- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 12, 2002

Misinformation obscures the most fundamental issue at stake in the debate about banning research cloning. It is not about a woman's right to choose. It is not about whether the subject is living, a member of the human species or a clone. Empirically, it is all of these. The real question is what respect we owe a living human being at the earliest stage of development. Proponents of research cloning would treat the living human being no differently than a mass-produced commodity created to be cannibalized, patented, priced, packaged and purchased.

They are masters of propaganda, diverting attention from this agenda. In place of phrases like "human clone" not polling well, they substitute "somatic nuclear transfer." Rather than confront a clone's humanity, they raise irrelevant reproductive rights to justify research cloning. Yet, in a queer turn of events, it is not pro-life Sen. Sam Brownback's ban that offends reproductive liberty, but pro-choice Sen. Arlen Specter's bill promoting research cloning. Mr. Specter would prohibit solely implanting clones and impose criminal penalties upon primarily women. He would forfeit to the state the clone that the woman intends to implant or actually implants. In other words, he would mandate forcible abortion, an obvious violation of reproductive liberty and a form of political persecution under immigration law to boot.

Preventing the creation of clones a la Mr. Brownback is far less invasive of privacy than prohibiting their implantation a la Mr. Specter. To enforce Mr. Specter's bill, the Department of Justice has testified that it would have to begin scrutinizing in vitro fertilization clinics, laboratories and, it should be added, uteruses to attempt to distinguish cloned human embryos that are or may be implanted from identical non-cloned embryos. The Department of Justice insists that even an officer standing next to a researcher violating Mr. Specter's bill might not detect it. Therefore, Mr. Specter's bill is unenforceable, unconstitutional, and, consequently, will undoubtedly lead to the birth of human clones.

Mr. Specter's bill also does not in reality offer any meaningful regulation of research cloning. To the contrary, his bill is a radical departure from America's liberal democratic compromise governing human subject research. The latter prevents scientists from exposing human subjects to more than minimal risk, insists upon at least the consent of a subject's parent or guardian, and criminalizes the sale of human organs. In stark contrast, the purpose of research cloning is to kill a human subject for the purpose of marketing its parts without the consent of any person with whom the cloned embryo has a guardian-like relationship.

Proponents of cloning defend it by saying that the stated goal of scientists is to advance medicine. The road to Tuskegee was paved with similar aspirations. Over the last 50 years, America's finest medical institutions have occasionally subjected incompetent human subjects, including terminally ill patients and children, to harmful experiments for the benefit of third parties. Every time, courts have penalized them severely. Nevertheless, proponents of research cloning would legalize and eventually subsidize lethal experimentation on incompetent living human beings. This would be nothing short of an unprecedented devolution in medical ethics and law.

Research cloning will further lead to exploitation of women for their eggs. By one estimate, it will take 800 million eggs to experimentally treat 16 million diabetics in the United States, never mind the multitude of other diseases advocates of cloning hope to cure. The only potential alternative is to implant human DNA in cow or pig eggs and, therefore, create human-animal chimera. For these and other reasons, the Brownback bill attracts both pro-choice and pro-life support from an unusual coalition that agrees primarily that eugenics is immoral, all persons are created equal, human dignity precludes replicating life to destroy it, and the human embryo deserves more respect than mere property.

All courts reviewing the question whether frozen human embryos are legal "persons" or property have stated they are neither, but deserve some interim level of protection. Mr. Brownback's bill is consistent with this; Mr. Specter's is not. A heavy burden of persuasion falls upon those who would transform the existing liberal democratic paradigm by offering less protection for human dignity. America has historically fought this agenda more commonly pursued by humanity's foes. Not to do so now, when research cloning is unproven and unnecessary in light of more promising adult stem cell research, sets the stage for a less humane, less private brave new world.

Nathan A. Adams is chief litigation counsel of the Christian Legal Society.

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