MELBOURNE, Australia, APRIL 20, 2007 (Zenit.org).- The lower house in Victoria passed legislation to legalize therapeutic cloning, though opponents are hopeful that the bill will have a harder time gaining approval in the upper house.
Fifteen members of the Labor Government, the Liberal Party and the Nationals voted against party colleagues in the lower house to support the new stem-cell legislation, bringing Wednesday's final tally to 58-25.
Introduced last month, the legislation would allow Victorian scientists to clone human embryos for medical research through somatic cell nuclear transfer, commonly known as therapeutic cloning, according to The Australian.
Scientists would be able to take the nucleus from an adult skin cell, insert it in an unfertilized egg and then use the resultant embryonic stem cells for medical purposes.
On the eve of debate over the bill, Archbishop Denis Hart of Melbourne said, "Life once conceived must be protected with the utmost care."
"The Church's view," the archbishop said, "has been long held and dates back even before earliest Christian times to the Hebrew Scriptures."
"It is wrong to believe that cloned human embryos have no intrinsic value," he added. "They share in the same human life that we all do, made in the image of God and, therefore, deserving of the same unconditional moral respect owed to all human beings."
Archbishop Hart explained, "This situation is not changed simply because of scientific claims of the potential therapeutic benefits that may be gained by their destruction."
Embryonic stem cell and cloning legislation has been making headway in Australia since last year's federal Parliament narrowly passed a law allowing scientists to clone human embryos to extract their stem cells for research purposes.
In an effort similar to Victoria's, the government of West Australian has recently introduced a bill to overturn the state's ban on therapeutic cloning.
Perth Archbishop Barry Hickey asked West Australian members of Parliament to oppose cloning of embryos for medical research.
He said that to create a human embryo and destroy it to obtain stem cells was morally wrong. "The end does not justify the means."
Archbishop Hickey recommended, "Let us take God's way and use the adult stem cells already provided without taking human life."