May 20, 2002
On May 1, proponents of human cloning introduced a slightly revised
version of a proposal long advocated by many in the biotechnology
industry. This bill, S. 2439, would take us down the path toward what
President Bush has called "a society in which human beings are grown for
spare body parts." I am writing to urge you to oppose this
S. 2439 and its legal and social impact have been misrepresented by supporters in several ways.
First, it is titled a "human cloning prohibition act" but does not ban
any human cloning, for any purpose. It allows unlimited use of cloning
to create human embryos, then tries to ensure that all these embryos
will die before birth. Thus the bill defines a subclass of humanity as
nothing more than research material, to be produced solely in order to be destroyed.
Second, it claims to "protect important areas of medical research," but
does not distinguish important from trivial research, or research from
other ways of mistreating cloned embryos. Nothing in this bill prevents
mass production and destruction of cloned human embryos for commercial
use, idle speculation, or any other reason. Its only restriction is
that no cloned human must get out of the laboratory alive. It even
allows research aimed at refining the cloning procedure, to make cloning
for live birth feasible in the future.
Third, it is hailed by supporters as a "compromise." But it addresses
no substantive criticisms of earlier bills on cloning sponsored by
Senators Harkin (S. 1893) or Feinstein (S. 1758). It is a "compromise" between the Harkin and Feinstein bills, combining defects of both.
Fourth, like the earlier Feinstein bill, this bill claims to enact some
restraints by extending current regulations for federally funded
research to privately funded "nuclear transplantation" (embryo cloning)
research. However, those regulations provide no standards or limits for
such research, or for any research involving human embryos outside the
womb. This provision is meaningless.
In one respect this bill seems worse than past proposals on
cloning. The Harkin cloning bill, S. 1893, banned efforts to implant a
cloned embryo in "a woman's uterus or a substitute for a woman's
uterus." The new bill, S. 2439, allows implantation in such a substitute, as long as it is not proved to be the "functional equivalent"
of a uterus. Since the "function" of a uterus is to sustain an unborn
child to live birth, this provision seems to allow use of an "artificial
womb" or other means to sustain the cloned unborn child to any stage
that falls short of this.
S. 2439 therefore takes us down the slippery slope toward "farming"
cloned humans to the fetal stage, for harvesting of developed organs and
other horrors. The bill's findings even describe a "clone" as "a
complete, live-born animal" (sec. 2 (5)), suggesting that
mandated destruction of the child at any point before live birth would
prevent "cloning." A bill recently introduced by Senator Dorgan (S.
2076) takes this same disturbing step: It allows the use of cloned
embryos to "initiate a human pregnancy," and even the implantation of
cloned embryos in any "mammalian uterus," as long as this is not done
"for the purpose of creating a cloned human being" (by which the
sponsors seem to mean a live-born cloned human being).
By banning pregnancy or live birth, instead of banning use of cloning to
initiate human development, these bills focus their legal penalties on
desperate infertile women and their physicians, instead of on scientists
who irresponsibly mass-produce human life in the laboratory as research
material. Even more unjustly, these bills seek to impose a
government-mandated death sentence on the completely innocent victim of
the cloning procedure, the helpless cloned human. Such legislation
could be described as anti-woman and anti-life at the same time.
This issue transcends the usual boundaries of our perennial national
debate on abortion. Enactment of legislation like S. 2439 or S. 2076
would mark the first time in our history that Congress defined a class
of unborn humans who must be destroyed. In other words, upon
enactment of such legislation, the only federal crime related to cloning
would be the crime of allowing a cloned human to survive.
This is a case in which how we achieve an important goal is at
least as important as whether we achieve it. We should ban human
cloning -- by banning the use of the cloning procedure to create new
developing humans in the first place, as in the Brownback/Landrieu
cloning ban (S. 1899). Legislation which allows the practice, and then
seeks to dehumanize and destroy the humans thus produced so we can
pretend we have banned cloning, is worse than doing nothing. I urge you
to oppose S. 2439 and S. 2076, and to approve the genuine ban on human
cloning offered by S. 1899.