Spain is to become the first Catholic country in Europe to authorize research on human embryos to obtain stem cells. On July 25, the cabinet approved reforms of an outdated law on human assisted reproduction, one of the consequences of which will be to allow research on human embryos stored at in vitro fertilization (IVF) clinics.

The new law will be similar to those in place in Holland and Finland, which ban therapeutic cloning but permit research on spare embryos as long as parents provide appropriate consent.

The existing Spanish law on assisted reproduction, which dates back to 1988, forbids research on human embryos and states that spare embryos will be frozen for up to 5 years. But, as the law does not specify what should happen to embryos stored for more than 5 years, advocates of embryo research have been lobbying to amend the law to permit such research....

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