by Cardinal Bernard Law,
Chairman of the NCCB Committee
for Pro-life Activities
April 24, 1998
Dear Member of Congress:
While both chambers have held hearings on human cloning, Congress has still taken no action to enact a federal ban on this misuse of technology on human beings.
Past congressional efforts to address this issue have been stymied by three objections: first, that a genuine ban on use of cloning to produce human embryos would block essential medical research; second, that no one knows what a "human embryo" is; third, that in any case we do not know whether the use of cloning in humans would produce an "embryo." Each of these objections is decisively addressed in the enclosed materials.
The NIH Human Embryo Research Panel, the National Bioethics Advisory Commission, and the relevant scientific literature agree that from the one-celled stage onwards, the being produced by human fertilization -- or by human cloning using the technique that produced "Dolly" the sheep -- is a developing human embryo. Moreover, the argument that cloning must be used to produce human embryos for destructive experiments if medical research is to advance lacks a basis in fact. That argument has been called "far-fetched" and "conjectural" even by experts who share the biotechnology lobby's dismissive view of unborn human life.
One proposition receiving almost universal support in years of public policy debate is this: human embryos must never be created solely as research material, to be experimented on and destroyed. This kind of cavalier disregard for life has been condemned as "unconscionable" by the Washington Post (Editorial, 10/2/94), rejected in federal programs by President Clinton and Congress, and made illegal in ten states. Even when Cong. Nita Lowey and others fought unsuccessfully to weaken existing law against funding of harmful embryo research in the last Congress, they voiced agreement with the part of the law banning the creation of "research embryos" (Cong. Record, 7/11/96, pp. H7339 ff.). Therefore it is cause for amazement that Congress is hesitating to enact a genuine ban on human cloning on the grounds that some biotechnology companies say the law must protect the use of cloning to produce and then discard "research embryos."
Congress should not be swayed by misleading arguments, but should enact a meaningful ban on human cloning without further delay. We hope the enclosed materials will help explain our view of this issue. Our staff at the NCCB Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities is most willing to meet with members of Congress to discuss this further.