Bishops to intervene in human reproduction case

  • March 20, 2009
{mosimage}OTTAWA - The Supreme Court of Canada has granted leave to the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada to intervene in a case that challenges whether Canada’s Assisted Human Reproduction Act will apply to all provinces.

The bishops want to ensure the act will protect human dignity surrounding procreation and related genetic research for the sake of the common good.

The act prohibits or limits such activities as human cloning, surrogacy, sex selection, the sale of human eggs or sperm, animal-human hybrids and in vitro fertilization while promoting health, safety and human dignity.

“We’re very happy that the Supreme Court has given us leave because it’s important that people from the faith communities register their views on an issue that affects all Canadians,” said conference president Archbishop James Weisgerber.

“The legislation that has been put in place attempts to draw our country together in one particular vision of who we are. If we are to be a country, a society, we need common values.”

Noting the consultations that went into the Royal Commission on Reproductive Technologies and the resulting legislation, Weisgerber said the act’s values “express what is good for the whole country.”

“It’s an area of our common life that touches on the value of life,” he said.

On April 24, the Supreme Court of Canada will hear an appeal of last June’s Quebec Court of Appeal ruling that put human reproduction under provincial jurisdiction. In that case the judge ruled: “only the individual safety of the participants in assisted reproduction and the children that result from it require protection.”

Meanwhile, promised Health Canada regulations that would police the fertility industry are still being drafted five years after the act’s passage and are pending the results of the upcoming Supreme Court case.

Concern over reproductive technologies has increased after the recent case of the California “Octomom,” who gave birth to octuplets after the implantation of frozen embryos, and that of a 60-year-old Calgary woman who gave birth to twins.

The bishops have joined forces with the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada (EFC) to request permission to intervene. 

“There’s a growing co-operation between the two of us,” said Weisgerber. “It comes from the importance of religious vision in the life of our country.”

The joint affidavit states: “Our living together in community requires a basic trust that human life and dignity, as well as the dignity of human procreation, will be respected and protected uniformly in Canada, across provincial boundaries....

“The research development and use of new reproductive technologies involve national concerns that cut across social, ethical, legal, medical, economic and other considerations and institutions.”

“We are concerned about the dignity of human procreation and the importance of marriage and family,” said the bishops’ conference Associate General Secretary Bede Hubbard in a news release March 13.

“Anything other than federal legislation will only ensure delayed and fractured regulation across Canada as each province must then enact legislation on this matter,” he said.

For the past 15 years, the bishops, either through the Canadian Organization for Life and Family , or on its own, and the EFC have been actively involved in matters concerning new reproductive technologies and biotechnological research, including embryonic stem cell research.

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