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House of Commons passes human reproduction bill


Ottawa, ON October 29, 2003 Canada’s House of Commons yesterday voted in favour of Bill C-13, An Act respecting assisted human reproduction and related research. The bill will now be sent to the Senate for review.

“Bill C-13 will fill a legislative void that currently exists in this country,” says Anne McLellan, the government’s minister of health. “It reflects the Government of Canada’s commitment to protect the health and safety of the people of Canada who turn to assisted reproductive technology to help them build their families. It also represents an important step forward in protecting the children who are born with the assistance of such technologies,” she adds.

In addition to prohibiting activities such as cloning, and the buying and selling of eggs and sperm, the legislation will provide for a legal framework, including regulations and inspections in an area that is currently largely unregulated. It provides for the creation of the Assisted Human Reproduction Agency of Canada, which will have authority to oversee the proper functioning of the act and its regulations.

If also passed by the Senate, the legislation will ensure that for the first time in Canada research using the in vitro human embryo is regulated and can only take place in a regulated environment. For example, this research could only be done after informed written consent is received from those people donating embryos following completion of their fertility treatment. This research has many potential benefits, such as advances in treating infertility, spinal-cord injuries or other serious diseases such as Parkinson’s, diabetes, Alzheimer’s and cancer.

The bill’s passage by the House of Commons means it is still only part way to becoming law. Next it must go through reading and committee/report stages in the Senate, as well as being passed by the Senate, before it can receive Royal Assent and become law. In addition, if the prime minister prorogues parliament due to the upcoming change of leadership, the bill would die, along with all other legislation that has not yet passed both Houses of Parliament.