Two St Mary’s College students had a taste of the cut and thrust of parliamentary debate during their school holidays last month. They presented the New Zealand Bishops’ Conference submission on stem cell research to the Science select committee of Youth Parliament.
Rachel Kleinsman and Natasha Perry from St Mary’s College devised a 10-minute powerpoint presentation outlining arguments against the cloning of embryos for research purposes. Their presentation was based on the bishops’ submission to ACART (Advisory Committee in Assisted Reproductive Technology), and the girls were coached by Rev. Dr. Michael McCabe of the Nathaniel Bioethics Centre.
Natasha and Rachel had a basic familiarity of the issue from their studies in Year 13 Religious Studies and Biology.
‘But when we read the submission we realised there were a number of other facets to the topic.’
‘The basic premise of our argument centered on the dignity of human life from conception, and the inherent contradiction in destroying life in order to save life. The overall aim, or ends, of saving human lives does not justify the killing of embryos… Adult stem cells provide a feasible alternative without the ethical issues generated by embryonic stem cells.’
After their presentation, the pair answered questions from the Youth Parliament representatives. ‘The questions were hard, but gave more of an exciting challenge than we had anticipated.’
Rachel and Natasha were the only students presenting submissions. Other submissions came from the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Research Science and Technology, ACART, and the New Zealand Bioethics Council.
The girls say they were nervous at first ‘but it was a great experience’..
The submissions were presented in a Parliamentary Select Committee chamber, and followed the procedures of a regular Parliamentary hearing..
The pair have participated in the St Mary’s College debating team for O’Shea Shield and belong to the Premier Debating team for the Wellington Public Speaking Union.
Both say that after this experience, Parliament is definitely an option for their future.