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(January 6, 2005) A federal
ban on human cloning appears to be all that can stop millions and maybe
billions of state dollars from being spent on creating tiny humans for
spare parts in California. It would also invalidate a New Jersey law that
allows therapeutic human cloning.
Many Californians probably did not realize they approved human cloning
when they voted overwhelmingly Nov. 2nd to pass Proposition 71and
now the best hope to block it is a federal ban, a top Catholic official
"At this point, the only way to stop widespread cloning for research
purposes in California is a federal law," says Richard
Doerflinger, pro-life lobbyist for the U.S. bishops in Washington,
D.C. "This proposition made it into a state constitutional right."
The massive infusion of $3 billion over the course of ten years in California
is expected to revolutionize the U.S. and world bio-tech industry, with
the largest hunk of state dollars slated to go to human cloning and embryonic
stem cell research. In addition, a New Jersey therapeutic cloning law
took effect in January 2004 that critics say allows "harvesting"
of organs throughout the unborn childs life but does not allow the
child to be born. A federal ban would not outlaw embryonic stem cell research
with non-cloned embryos.
good news is that supporters of the cloning ban, including lead sponsor
Kansas Republican Sen.
Sam Brownback, believe the climate in Washington, D.C., is the best
its been in years for outlawing human cloning. On the other side,
momentum is building nationally for more funding for embryonic stem cell
research at the state level.
For many years human cloning seemed so unbelievablea topic better
suited for science fictionthat many Americans paid little or no
attention. Now it is on the horizon and approaching fast and there are
few laws addressing the issue.
Catholic teaching opposes cloning, whether therapeuticusing the
embryo for spare parts and thus killing itor reproductive, making
a baby from the exact DNA of its parent. The process is exactly the same
in either case; only the purpose is different.
The first known example of cloning of a human embryo was announced
in February 2004 by
South Korean scientists who grew the embryo for seven or eight days
before destroying it. Mice, sheep and cats have been cloned for several
years, beginning with Dolly the sheep in Britain in 1996.
Life is meant to come from God through the blessed relationship of a man
and a woman, says Rev.
Tadeusz Pacholczyk, Ph.D., of the National Catholic Bioethics Center
in Philadelphia. "We all have the right to be born of love,"
he observes. When embryos are made in a test tube or a petrie dish "they
can be frozen, they can poured down the sink. You treat them as objects
rather than subjects of infinite human value."
The U.S. House of Representatives passed a human cloning ban by a vote
of 241-155 in February 2003, but it stalled in the Senate. After the November
2004 Republican electoral sweep, which gave Republicans four more pro-life
votes in the Senate, there is a sense that many Americans adhere to more
traditional "moral values" and thus the ban may have a better
Lead sponsors on the Senate legislation are Brownback and Louisiana Democratic
Sen. Mary Landrieu.
The bill, S.245, will be re-introduced in the 2005-06 Congress.
"I am encouraged that we are heading in the right direction, and
now is the time to move forward," Brownback said in a Dec. 21 statement.
"It is critical for Congress to ban human cloning, and the recent
election results put us closer than ever to passing the bipartisan Human
Cloning Prohibition Act."
Internationally, sixty-two nations completely oppose human cloning, including
Costa Rica, the U.S., and Germany. On November 19, 2004, after lengthy
and acrimonious debate, the United Nations postponed indefinitely a vote
on Costa Ricas proposed worldwide ban on human cloning. Britain
and India were among the twenty-two nations opposing the ban.
Within the U.S., five states ban all cloning (North Dakota, South Dakota,
Michigan, Iowa, Arkansas) and three others ban reproductive cloning (Rhode
Island, Missouri, California). Virginia bans reproductive cloning but
it is unclear whether its law applies to therapeutic cloning, according
to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Meanwhile several states are moving toward public funding of stem cell
research, hoping to emulate Californias $3 billion stem cell bond
issue, the Center for Genetics and Society reports. The
Illinois State Comptroller is leading an effort to place a $1 billion
proposal on the 2005 ballot. Wisconsin Gov.
Jim Doyle of Wisconsin announced an effort to raise $750 million in
both public and private funds to support a stem cell research center.
Yet there is no national law addressing the subject.
A human cloning ban is a top priority of the U.S. bishops in the 2005-06
Congress, said Doerflinger, deputy director of the Secretariat for Pro-Life
Activities for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Under the U.S. Senate bill, the process of somatic cell nuclear transfer--the
cloning of any human embryo whether for reproductive or therapeutic purposes--would
be banned. Scientists hope that they can create new organs and cures for
diseases by building from the early 100-150 cells that compose a week-old
embryo but so far have been unsuccessful in doing so in mice and there
are no known examples of human tests. Scientists hope embryos cloned from
the cell of the person needing treatment would provide new organs or other
treatments that would circumvent rejection problems.
"Cloning is like an unmarked and unchecked interstate system, with
scientists racing as fast as they can with no restrictions whatsoever,"
Louisiana Sen. Landrieu
said. "It is up to Congress to put up the speed limit signs before
we have any casualties."
Californias new law explicitly forbids reproductive cloning but
authorizes therapeutic cloning of humans. Embryonic stem cell research
and all other stem cell research would continue to be funded in California
even if a federal ban is enacted, Doerflinger said.
With a 55-45 Republican majority in the U.S. Senate, Democrats could still
block the measure from coming to a vote with a filibuster. In addition,
Republican Senators Orrin Hatch of Utah and Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania
support therapeutic cloning. So far, Landrieu is the sole Democrat to
support a complete ban.
Hatch and Specter joined California Democratic Senators Diane Feinstein
and Barbara Boxer as well as new Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid of
Nevada in co-sponsoring a competing measure in the 2003-04 Congress that
would have allowed therapeutic cloning while banning reproductive cloning.
"Many proponents of human cloning claim there are different types
of cloning. However, there is only one type of cloning, and the procedure
always results in the creation of new human embryo," Brownback said.
"It is wrong to clone and kill a human being for research purposes."
Kills....But Don't Tell Anyone" |
"How Cloning Works"
Valerie Meehan Schmalz is a writer for IgnatiusInsight. She worked
as a reporter and editor for The Associated Press, and in print and broadcast
media for ten years. She holds a BA in Government from University of San
Francisco and a Master of Science from the School of Foreign Service at
Georgetown University. She is the former director of Birthright of San Francisco.
Valerie and her wonderful husband have four children.
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