The Political Debate on Embryo Research in New Zealand and the Role of Religious Actors and Arguments

In Mirjam Weiberg-Salzmann & Ulrich Willems (eds.), Religion and Biopolitics. Springer Verlag. pp. 139-159 (2019)
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Embryo research is currently not allowed in New Zealand, although it is not prohibited by the Human Assisted Reproductive Technology Act. The unusualness of this legislative stance is accentuated by the ready availability of in vitro fertilization and pre-implantation genetic diagnosis, both of which are deemed to be established procedures. Embryo research could, in principle, be approved by the Minister of Health acting on a recommendation by the Advisory Committee on Assisted Reproductive Technology. No Minister of Health has as yet accepted such a recommendation from ACART. Before making such a recommendation, ACART has to consult widely and has to take account of religious and cultural considerations. Religious input has been diverse and has not pointed unequivocally either for or against embryo research, although a large number of submissions to ACART objected to any destruction of embryos, with some of this input opposing IVF and PGD as well as embryo research. Unfortunately, many submissions were little more than assertions that could not readily be integrated into ACART’s decision-making processes. A dialogue model undertaken by Māori groups could provide a productive way forward by which religious and cultural voices could make themselves better heard in a pluralist society. However, this will only work if those with religious perspectives are prepared to accept that there is more than one religious viewpoint on embryo research.



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D. G. H. Jones
University of Waterloo

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