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Jennifer Lahl:
Proposition 71 preys on the hopes of desperate, ill people

The Center 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 Culture.

IgnatiusInsight.com: Is it true if the technology is created in California, scientists can take the technology and start making designer babies somewhere else?

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? There’s no law against that.

Lahl: Even if there was a law against it, it could still happen. Which is why a lot of people who don’t ascribe to a prolife perspective are concerned about this because it just opens up the door to reproductive cloning.

People say that’s a slippery slope argument, we’re not going to do that. Why not? It’s the very same technology. You have the embryo; it’s already created. What’s to say somebody wouldn’t implant it in somebody’s womb and help people have children? And then the next thing you know, we’re going, "Isn’t this wonderful? It’s 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. California–the almost broke state. California–the 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 creations–not a commodity. And this is going to be a large-scale mass production of clones, human embryos–embryo research for the sole purpose of destroying these young lives for basic research. Research that we’re told at best, maybe, might, kind of, sort of, eventually provide help for somebody. So it’s highly speculative research.

And are we going to create life, for the first time ever for the sole purpose of destroying it? We’ve never done this before. This is a huge thing that the world is watching.

IgnatiusInsight.com: What about in Britain? Haven’t they starting doing this in Britain?

Lahl: Britain can join the ranks of the People’s 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 it’s 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 that’s being debated right now with over sixty countries co-signing as a global ban on all human cloning. So certainly people that aren’t religious and don’t 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 won’t be implanted into a womb. We say, "Is that good news?" I mean, if we are going to be creating life–and I argue against all human cloning personally–it almost baffles your mind, because if we’re going to make life, shouldn’t we make life and let it live? Versus: "Don’t worry, we’re just making life and killing it." Then we can all go, "Oh, thank goodness!" That’s good news?

IgnatiusInsight.com: Tell us, in a nutshell, what it is the proposition does.

Lahl: It amends the constitution. That’s 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 it’s 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. We’re [California] broke. I don’t 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 don’t have the money to complete the project.

There’s a problem with oversight. There’s a lot of concern being raised because it doesn’t have legislative oversight or the governor’s oversight. We basically write these guys a check to go and spend the money the way they want to spend it without appropriate oversight.

There’s the moral issue of creating life for the sole purpose of destroying it.

There’s the irony that we have wonderful therapies being developed on adult stem cell and we’re not funding that because Proposition 71 gives low priority to that funding because it’s already being funded.

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 individuals.

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. We’ve 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 variables–whether it be our diet or our environment or our genetics or all these things. We think we’ve solved the problems for humanity.

It just preys on the hopes of these poor people who are really struggling with chronic illness and debilitating disease. It’s pathetic; it’s shameful.

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 it’s the glitz of Hollywood. "I'm part of the Michael J. Fox committee; I’m part of the Christopher Reeves campaign for life." It’s pathetic to play on people’s hopes and their desperate fears when they’re sick.


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