Both the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada and Campaign Life Coalition seem to take a harsher view of the Supreme Court’s reference decision yesterday on Canada’s reproductive technologies regulations than I did in my original post. I don’t substantially disagree with their critiques, although it seems to me that their ultimate criticism is with the lack of legal protection for newly created life (through IVF and embryonic stem cell research) that is currently missing in Canadian law. Regardless of what the Supreme Court did, the law would still permit the destruction of human embryos in both artificial reproduction and research. I agree with the EFC’s Don Hutchinson who says that the decision gives a green light to Parliament to tighten the regulations and outlaw some more questionable practices. Politicians won’t do that, but the Court’s decision seems to leave the door open to greater restrictions — while effectively inviting provinces to kick open the door in a race-to-the-bottom in which everything is allowed in practice. In that, both CLC and the EFC are correct in worrying about the implications of the decision.
The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops will release their full analysis next month, but their initial reaction was one of concern. They noted:
The results of this ruling are not yet fully clear, but the risk is that human procreation will more and more be considered merely a question of health and individual safety, rather than an important ethical issue. The Catholic Bishops of Canada consider respect for, and the protection of the human embryo, fundamental considerations.
My original reaction is echoed by the CCCB — we don’t know how this will all play out. I think the CCCB doesn’t do enough to acknowledge the Supreme Court’s decision went some way to acknowledge that these issues are very much moral issues and not merely health and safety issues. What does that mean from a policy perspective? Again, we’ll have to see how future regulations and (presumably) court rulings work this all out. But if the words of Supreme Court Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin mean anything, it is that there is a moral element to reproductive technologies that Parliament legitimately has a say in.
For the record, both I want to see laws that protect human beings at the embryonic stage, which means prohibiting all embryonic stem cell research as well as IVF, which often results in the destruction of embryos.