March 1, 2002
Because the U.S. Senate may soon consider legislation on human cloning, I am enclosing materials to help clarify the decision Congress faces on this important issue.
The real nature of this decision is in danger of being obscured by the use of euphemisms and misleading terms – including efforts to redefine the term "cloning" for political purposes.
Scientifically, it is very clear what cloning is. It is the creation of a new organism that is genetically identical to a previously existing organism. In human cloning, a technique known as somatic cell nuclear transfer is used to create a human embryo, a new living organism of the human species. To recognize this is not to make a moral claim about the rights or status of the embryo – it is to state an obvious biological fact. As the enclosed materials demonstrate, the essentials of this definition are agreed upon by the National Academy of Sciences, the National Institutes of Health, longstanding federal law, and the National Bioethics Advisory Commission.
By this agreed-upon definition, the Brownback/Landrieu Human Cloning Prohibition Act (S. 1899) is the only pending bill that bans human cloning. It is also the only bill found acceptable by the House, and the only one President Bush has said he is willing to sign into law.
Bills introduced by Senator Feinstein (S. 1758) and Senator Harkin (S. 1893) do not ban use of the cloning procedure in humans at all, for any purpose. Instead they ban a distinct procedure known as embryo transfer, if the embryo was created by cloning. In short, they allow cloning without meaningful limit, but impose heavy fines and a 10-year prison sentence on anyone who places a cloned embryo in a womb (including the woman herself). These bills raise serious issues of morality as well as enforceability; most basically, however, they simply do not ban human cloning. Rather, they facilitate such cloning for purposes of research – research that does not have, and may never have, any possible clinical use. This approach is strongly opposed by the President, and was rejected by the House by a 71-vote margin.
The effort to ensure that human clones will be mass-produced in our nation, but only in order to be killed for speculative benefit to others, is as ineffectual in preventing human cloning as it is irresponsible in its attitude toward developing human life. I urge you to reject such proposals, and support the real human cloning ban offered by Senators Brownback and Landrieu.
Fact sheet, What is Human Cloning?
Fact sheet, Does Human Cloning Produce an Embryo?
Life Issues Forum column, How Not to Ban Human Cloning