Following is a speech by the Secretary for Health and Welfare, Dr E K Yeoh, in moving the Second Reading of the Human Reproductive Technology Bill in the Legislative Council today (June 22):
First of all, I should thank Honourable Members for supporting the Human Reproductive Technology Bill. I would also like to extend my gratitude to the Honourable Cyd HO, Chairman of the Bills Committee on the Human Reproductive Technology Bill, as well as all other members of the Bills Committee who have thoroughly examined the Bill and put forward valuable and constructive comments and suggestions.
Reproductive technology is a complicated and sensitive subject which involves various medical, legal, social and ethical issues. The Bills Committee has held a total of 26 meetings in the past 20 months, and at those meetings we have exchanged views with Members on various issues. Later on, I will move Committee Stage Amendments to a number of clauses under the Bill in accordance with the views expressed by Members of the Bills Committee. The amendments are proposed to render the provisions of the Bill more complete.
The Bill aims to regulate reproductive technology procedure, use of embryos and gametes for research and other purposes, to regulate surrogacy arrangement and to establish a Council on Human Reproductive Technology. The purpose of legislation is to ensure, through statutory measures, that reproductive technology will be safely practised and the rights of users and children born out of reproductive technology procedure will be duly protected. In particular, we propose to restrict the procedure to married couples and prohibit commercial dealing of the use of gametes and embryos. Commercial arrangement of surrogacy should also be an offence.
As I have just mentioned, reproductive technology is such a complicated issue that there are different views in the community regarding the practice and control of the technology. The Honourable CHAN Yuen-han has just expressed her views regarding surrogacy and prepares to move amendments on this subject at the Committee Stage later today. I will address this issue again when we come to it in a moment. However, I want to emphasise here, there is currently no legislative control over surrogacy. If the provisions relating to surrogacy were taken out, we would be back to status quo, i.e. surrogacy could be practised without any regulation.
Although there have been varying views on some controversial subjects, we have already taken into consideration views from majority of the community when finalising the regulatory framework. One important consensus we have reached with the Bills Committee in the deliberation of this Bill is that the welfare of the child to be born should be regarded as paramount importance.
Upon the passage of the Bill, we will proceed to set up the Council on Human Reproductive Technology to work out the details of the regulatory measures.
Nowadays, reproductive technology is developing at a rapid pace. Given the dynamic nature of this subject, I can reassure Honourable Members that we shall keep tabs on the latest developments in this area, and consider amending our legislation as appropriate to ensure its validity and relevance.
Madam President, I hereby commend this Bill to Members for Second Reading. Thank you, Madam President.
End/Thursday, June 22, 2000