Proposition 71 preys on the hopes of desperate, ill people
for Bioethics and Culture recognized the danger of Proposition 71
early and its staff and columnists have consistently spoken out against
it. Ignatius Insight interviewed Jennifer
Lahl, national director and founder of The Center for Bioethics and
IgnatiusInsight.com: Is it true if the technology is created in California,
scientists can take the technology and start making designer babies somewhere
Jennifer Lahl: Right. We have to realize that right now in America
there is no federal law against cloning.
IgnatiusInsight.com: What would happen if a lab created these embryos
and somebody decided to go in and plant them? Theres no law against
Lahl: Even if there was a law against it, it could still happen.
Which is why a lot of people who dont ascribe to a prolife perspective
are concerned about this because it just opens up the door to reproductive
People say thats a slippery slope argument, were not going
to do that. Why not? Its the very same technology. You have the
embryo; its already created. Whats to say somebody wouldnt
implant it in somebodys womb and help people have children? And
then the next thing you know, were going, "Isnt this
wonderful? Its a new way for infertile couples to have children."
IgnatiusInsight.com: Would passage of this proposition short circuit the
national moral debate?
Lahl: It is kind of ironic that perhaps the next presidential election
will hinge on whether you are for or against embryonic stem cell research
or embryonic cloning research.
Therefore everyone in the nation is really watching what California especially
will do as relates to Proposition 71. Californiathe almost broke
state. Californiathe state that has a bond rating of almost junk
level. Will we fund this kind of research at the expense of shutting down
other programs? It is written as a constitutional amendment, which means
funding it takes priority and is guaranteed by the constitution.
There are people that object to this just on the morality of it. President
Bush was adamant that our children are our creationsnot a commodity.
And this is going to be a large-scale mass production of clones, human
embryosembryo research for the sole purpose of destroying these
young lives for basic research. Research that were told at best,
maybe, might, kind of, sort of, eventually provide help for somebody.
So its highly speculative research.
And are we going to create life, for the first time ever for the sole
purpose of destroying it? Weve never done this before. This is a
huge thing that the world is watching.
IgnatiusInsight.com: What about in Britain? Havent they starting
doing this in Britain?
Lahl: Britain can join the ranks of the Peoples Republic
of China, Singapore and South Korea. Not necessarily countries we go to
for lessons in human rights and integrity. But, what is similarly interesting
is the countries around the globe that have totally banned any kind of
human cloning research.
IgnatiusInsight.com: Which countries have done that?
Lahl: Canada, under federal law, all human cloning is banned. Germany.
You know, interesting, in Germany you get to go to jail if you clone for
research or for reproductive purpose. Where we have 400,000 embryos on
ice in America sitting in infertility clinics, Germany has 40 because
its illegal to create life and freeze it. Australia: total ban on
human cloning. Norway: total ban on human cloning. Costa Rica is leading
a proposal before the United Nations thats being debated right now
with over sixty countries co-signing as a global ban on all human cloning.
So certainly people that arent religious and dont adhere to
a traditional prolife viewpoint have lots of reasons to object to this
kind of research.
IgnatiusInsight.com: The people who are promoting Proposition 71 say it
specifically bans reproductive cloning. What does that mean?
Lahl: It means the clone will be created to be destroyed; it wont
be implanted into a womb. We say, "Is that good news?" I mean,
if we are going to be creating lifeand I argue against all human
cloning personallyit almost baffles your mind, because if were
going to make life, shouldnt we make life and let it live? Versus:
"Dont worry, were just making life and killing it."
Then we can all go, "Oh, thank goodness!" Thats good news?
IgnatiusInsight.com: Tell us, in a nutshell, what it is the proposition
Lahl: It amends the constitution. Thats problem number one
that people object to. A constitutional amendment means that even if the
state goes broke, we have to borrow money to fund this because its
in the constitution. We will have given a constitutional right to this
kind of money to do this kind of research.
Problem number two is the amount of money we are being asked to fund.
Were [California] broke. I dont know about you but I live
in a city, Oakland, that is poor. Schools are being closed; roads are
falling apart; we have a bridge project. I get into San Francisco across
the Bay Bridge, for which the rebuilding project is on hold. We dont
have the money to complete the project.
Theres a problem with oversight. Theres a lot of concern being
raised because it doesnt have legislative oversight or the governors
oversight. We basically write these guys a check to go and spend the money
the way they want to spend it without appropriate oversight.
Theres the moral issue of creating life for the sole purpose of
Theres the irony that we have wonderful therapies being developed
on adult stem cell and were not funding that because Proposition
71 gives low priority to that funding because its already being
IgnatiusInsight.com: Who is behind this initiative?
Lahl: There are a lot of private individuals and some biotech and
pharmaceutical funding, but not heavily. It has been a lot of wealthy
IgnatiusInsight.com: Why are so many wealthy individuals supporting this?
Lahl: They bought this lie that hope is on the way, help is just
around the corner. Weve been fighting the war on cancer for thirty
years. When are we going to get it into our thick skulls that cures are
hard to come by, that the human body is a very complex and intricate system
that has so many variableswhether it be our diet or our environment
or our genetics or all these things. We think weve solved the problems
It just preys on the hopes of these poor people who are really struggling
with chronic illness and debilitating disease. Its pathetic; its
And you know, some people love a "good" cause and if you can
get a couple of Hollywood celebrities rich wealthy people will throw their
money at it because its the glitz of Hollywood. "I'm part of
the Michael J. Fox committee; Im part of the Christopher Reeves
campaign for life." Its pathetic to play on peoples hopes
and their desperate fears when theyre sick.