December 14, 2001
On November 25, the news that a firm called Advanced Cell Technology had created human embryos by cloning added new urgency to Congress's deliberations on this issue.
This past summer, by a 265-to-162 margin, the House of Representatives passed a carefully worded ban on human cloning (H.R. 2505) which President Bush has said he will sign into law. The leadership of the Senate nonetheless has refused to take action on this measure, or even to consider a temporary moratorium on human cloning research. Further delay will only encourage some researchers to take further irresponsible steps toward the laboratory manufacture and destruction of human life. Such inaction is morally irresponsible and could result in irreversible harm to our society.
Creating human life in the laboratory by cloning should be condemned because it reduces human beings to mere products of a manufacturing technique. When cloning is done to attempt a live birth, the child is produced and wanted not for his or her own sake, but because he or she will carry traits that someone else values and wants to replicate. When cloning is done to pursue medical research, the reduction of human life to a mere instrument is even more complete, for a new human being is created solely to be destroyed for his or her cells and tissues. Even if medical benefits could be derived from such destruction, it is never morally permissible to achieve good ends through evil actions.
Neither practice should be allowed in a society that claims to respect inherent human dignity. As a representative of the Holy See recently stated to a committee of the United Nations General Assembly: "The act of cloning... is actually a form of imposing dominion over another human being which denies the human dignity of the child and makes him or her a slave to the will of others" (31 Origins, December 6, 2001, p. 439).
Evasions and misstatements have entered the public debate to obscure this moral issue. At a recent Senate hearing, even the scientists who published articles about their success in "cloning human embryos" tried to avoid the word "embryo" and even the word "cloning" to hide the reality of what they are doing. The fact remains that when somatic cell nuclear transfer is used to initiate embryonic development, a new human embryo is created with the same genetic constitution as another human being. While some may wish to debate the moral status of this new human organism, no one can question his or her membership in the human species, or deny that cloning (the production of a genetically identical organism) has taken place.
Some have offered alternative legislation (S. 1758) which they say will ban "reproductive cloning" while allowing important medical research to continue. This, too, is an evasion. Such legislation does not ban cloning, but rather prevents the further development of the cloned human being by requiring its destruction before implantation in a woman's womb. It would allow unlimited use of cloning to produce thousands or even millions of human embryos in the laboratory – while creating a new government mandate that none of these embryos be allowed to survive. By passing such misguided and ineffective legislation, Congress for the first time would not only allow the destruction of an entire class of human beings but require such destruction.
Progress in stem cell research and other medical advances does not depend on the pursuit of human cloning. Rather, a regression in society's respect for human life and human dignity will occur unless human cloning is prohibited by law. I hope you will consider these reflections and the enclosed information, and support the enactment of H.R. 2505 to ban human cloning in the United States.
With every best wish, I remain
Anthony Cardinal Bevilacqua
Chairman, Committee for Pro-Life Activities
U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops
USCCB President's Statement on Cloning, November 27
Fact Sheet, "Human Cloning Prohibition Act of 2001"
Fact Sheet, The myth of "therapeutic" cloning
Fact Sheet, Does Human Cloning Produce An Embryo?
Fact Sheet, Current State Laws on Human Cloning
Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
3211 4th Street, N.E., Washington, DC 20017-1194 (202) 541-3070