The Cloning Agenda

The debate in the Senate over human cloning, an issue stalled by the senate leadership, is all about obtaining embryonic stem cells for research that will generate the next round of miracle cures. But embryonic stem-cell research is not new. Scientists have combined egg and sperm of experimental animals to create embryos and have performed thousands of experiments in an attempt to coax some useful medical advancement out of the resulting stem cells. Yet there is no credible evidence that embryonic stem cells will ever cure anything. The cures are coming from research using adult stem cells. So why all this fuss about human cloning to obtain the same embryonic stem cells that show so little promise? What do the pro-cloning people really want to do? At a senate briefing put on by the Wilberforce Forum, Richard Doerflinger of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops offered these answers. First, all rhetoric to the contrary, those who want a ban only on "reproductive" cloning (allowing cloned babies to be born alive) aren't serious about that goal. In fact, their insistence that they must be allowed to use cloning to make embryos for research will actually ensure that cloning for live birth will happen. Given the state of our current technology, trying to have a baby by cloning would be a nightmare of congenital problems and deformities. Banning "reproductive" cloning while allowing "therapeutic" cloning would allow scientists to perfect their technique so that, one day, children could be produced. Second, said Doerflinger, the cloning advocates want to create genetically identical embryos so that they can use them in biomedical research. The best way to conduct medical research is using identical organisms, hence, the ubiquitous white rat. Cloned -- and patented -- human embryos -- and fetuses -- are potentially the next generation of white rats for medical experimentation. Third, Doerflinger believes that it's likely that cloned humans would be grown to the fetal stage so that their organs could be harvested for transplantation or therapies. Artificial wombs are on the horizon, and the thought of organ farms of cloned fetuses is not just science-fiction fantasy. Finally, and most frightening, according to Doerflinger, the biotech industry foresees enormous profit to be made by creating designer babies. Cloning is a gateway technology to what is called "germline intervention" -- that is, actually changing a person's DNA. After all, the purpose of cloning livestock like Dolly the sheep is to create the animal you want through genetic alterations and reproduce it by cloning. You make and clone the winners. There's a huge profit to be made doing the same thing with humans. Doerflinger went on to say that the agenda is the one that the Human Embryo Research Panel of the National Institutes of Health laid out in 1994. Rather than publishing the whole agenda and having to deal with the "yuck" factor, as it called it, it urged that changes be introduced incrementally so that people get used to small horrors one at a time. Before long, the unthinkable becomes commonplace. As this year's cloning debate indicates, that strategy is working. But now is the time to see beyond this incrementalism, expose the whole agenda, and put a stop to it. For further information: "Human cloned pregnancies 'in progress,'" Sydney Morning Herald (Australia), 4 October 2002. David Stevens, M.D., "Stem Cells -- Potential and Problems," Council for Biotechnology Policy, 27 September 2002. BreakPoint commentary no. 020426, "Linguistic Cloaking Devices: The Cloning Battle for Words." The "Bioethics in the New Century Resource Kit" contains books, papers, and other materials to help you grasp the arguments and facts involved in biotechnology and bioethics, including: The New Medicine: Life and Death after Hippocrates by Nigel M. de S. Cameron, Bioethics: A Primer for Christians by Gilbert Meilaender, "Can We Prevent the Abolition of Man?" by Charles Colson, and more. Nigel M. de S. Cameron, Bioengagement: Making a Christian Difference through Bioethics Today (Eerdmans, 2000). Visit the Council for Biotechnology Policy Website for more information on cloning, stem-cell research, etc. You can receive the FREE monthly "Biotech Policy Update" e-newsletter by sending an e-mail to with "subscribe" in the subject line. Also visit the Americans to Ban Cloning Website articles, papers, and other resources on bioethics


Chuck Colson


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