is one of us. Both reason and faith inform the Catholic position that “the human being is to be respected and treated as a person” from the beginning. This means that when it comes to treatment or research, the embryo must be treated as a subject and not as an object or a means to an end. No treatment must be undertaken that does not benefit or respect the integrity of the embryo. The problem with embryonic stem cell research is that while the research has the potential to benefit those living with disease, it actually harms the embryo who dies in the process. Ultimately, the embryo is exploited for the benefit of others.

7- Some argue that the embryos who remain after fertility treatments will die anyway, so why not do some good? It is not necessary that we do something with these embryos so that some good or meaning will be given to their lives. There is good and meaning in their lives simply because they are intrinsically human which also means from a faith perspective that they are known and loved by God. It is unnecessary to search for meaning on their behalf, especially when such a search is really nothing more than a way of justifying the decision to release human embryos for research purposes.

8- While we realize that our position on protection of the embryo will preclude embryonic stem cell research in which so many hopes have been invested, we are convinced that adult stem cell research, which is showing remarkable promise, can still go forward and has every potential to fulfill those hopes. We could thereby signal to the world, in a global arena influenced by strong commercial interests in the area of the reproductive technologies, that Canada is committed to honouring, protecting and including everyone in the human family.

9- The Minister of Health, in speaking to the Bill at second reading, said that it “outlaws the creation of human clones whether for the purposes of reproduction or research”. Some questions have been raised as to whether the Bill does what is intended. We urge members of Parliament to ensure that the Bill captures all forms and possibilities of cloning.

10- As Bill C-13 proceeds through third reading, we pray that members of Parliament will be given the wisdom and the grace to do what is best for those now living and for those to come.

For More Information Contact:
Deacon William Kokesch
Director, Communications Service
Last Updated on Friday, August 11 2006  
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