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Feb. 7, 2003|
Will Congress Ban Human Cloning? |
Serious Questions Remain Unanswered
Growing tension between powerful forces over whether to enact a ban on all human cloning boils down to two ways of considering the status of the human embryo. There are those like President Bush and the vast majority of Americans who believe that a human embryo is a human being created by God in His image, through the sexual union of the male sperm and female egg. Others, represented in Congress by Senators Arlen Specter (R-PA), Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Ted Kennedy D-MA), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and others, plus the pharmaceutical and biotech industries and many scientific groups who support human cloning and embryonic stem cell research, consider the human embryo engendered through assisted or a-sexual reproduction, to be a man-made object to be used and ultimately killed in scientific experiments.
In his State of the Union address on January 28, 2003, President Bush said, "Because no human life should be started or ended as the object of an experiment, I ask you to set a high standard for humanity, and pass a law against all human cloning." The Weldon/Stupak Human Cloning Prohibition Act of 2003 to ban human cloning (H.R. 234) which passed the House in July 2001 and was stopped in the Senate by Sen. Tom Daschle (D-SD), has been reintroduced in the House with 103 co-sponsors. Last week, the Brownback/Landrieu bill (S. 245), identical to the House version, was reintroduced in the Senate with 21 co-sponsors. In contrast, Senators Specter, Hatch, Feinstein and Kennedy have introduced a competing "clone and kill" bill (S. 303), which would allow the cloning of human embryos for experimentation, provided they are killed prior to 14 days of life. Their bill would result in the immoral and unethical establishment of what President Bush called "human embryo farms."
In an opinion poll conducted by Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) on his web site, the vast majority of respondents said they support a total ban on human embryo cloning. 92% support the Brownback-Weldon ban and 84% wish to ban the Specter-Hatch-Kennedy plan. The fact that Senator Frist did a poll on an issue so fundamental has led some to speculate that his support for a total ban may be conditional, especially in light of his previously stated endorsement of human embryonic stem cell research. The question arises: Does Senator Frist consider the human embryo to have an inviolable moral status?
David Freddoso, in the 1/13/03 edition of Human Events pointed out that, according to the Dec. 24, 2002 Boston Globe, Senator Frist "met recently with officials from Advanced Cell Technology (ACT) a Massachusetts-based research company that has already cloned human embryos." The meeting was, according to the Globe, arranged by wealthy ACT investors "friendly with Frist," who were worried that the company’s cloning work would soon be outlawed."
Mr. Fredosso’s report mentions the fact that last March, Frist expressed discomfort with a provision in the Weldon and Brownback bills that forbade importation into the United States of therapies produced from human clones. Senator Brownback (R-KS) argued at that time that such a provision was necessary in order to prevent an easy end-run around the law, a reasonable assumption for someone who wants a cloning ban to stick.
However, the prohibition is missing from the new cloning ban bills, S. 245 and H.R. 234. Its absence raises the concern that even if a ban were to be enacted, the U.S. biotech industry might still profit from the manufacture of human clones off-shore and the importation and sale of "products" made from them. The importation provision should be restored to the bills immediately in order to discourage off-shore cloning efforts.
In August of 2001, President Bush failed to stop stem cell experimentation on human embryos, instead allowing research to continue on cell lines derived from human embryos who had already been killed in privately funded research laboratories. At the same time, he formed The President’s Council on Bioethics and appointed Dr. Leon Kass, M.D., Ph.D, a University of Chicago professor, as its chairman. Reportedly, it was Dr. Kass who advised the president to allow embryonic stem cell research to continue, albeit in a limited way.
Linda K. Bevington, MA, Director of Research at The Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity, described a meeting she had with Dr. Kass and fellow bioethicist Dr. Kevin FitzGerald, Ph.D, S.J. in an article published in the Winter 2001 issue of Dignity. She pointed out that Dr. Kass "stated in his Congressional testimony on June 20, 2001 that, "Anyone truly serious about preventing human reproductive cloning must seek to stop the process from the beginning, at the stage where the human somatic cell nucleus is introduced into the egg." In answer to her questions, Ms. Bevington says that, "Kass defended the necessity of a comprehensive ban by asserting that it would be the only ban that would effectively prevent ‘reproductive’ human cloning." He also "asserted that a comprehensive cloning ban would place the burden of proof on cloning advocates to offer a convincing argument as to why we should endorse something that would transform humanity."
In October of 2002 at the American Enterprise Institute Book Forum featuring "Human Cloning and Human Dignity," the report on human cloning by The President’s Council on Bioethics, Diana Schaub, associate professor of political science at Loyola College in Maryland and a participant in the forum made the following statement: "Cloning is an evil; and cloning for the purpose of research actually exacerbates the evil by countenancing the willful destruction of nascent human life. Moreover, it proposes doing this on a mass scale, as an institutionalized and routinized undertaking to extract medical benefits for those who have greater power. It is slavery plus abortion."
Dr. Kass, in his remarks, made this troubling comment: "Yes, new lives would be created, and on a mass scale, purely to serve other people’s purposes. And, yes, such innocent, nascent lives would be willfully exploited and destroyed. But, I am not sufficiently confident about the ontological or moral status of a five-day-old embryo to speak in such abolitionist terms."
Today, even though the President and the vast majority of Americans demanding a ban on human cloning, Dr. Kass along with the majority on The President’s Council on Bioethics, is supporting a total ban on so-called "reproductive" cloning but only a four-year moratorium on "cloning for biomedical research." This is unacceptable. All cloning is "reproductive." And it must be banned.
Many European countries have already banned human cloning. On February 3, 2003, the French Senate passed a comprehensive ban on human cloning as a "crime against the human species" and imposes a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison for transgressors. It now goes to the Assembly and could become law by the end of June.
The United States must act, and quickly! The state of New Jersey is poised to enact a law allowing the cloning of human embryos and their implantation as long as they are killed for bio-medical research prior to the "newborn" stage! Stanford University announced in December that an anonymous donor had provided $12 million to establish a center devoted entirely to the study of human cloning and stem cell research. California Governor Gray Davis recently signed a bill that encourages scientists to pursue methods that "generate" embryonic stem cells. (Washington Update, 12/13/02)
The cloning ban bills with the importation prohibition restored should be passed and signed by the President without delay! Please convey that message to your representatives in Congress. 202-224-3121.
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