Bishops Comment on Proposals for New Reproductive and Genetic Technologies

Wednesday, November 06 1996

Ottawa (CCCB) — The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops has recently reacted to two federal government initiatives regarding new reproductive and genetic technologies. The CCCB has sent Federal health Minister David Dingwall a brief on Bill C-47, the proposed Human Reproductive and Genetic Technologies Act, and also a response to the Health Canada discussion paper entitled: New Reproductive and Genetic Technologies – Setting Boundaries, Enhancing Health.

The Bishops, in their brief on Bill C-47, commend the government for introducing legislation that not only replaces the voluntary moratorium with mandatory legislation but also increases the number of uses of the technologies that are prohibited.

In regards to the Health Canada discussion paper, the Bishops welcome “the special concern” expressed in the document concerning the women who use and children who are born of assisted reproduction. “These technologies,” says the response, “have serious physical and emotional ramifications for women; the best interests of the children, including their physical health and emotional well-being, must be of paramount importance.”

The CCCB urges Parliament to amend Bill C-47 in order “to ban any research or experimentation on zygotes, embryos and foetuses unless it is clearly therapeutic for the zygote, embryo or foetus and no other reliable forms of therapy are available.”

Another amendment sought by the bishops, without in any way endorsing in-vitro fertilization, would be to prohibit the creation of “spare zygotes” or embryos and the freezing of them that would “constitute an offense against the respect due to human beings by exposing them to grave risks of death or harm to their physical integrity.”

The Bishops brief on Bill C-47 was signed by the CCCB Executive Committee which includes the Conference President Archbishop Francis J. Spence of Kingston; Vice-President Jean-Claude Cardinal Turcotte of Montréal; and Co-treasurers Archbishop Henri Goudreault of Grouard-McLennan and Bishop Gerald Weisner of Prince George.

Notwithstanding the reservations and serious concerns expressed in the two CCCB documents, the Bishops believe “that the Government has made important progress in setting boundaries around these rapidly expanding technologies both in the provisions of Bill C-47 and in the proposal for a regulatory scheme.”

The proposed legislation is now at the second reading stage in the House of Commons and is expected to be referred to the Standing Committee on Health for hearings. The CCCB has requested an invitation to be heard.