- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 13, 2002

Ban human cloning

Italian infertility doctor Severino Antinori has declared that a woman participating in his experiments is now eight weeks pregnant with a human clone ("Fertility specialist claims baby cloned," April 8). In addition, a cult leader named Rael has told Congress that his group plans to clone a human, and leading scientists have acknowledged that the cult is positioned to achieve its goal. A team of scientists in Europe has announced its goal to clone a human by 2003.

Despite the specter of human tragedy, biotech industry lobbyists have launched a national campaign to abort an overdue Senate vote on a human cloning ban.

Human cloning enthusiasts, such as the Coalition for the Advancement of Medical Research (CAMR), frame their quest in terms of seeking healing through "somatic cell nuclear transfer" (SCNT) a cryptic term for cloning. Biotech lobbyists these days are loath to use the "C word" because it conjures up images of carbon-copy creatures and Mary Shelley's arrogant Dr. Frankenstein.

CAMR member and paralyzed actor Christopher Reeve spins the group's human cloning aims by claiming that "SCNT produces stem cells, not babies, using the patient's own DNA, not sperm." Of course, the human embryonic stem cells that CAMR seeks can only come from a living human embryo, which is simply an early stage of a baby's development. Given the prospect of human cloning, the absence of sperm does not rule out a baby.

Cloned human babies are the focus of three bills now before Congress. Two of these bills pushed by Sens. Dianne Feinstein, California Democrat; Hillary Rodham Clinton, New York Democrat; Tom Harkin, Iowa Democrat; and Arlen Specter, Pennsylvania Republican would follow CAMR's "clone and kill" scheme of creating a human being for experiments and then mandating her destruction.

The bipartisan Brownback-Landrieu bill would ban human cloning, period.

The president backs the Brownback-Landrieu bill and has outlined the stakes in clear terms: "In biomedical research, we're dealing with the very makings of life and the law must be firm and clear in restraining the reckless and protecting the voiceless."

Yet, while mad scientists and cult leaders race to clone the first human baby, the Brownback-Landrieu ban remains trapped in the dark recesses of Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle's legislative womb.

A huge majority of Americans and the president oppose human cloning. It shouldn't take a cesarean delivery to bring this overdue bill to the light of day.


JONATHAN IMBODY

Senior policy analyst

Christian Medical Association, Washington bureau

Springfield, Va.

Education is the key to fighting AIDS in Africa

There's an old saying that you can't solve a problem by throwing money at it. Commentary contributors Louis Sullivan and Nils Daulaire don't seem to realize that this is the case with the AIDS crisis in Africa ("Meeting the health crisis head-on," April 12). They espouse increasing spending for treatment in afflicted nations and for shipping drugs to them. While their compassion is certainly laudable, it causes them to overlook some important facts about the situation.

If the ignorance about AIDS in America is discouraging, then the ignorance about AIDS in Africa is truly frightening. Consider, for example, that in many places, it is widely believed that those who are infected can be cured by having sex with a virgin. And, even more tragic, it is believed that the younger the virgin is, the more effective the cure will be. As a result, young children sometimes even infants and toddlers are being infected.

Medical treatment cannot be effective under such circumstances. Rather, we must begin with education. The general population must become better informed about viral infection its causes, treatment, and prevention. Then, and only then, can treatment have any chance of success.


PARRISH S. KNIGHT

Silver Spring, Md.

District government trivializes tragic deaths

Thank you for directing Washington's attention to the D.C. government's disgraceful handling of the deaths of more than 100 individuals with mental retardation and other disabilities who were in the city's care ("Shame on the District," Editorials, April 8). The city government's callousness in threatening suits against those whose loved ones died through its neglect is unconscionable.

I agree that Deputy Corporation Counsel Arabella Teal's comments about the case trivialize the deaths of human beings and the impact of those losses on their families.

The city should accept responsibility for a badly run system and its tragic results, help the families devastated by its negligence, and dedicate itself to ensuring that no such deaths occur again.


ALAN A. REICH

President

National Organization on Disability

Washington, D.C.

It's clear why there are fewer Episcopalians in church

I noted that you published two unrelated articles in your April 12 edition dealing with the Episcopal Church. They are an ironic although unintentional, I'm sure commentary on each other.

The story "Fewer Americans in church" notes that "Episcopalians are the least likely to believe religion is relevant today." Meanwhile, the story "Bishop refuses to censor speaker" reports that the Episcopal bishop of Virginia said, "The Episcopal Church is not for those who want 'dogmatic clarity' on questions of Christian belief."

Well, now, this might explain why so few Episcopalians think it is worth getting out of bed on Sunday morning to go to services.

If one cannot get "clarity on questions of Christian belief" in church, then the church is, indeed, irrelevant.


DONALD E. DEKIEFFER

McLean, Va.

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