Capital Commentary is the weekly current-affairs publication of CPJ, written to encourage the pursuit of public justice.
A Ban in Favor of Life
Despite the heated debate and jockeying for advantage, it looks like a vote on human cloning and embryo research is off the Senate agenda for now.
Two bills have been proposed. The Brownback-Landrieu bill (S.1899) outlaws all types of human cloning, similar to the bill that earlier passed the House and as President Bush has supported. The other bill, sponsored by Senators Specter, Feinstein, Hatch and Kennedy (S.1758), imposes only a partial ban. It outlaws "reproductive cloning" that creates a new person but permits "therapeutic cloning"—the creation of embryos that are then destroyed to extract stem cells for research or treatment.
Senators have been split on the issue, with neither side confident of sufficient support to chance a vote. Procedural disagreements at the end of last week put voting on hold for the indefinite future.
Yet this vote is too important for further delay. All forms of human cloning should be outlawed now.
The decision on human cloning will establish a precedent for other biotechnology dilemmas that will inevitably arise. Two years into the new millennium, Americans have witnessed tremendous advances in scientific and medical research. We are closer than ever to finding a cure for cancer, we are making great strides in the fight against AIDS, and a host of new cures from diabetes to heart disease have come within reach since the cracking of the human genetic code. Truly these advances are a testament to the human capacity to understand and control complex realities.
Yet, as a society, we are increasingly obsessed both with prolonging life and with manipulating the very mechanisms that undergird our individuality. In the case of human cloning, we are overturning the integrity of medical research, sacrificing life and the miracle of natural creation by God for the mere selfish gratification of consumerism and the vain possibility of extending life.
From the very beginning, President Bush has championed an unwavering moral and ethical purpose for biotechnology. The President and his anti-cloning allies insist that human life is not infinitely exploitable and that medical research must remain within boundaries set by law to preserve the security and worth of each and every individual.
Cloning has been largely unregulated, so the initial advances have clouded the critical values at stake. Supporters of cloning point to the promise that stem cells from cloned embryos might cure the most debilitating diseases. However, this argument is misguided. The debate on cloning should not focus on potential cures or the possibility of longer, healthier lives. Rather, the crucial question we must deliberate is whether we are ready to exploit a human life for experimental, scientific purposes. Government has the responsibility to use the law to defend human life and dignity. When considering cloning we must decide if we will leave responsibility for creation in the hands of God, our maker, or attempt to seize that responsibility ourselves.
Many who favor cloning believe that scientists should be left free to delve into every mystery and try to fix every flaw we suffer. Yet, even scientists with the purest intentions must never believe there is a right to sacrifice one person's life in the hope of answering a "what if" of science. As President Bush stated in support of the Brownback-Landrieu bill, "Advances in biomedical technology must never come at the expense of human conscience. As we seek what is possible, we must always ask what is right, and we must not forget that even the most noble ends do not justify any means."
Government is charged with the responsibility to set limits on actions that endanger human life. If Senators are to remain true to their fundamental duties, they should vote immediately to ban all forms of human cloning.
—Alaine Gherardi, Associate Fellow
Center for Public Justice
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Capital Commentary is a weekly current-affairs publication of the Center for Public Justice. Published since 1996, it is written to encourage the pursuit of justice. Commentaries do not necessarily represent an official position of the Center for Public Justice but are intended to help advance discussion. Articles, with attribution, may be republished according to our publishing guidelines.”