Vol. 9, No. 3 April 1998
that has such people in it!
"Clones are going to be fun," he added exuberantly. "I can't wait to make two or three of my own self." A quack? None other than the New York Times dubbed him "The Bad Seed." He could easily be dismissed as someone lacking the gravitas, the expertise and the funding to pose an imminent threat to society. And so this "Kevorkian of Cloning" unintentionally led some to believe that human cloning is too improbable, too far out of "mainstream science," to take seriously. The Michael Keaton film "Multiplicity" presented human cloning as more like wizardry than science—fraught with comic implications, and all pleasantly resolved in two hours with no lasting consequences.
Still, I dusted off a dog-eared copy of Brave New World to recall Aldous Huxley's dystopian vision of a world where "value-free" science reigns. Sure enough, Huxley's world is a nightmare. But surely we are far from a time where sexual relations are casual and nonprocreative, where babies are genetically manipulated for desirable traits, where terms like father, mother and family are obsolete, where the primary goals in life are to avoid suffering and unpleasantness and to remain attractive and young-looking, and where drugs are widely available to take the edge off daily tedium. ... Hmmm.
And then I read "The Man who Mistook a Woman for a Sheep" (Esquire, May 1998). Some will be put off by the pungency (not to mention profanity) of journalist Tom Junod's writing, but his horror is not out of place. The "man" in the title is a "great genius" embryologist "who fears nothing." A Danish modern now working for his wife's IVF lab in central Florida and doing research at a New Jersey hospital, Steen Willadsen may very soon clone a human— because he will be able to, and because he sees no difference between manipulating sheep embryos and human embryos.
"The miracle," in Junod's eyes, "is not what [other embryologists] can do to a human embryo. The miracle is what they won't do. ... It's what they fear doing. It's the thing that holds them back." One livestock embryologist who works with cows explains:
Human is different ... If you've ever been in an IVF lab and handled human embryos, you'd know. It's different. ... There's a presence there. ... And whatever it is, it's the most important thing that God has given us. ... I work with cows. I love these cows. I create them in a lab. I deliver them. I resuscitate them. I stay up at night with them. But I don't have that same feeling with cows that I had when I was handling human life. ... Awe. ... The feeling that we can never be more powerful than God.
But Steen Willadsen is not constrained by a similar sensibility. In large measure due to his kind of audacity, the world of cloning has made huge strides in recent decades.
Gene's nontraditional origins began when a pregnant cow was slaughtered. Her 37- or 38-day old fetus was aborted in the process and taken from abattoir to lab. Cells were taken from the fetus's genital ridge and turned into an "immortalized cell line." The nucleus from one of those cells was transferred into an egg whose own nucleus had been removed. Known as somatic cell nuclear transfer, this process "[tricks] the egg into behaving as if it had been fertilized by a sperm cell. It divides and grows and becomes an embryo." Gene was cloned from that process. Implanted in the womb of a virgin heifer, he was born in the lab in February 1997. Many other Genes have been cloned from the same immortal cell line and await birth in the wombs of other virgin heifers. In theory, that cell line can continue producing Genes forever.
The eggs that are used to make spin-off Genes also come from the slaughterhouse, from ovaries harvested right after the cow is eviscerated.
The demand for slaughterhouse ovaries, routinely collected since the mid-'80s, extends beyond livestock breeders. At the University of Wisconsin, for example, cloning pioneer Neal First engages in transgenic nuclear transfer. Immature eggs (oocytes) are removed from cows' ovaries. Their own nucleus is removed and replaced with the nuclei of ear cells from rats, sheep, pigs, and monkeys. And, mirabile dictu, the cell divides and the embryo grows and lives, until it dies or is destroyed. What's more, "sheep embryos can be matured in the reproductive tracts of rabbits and cow embryos in the reproductive tracts of sheep ... human embryos can be, and are, matured on layers of cells from cows."
The race is now on among ABS Global and other biotech companies, including Advanced Cell Technology, Inc. (ACT), to "clone transgenic cows that will produce ... an especially lucrative human protein called human serum albumin, which is used in blood transfusions" and for which there's a $1.5 billion annual worldwide market waiting. ACT has already cloned three genetically engineered cows and six more are awaiting birth.
All that may seem too prosaic for Steen Willadsen. He has been working at the cutting edge for decades. Back in the early 1980s he, and the student he later married, busied themselves creating chimeras—experimental creatures that are part one animal, part another, like sheep-goats (circa 1982) and cow-sheep and, very quietly, the first nuclear-transplant (cloned) calves, born in 1986. More recently, he has transferred human cell nuclei into cow oocytes whose nuclei were removed. He admits to qualms about implanting the resulting embryos in human wombs and allowing them to develop and be born, because the human embryo might be tainted with cow and be slightly "inhuman." But he has "nothing against human cloning—nothing," because he believes that whatever it is that makes a human an individual is not present in the embryo.
Whether it is through Willadsen, or another fearless "genius" embryologist, the day is coming soon when a cloned human will advance to the fetal stage and beyond. Dr. Bernard Nathanson recently reported to a conference on natural law that "Japanese doctors have nearly perfected an artificial placenta" and "Chinese doctors are close to finding a way to keep test tube babies alive outside the womb throughout the entire gestation period." Can eugenics be far behind, Nathanson asks? Cloning could give us the power to create a strain of drones to do menial work and to create strains of physically and behaviorally "enhanced" men and women, inching us ever closer to the Brave New World.
to Human Cloning
When Senators Kit Bond (R-MO) and Bill Frist (R-TN) tried to pass their straightforward ban in the Senate this past February, the "clone and kill" faction was ready for the challenge. Biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies aggressively lobbied in favor of the "moratorium on bringing to birth" version, arguing that a total ban would inadvertently bring to a halt promising medical research in treating diseases. They also convinced many nonprofit organizations that fund disease research to weigh in against the outright ban. Richard Doerflinger gives an example of what the biotech firms are not telling us:
Let's say you have a degenerative nerve disease and need replacement nerve tissue. In the future, scientists may be able to modify some of your body cells, take out their nuclei, and use them to create new human embryos who are your genetic twin sisters or brothers. They could grow these embryos for a week or two until their cells begin to differentiate, then cut them up to obtain stem cells that can be grown into new nerve tissue. You would receive implants using tissue grown from your dead identical twin.
Whenever I describe this 'promising' breakthrough to friends, I get reactions like 'Yuck!' I'm sure most Senators would have the same reaction—if they'd been told exactly what the biotech firms meant by 'promising medical research.'
The National Bioethics Advisory Commission has called the biotech companies' claim "far-fetched," and advised that instead of growing cloned human embryos "it would be far more desirable to explore the direct use of human cells of adult origin to produce specialized cells or tissues for transplantation to patients."
Due to widespread ignorance of the new technologies and confusion engendered by the biotech lobbyists, many Senators voted to defer action on the Bond-Frist bill so that "promising" research could continue. The truth will be known in due course, and a real ban should pass— because there is too much at stake for civilization should we fail.
Some of us will recall Hamlet's view of human nature: "What a piece of work is a man, how noble in reason, how infinite in faculties, in form and moving how express and admirable, in action how like an angel, in apprehension how like a god: the beauty of the world, the paragon of animals" (Hamlet, II, ii, 316).
We must never trade that vision for Isabella's:
But man, proud man,
Dressed in a little brief authority
Most ignorant of what he's most assured,
His glassy essence, like an angry ape,
Plays such fantastic tricks before high heaven
As makes the angels weep.
(Measure for Measure, II, ii, 117)
"Women's Resource Center" First Choice
In feeling this way, we couldn't be more wrong. According to a recent survey, not only are most Americans aware of CPCs, but a clear majority knows and approves of the work they do —even a majority of those who take a "pro-choice" position on abortion.
The survey of 630 women, conducted by the Wirthlin Group in October, 1997, found that 66 percent were aware of crisis pregnancy centers and the work they do to help women think through their options and carry their babies to term. Forty-nine percent knew of their local crisis pregnancy center. But perhaps most important, fully 87 percent of those who were aware of CPCs believe they have a positive impact on the women they serve. Even more remarkable, this positive attitude toward CPCs cuts across the ideological spectrum: 86 percent of those who take a "pro-choice" position view CPCs favorably, compared to 87 percent of those who are pro-life and 88 percent of those who take a "middle ground" position on abortion.
Even better: of those who have actually used the services of a crisis pregnancy center, 98 percent felt it had a positive effect on them—including 71 percent who felt it had a very positive effect.
This is remarkably good news, given the incessant smears by abortion advocates and the periodic, sensationalized media "exposes" of crisis pregnancy centers. Despite all their best shots, a clear majority of American women of child-bearing age, and of different races and opinions on abortion, nonetheless know about and have a positive attitude toward the work done at crisis pregnancy centers. This information should have clear, practical effects in expanding and improving the CPC ministry. As the survey notes: "The implications of this data are tremendously motivating for soliciting contributions (particularly among professional women and civic groups), for recruiting physicians to identify with centers, for encouraging physician referrals to centers, for recruiting volunteers, for building esteem within the movement and respect within the community."
This last is especially important. The CPC ministry is among the most important and most difficult within the pro-life movement. But pro-lifers do not need to make it even more difficult by getting discouraged over, or buying into, pro-abortion propaganda. That propaganda effort has clearly failed. "I found it intriguing that we as 'pro-life' people, have bought the lie of our opponent's campaign," commented one CPC provider regarding the survey. "We have subconsciously come to believe that we have reason to be ashamed, to hide from the community and to make apologies for who we are. I am excited and encouraged by the affirmation that this is not the case." Said another: "It gives me confidence to present the important work we do to the public. And, when I present our ministry to the public, I have the assurance that I represent the most popular view in America."
More than just confirming what pro-lifers instinctively knew—that the majority of American women are desperate for options other than the only one offered by abortionists—the survey provides some helpful information and insights to help CPCs become even more effective in their ministry. Perhaps the most important finding in this regard is that a "one size fits all" approach is not the most effective, given the different clientele they must serve.
A focus group was held to take a more in-depth look at much of the ground covered in the October survey. The group consisted of 19 women, black and white, mostly single, of different economic and educational levels. The results of the focus group show that women who had only a high school education and were of lower economic achievement, would turn to a crisis pregnancy center for such things as help in meeting their financial and health needs, and counseling on such things as prenatal care, career planning and parenting techniques. On the whole, these women were not "knee-jerk" adverse to a CPC's religious affiliation—many were themselves religious and often took a pro-life view. In fact, they are usually looking for a caring and loving environment at the center.
On the other hand, women who had attended college and were more advanced economically, held almost opposite views of their needs. They believed themselves fairly well-informed and able to find the financial resources to care for a child. Therefore, rather than counseling, these women wanted the center to be more of a health resource. Taking a strong pride in their independence, these women were not necessarily looking for a caring and loving environment; more important for them was that the center maintain a more "objective," clinical and professional approach in services offered. For this reason, these women, in marked contrast to the first group, tended to be turned off by a center having an explicit religious affiliation, believing that this made any information offered "biased." These findings confirm the experience of First Resort, Inc. in San Francisco, which works primarily with those of a more advanced socioeconomic background and which was featured in December's Life Insight.
The contrast between the two groups was nicely highlighted when each was asked to choose, out of four options, an ideal name for a crisis pregnancy center. While both groups picked "Women's Resource Center" as their first choice, they split dramatically in their second choice. The first group of women overwhelming preferred "Loving Care Pregnancy Center," while the second group put this one at the bottom of their list.
In sum, socioeconomic factors can help determine a woman's assessment of what her needs will be in confronting an unplanned pregnancy, and crisis pregnancy centers are most effective when they tailor their services and approach to the group of women they primarily will be serving.
Other helpful information to be found in the survey: Names involving "crisis pregnancy" had the lowest appeal among women. Women do not necessarily view themselves as being in a crisis upon finding out they are pregnant, and they resist any implication that they need to be pitied or patronized. Instead, women want to be empowered to carry their children to term, and clinics that reflect this understanding in their names, services and approach to women will be the most appealing to them.
Seventy-four percent of women said they would turn to a family member first if they were facing an unexpected child, primarily to their mothers. Thus, CPCs would increase their impact by promoting their efforts not just to women already pregnant, but to their parents as well.
In all, this Benchmark Survey of Crisis Pregnancy Centers is a shot-in-the-arm for those involved in this vital pro-life ministry, reaffirming the good work being done and pointing the way to new approaches to make the ministry even more effective. As one CPC provider commented: "I believe this research ... will be like a refreshing drink of water to the entire pro-life community. People have been working for years without knowing how effective they have been. Now we know for all those who have worked tirelessly over the years, the research and information will say, 'Well done thou good and faithful servant.'"
Well done indeed.
is a publication of the NCCB Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities
3211 Fourth Street, N.E.Washington, DC 20017-1194
Phone (202) 541-3070; Facsimile (202) 541-3054
Made possible through the generosity of
the Knights of Columbus
*The materials contained within are intended for use by the Catholic dioceses and organizations, and permission is not required for reproduction or use by them. All other uses must be authorized. For reprints, questions, or comments contact Susan E. Wills, at the above address.