.- Australian Prime Minister John Howard seems to have had a change of heart with his recent decision to hold a conscience vote on the cloning of fetal stem cells. But the announcement has raised sharp criticism from some Catholic parliamentarians, reported Australian news source CathNews.
Health Minister Tony Abbott told Australian media that he opposes embryonic stem-cell research because “there is very little real evidence” that embryonic stem cell research will bring about the cures proponents claim.
He said some proponents “have been guilty of over-pedaling hope to vulnerable people in this area.” He also expressed his concern about going down the path of the “Dolly the Sheep-type situation” with human beings.
Queensland Senator Barnaby Joyce criticized the decision to re-open debate at all, saying debate gives “a start-off imprimatur” to that position. Both Abbott and Joyce are Catholic.
However Victorian Premier Steve Bracks, also a Catholic, said he welcomes Howard’s decision to hold a conscience vote. Bracks has previously stated that Victoria might go ahead and legalize therapeutic cloning on its own.
Meanwhile, the Health Department said it might be able to prevent sales of the RU 486 abortion drug in Australia, according to a report by LifeNews. The drug is responsible for the deaths of 12 women worldwide.
The Australian Parliament recently approved the transfer of responsibility for approving sales of the drug from the health minister to the Therapeutic Drugs Administration (TGA).
Two abortion practitioners have received approval from the TGA to sell the abortion drug locally to their patients. However, one practitioner said she knows a foreign company that plans to file an application with the government to sell the drug nationwide.
Should the TGA approve nationwide sales, Abbott said his department could cancel a company's TGA registration to sell the drug, which means the product can no longer be legally marketed and supplied in Australia.