France set to uphold curbs on embryonic stem cells

PARIS (Reuters) - France looked set on Thursday to maintain its curbs on human embryonic stem cell research after the conservative government fought off a parliamentary bid to liberalize the country’s bioethics law.

The National Assembly voted to uphold the curbs in the second reading of the new bioethics law. Conservative legislators and the Roman Catholic Church had protested after an initial Senate vote to authorize this research.

The Senate holds its second reading of the bill in early June. If it votes again to allow embryonic stem cell research, the bill will go to a parliamentary conference committee where the National Assembly version of the bill would take precedence.

France has one of the stricter laws on embryonic stem cell research in Europe, banning it except for research with imported embryos not used for in vitro fertilization in other countries.

Opponents of embryonic stem cell research argue it is morally wrong because it manipulates or destroys human embryos. Supporters see it as a possible avenue toward new treatments for many medical conditions.

Paris Cardinal Andre Vingt-Trois, head of the Catholic Church in France, urged legislators this week not to liberalize the law, saying that would amount to “a regression in civilization” and open the door to “state-sponsored eugenics.”