A challenge against the Human Fertilisation and Embryology (Research Purposes) Regulations 2001 was mounted in the High Court last Wednesday. Passed in January of this year, the regulations allow the use of embryos for stem cell research with therapeutic goals.
The ProLife Alliance has challenged the passage of the regulations by launching a judicial review of the parliamentary vote, claiming that parliament acted wrongly in authorising cloning by regulations extending the 1990 Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act. The group contends that embryos created by nuclear transfer, or cloning, do not fit the definition of an embryo under the original act as no fertilisation is involved and no sperm is involved in their creation.
Because of this, the group's lawyer argued that the HFEA cannot give licences for the use of the technique in stem cell research. Lawyers arguing for the government defended the regulations, saying that the definition of embryo contained in the 1990 Act does include those created by nuclear transfer. If the court agrees with the ProLife Alliance then it must say that parliament was wrong to allow therapeutic cloning under the 1990 Act and declare the regulations to be invalid.
The High Court judge hearing the case has deferred judgement but is expected to come to a decision next week. The ProLife Alliance has taken this as a good sign, saying also that the judge seemed to absorb their arguments very quickly.