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Surrogate births banned in Germany

The German parliament, introducing tough ethical rules on genetic engineering, passed a law Wednesday banning surrogate motherhood, genetic manipulation and use of a dead man's semen to produce a child. The law, passed by Chancellor Helmut Kohl's Christian Democrats and their liberal coalition partners, was described as among the world's strictest.

"Man is not God," Friedrich-Adolf Jahn, parliamentary state secretary in the justice ministry, argued as he defended the bill before parliament.

It follows a law passed by the Bonn parliament last March that placed limits on genetic engineering of plants, animals or micro-organisms.

Genetic engineering is particularly sensitive in Germany, where it kindles memories of Nazi racial experiments on people in concentration camps.

Some opposition deputies voted against the law, saying it did not go far enough.

The law bans women from being used to carry children for childless couples and allows so-called "test-tube babies" only when the egg used comes from the woman who is to have the baby. The surrogate mother would not be punished but doctors performing in-vitro fertilization will face up to three years in jail.

The law bans research into human embryos or manipulation of human genes, setting jail terms of up to five years for anyone fabricating clones or hybrids of animals and people.