‘An Obvious Moral Absurdity’

This week, Congress is scheduled to vote on the Human Cloning Prohibition Act (H.R. 534), that will ban all human cloning. The bill's opponents support an alternative bill that bans what they call "reproductive cloning" while permitting so-called "therapeutic cloning." A symbol and advocate for this bill is actor Christopher Reeve, who was paralyzed when thrown from his horse in 1995. Given Reeve's personal history, it seems almost callous to argue against his position. Fortunately, there is someone whose own story is a mirror image of Reeve's, respected columnist Charles Krauthammer. And he says that Reeve is dead wrong. In the New Republic, Krauthammer, who was paralyzed in a diving accident, makes what he calls a "secular argument" against all human cloning. He reminds readers that all cloning involves the same technology: The genetic material is removed from a human egg and is replaced by the genetic material from another person. The difference lies in what happens afterward. In "reproductive cloning," which both bills would ban, the egg is implanted in a uterus. In what Reeve and company call "therapeutic cloning," "the main objective . . . [is] to disassemble [the four- to seven-day-old divided cell, called a 'blastocyst'] . . . [and] pull the stem cells out." Words like 'disassemble' and 'pull' remind us of a fact that cloning proponents would like us to forget: The clone is invariably killed. There is nothing "therapeutic" about it, certainly not for the dead clone. For Christians, the clone's inevitable destruction renders cloning beyond the pale. But Krauthammer insists that you don't have to believe that "personhood begins at conception" or that "the embryo is entitled to inviolability" to be opposed to all human cloning. For starters, permitting the cloning of embryos for research makes it inevitable "that someone will implant one in a woman and produce a human clone." What do we do then? The bill supported by Reeve would "make it a crime not to destroy that fetus." Krauthammer, who is pro-choice, calls this "an obvious moral absurdity." But even if this were not the case, what is being done to the cloned embryo should give us pause. Even if you deny that the seven-day-old human embryo is a full member of the human family, there is still something human there. As Krauthammer puts it, "It is not nothing." And if it is not a person, is it like what we once believed was property -- that is, slaves? You can't say that. Proceeding with cloning, Krauthammer writes, will mean crossing a "moral frontier." Allowing the creation of human embryos in order to use them and then destroy them will "enable further assaults on human dignity," Krauthammer explains. And he warns: "Violate the blastocyst today, . . . and the practice will inure you to violating the fetus or even the infant tomorrow." Christians need to learn how to make this kind of logical "secular argument." Contact us at BreakPoint (1-800-995-8777), and we'll send you a resource kit about cloning, including Krauthammer's superb column. Ultimately, the cloning debate isn't about callousness versus compassion. It's about whether there are any limits in our pursuit of what people call "compassionate" -- a pursuit that threatens, not just cloned embryos now, but in time, the weak and disabled and then all of us. Take action: Urge your congressman to support H.R. 534, The Human Cloning Prohibition Act of 2003. And urge your two senators to support the Brownback human cloning ban. The Capitol switchboard is 202-224-3121. Or for mailing and e-mail addresses, visit For further reading and information: Read the text of H.R. 534, The Human Cloning Prohibition Act of 2003. Charles Krauthammer, "Crossing Lines: The Secular Case against Research Cloning," The New Republic, 29 April 2002. Nigel M. de S. Cameron, "A Comprehensive Ban on Human Cloning: Support H.R. 534," an open letter to U.S. congressmen, 13 February 2003. "Charles W. Colson Endorses Brownback-Landrieu Bill to Place a Comprehensive Ban on Human Cloning," Wilberforce Forum press release, 29 January 2003. Wesley J. Smith, "The False Promise of 'Therapeutic Cloning,'Weekly Standard, 11 March 2002. BreakPoint Commentary No. 030225, "Cloning Superman: Are We Sweeping Away Human Dignity?" The "BreakPoint Christian Response to Cloning Kit" includes useful resources for Christians (laity and church leaders): to understand why they should stand up for human dignity and the sanctity of human life; to speak to their fellow believers about the issue; to speak to unbelievers about the dangers of human cloning; and to take the first step toward opposing all human cloning.


Chuck Colson


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