After four years of infighting, and $28 million of taxpayers’ dollars, the Royal Commission on Reproductive Technologies finally delivered its report to Prime Minister Jean Chretien’s office on November 15. Chretien’s office announced immediately that the report will not be issued to the public until the end of the month.
The report, estimated at 1,400 pages, is said to contain nearly 300 recommendations as a first step in regulating the new reproductive technologies.
Former commissioner, Maureen McTeer, has said she is worried that the report will be biased in favour of the technologies. She believes it will recommend funding for research centres and emphasize “management techniques” to control the growth of the technologies.
Other critics expressed alarm about the secrecy of the Commission’s work, and said it never even answered the most basic question, whether or not such technologies, and the risk to women’s health from the high dosages of drugs used to increase fertility.
The Royal Commission on Reproductive Technologies was set up in 1988 by the Mulroney government to investigate such issues as in-vitro fertilization, surrogate motherhood, embryo experimentation and cloning.
Early on in its mandate,, the Commission was mired in controversy when four commissioners , including Ms. McTeer, attempted to take Chairperson Dr. Patricia Baird to court, to force her to share some of the research gathered. McTeer and the other three were fired. Two days before the report was handed in to the Prime Minister, the Toronto Star reported that one of the recommendations is expected to call for equal access to reproductive technology techniques, regardless of income. “This could include single women and lesbians,” stated reporter David Vienneau.
Vienneau also said that the report is expected to condemn surrogate motherhood, because “the notion of selling or giving away a child to another human being” is repugnant.
According to the Star, the Commission may also reject court-ordered intervention intended to protect unborn children from the effects of their mothers’ abusive behaviour during pregnancy, such as drinking or drug-taking. Such intervention, the Report says, “violates the pregnant woman’s human and constitutional rights.”
Commission chair, Patricia Baird, rejected criticisms of the report, saying that it is “very substantive and serious and caring.”
“We have tried, in an ethical and caring way, to ensure that reproductive technology is used in a way that benefits people and ensures that protections are in place for individual Canadians and our society,” she said.