- The Washington Times - Friday, July 6, 2001

The Bush administration's recent stand against all human cloning even that of human embryos for research purposes was a progressive move after eight years of the Clinton administration, which failed to adopt life-affirming policies.

In fact, the president's stand on cloning embraces the most life-affirming position of all one that defends all life, even those embryos that would be created solely for research purposes. In the face of fierce opposition from patients' rights groups that say research on cloned embryos is necessary to save lives, the Bush administration has, up to this point, remained strong.

There are two competing proposals on human cloning presently before Congress. One, sponsored by Rep. James Greenwood, would ban the creation of human embryos only if scientists intended to develop them into babies. Thus, scientists would still be free to clone human embryos for research purposes.

The second proposal, sponsored by Reps. David Joseph Weldon and Bart Stupak, would outlaw the creation of a human embryo for any purpose. In other words, scientists would not be permitted to clone human embryos, even if research was their only goal. The Bush administration supports this proposal because of its absolute ban on cloning.

But those who favor using cloned embryos for medical research are fighting the Bush administration and on more than just practical scientific grounds. They're claiming that researching cloned embryos embraces higher moral values than banning their creation.

Louis Guenin, a medical ethicist at Harvard, told Congress that research on cloned embryos for the purpose of creating cures would be "virtuous." Others, noted The Washington Post, were appalled that some people "would rather protect a 5-day-old ball of cells than an ailing child or adult."

As the two competing bills and visions of pro-life policy work their way through Congress, critics of President Bush's absolute opposition to cloning will turn up the pressure. Both scientists and ethicists will be called upon to decry his life-affirming stance. And when the heat on his policy reaches a boiling point, we'll find out just how dedicated this new president is to such pro-life policies.

It is hoped that Mr. Bush will hold fast to his position. Whether cloned or not, a human embryo is a life. And we should not be drawing lines between human beings that are available for medical research and those that are not.

There's also a real practical concern at stake in the cloning debate. If cloned humans ever enter our society, as many experts believe they will, they should not first make an appearance as purely research units that is, experiments in human flesh.

Such a stigma would be incredibly difficult to shake and could inevitably lead to future discrimination. One simply need look to the experience of blacks in this country: their early nightmare as slaves has led to their decades-long and as yet unfulfilled struggle for equal rights.

Several decades ago, various private interest groups began proclaiming that unborn children are merely "gobbets of meat protruding from human wombs." At that point in time with a little foresight we should have seen what was coming next. Almost immediately, the debate heated up over euthanasia and so-called "mercy killings." As such, with the rise of scientific determinism over the past half-century (as aided by technology), we have witnessed the gradual move toward a more dehumanized view of people. And now with genetic tinkering and the real possibility of the cloning of human beings, the threat is to the very essence of what makes us human. Indeed, the greatest struggle facing us as we move into the Third Millennium is keeping at least a modicum of humanness in the human race.

John W. Whitehead is founder and president of The Rutherford Institute.

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