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Pro-Life group calls for embryo protection
Examiner 27/06/2006

by Sean McCarthaigh

Poll favours stem-cells clamp down.

A leading anti-abortion group has called on the Government to provide greater legal protection for human embryos in the face of growing pressures for their use of stem cell research.

The Pro-Life Campaign claimed the results of a new survey of Irish attitudes to Stem Cell research showed there was strong public support for tougher legislation to prevent the destruction of embryos.

An opinion poll commissioned by the PLC found that 55% of people would be in favour of the Dail legislating to protect the embryo with 14%  against and 31% not offering an opinion.

PLC spokesman Dr Berry Kiely criticised recent comments by Enterprise Trade and Employment Minister Micheail Martin, in which he said the Government did not want to lecture other countries on the issue.

In a controversial vote by the European Parliament earlier this month, MEP's voted in favour of funding research into both adult and embryonic stem cells.

However they also stipulated that funding for the study of embryonic stem cells that would only be provided for projects which could demonstrate that the research could not be done with adult stem cells.

Anti-abortion groups and the Catholic Hierarchy have recently voiced concern about the issue, although no embryonic stem cell research is being carried out in the Republic.

However, Dr Kiely dismissed suggestions that the PLC wanted the Government to lecture other EU members and claimed Mr Martin was "fudging the issue".

"What he is being asked to do is to stand up for the dignity of life at it's fragile beginnings", said Dr Kiely.

However, she argued that publicity surrounding the issue has blurred the distinction between the two types of stem cells.

Although the findings of various polls suggest public uncertainty about the stem cell research, PLC legal advisor Prof Vincent Binchy suggested that it could impact on how people will vote.

He expressed disappointment that the Govenment appeared to support EU policy on funding of embryonic research .

The PLC survey also revisisted the issue of abortion and showed that 62% would support a constitutional ammendment to prohibit abortion but which would still allow doctors intervene to save the life of the mother.

It also revealed that three out of 10 people favoured the introduction of abortion in Ireland , although a slight majority of all those surveyed remain opposed to it being legalised.