Vol. 14, No. 1 January-February 2003
Inside this issue...
- Cloning Policy at Critical Juncture
- New Doctrinal Note Speaks to Catholics' Role in Political Life
- Very Bad News for the UN Population Fund
As Life Insight was going to press, the House Judiciary Committee voted 19-12 to pass the "Human Cloning Prohibition Act" (H.R. 534). Chief sponsors, Representatives Dave Weldon (R-FL) and Bart Stupak (D-MI), are joined by a group of over 100 co-sponsors in seeking a real, total ban on cloning human beings.
The full House is expected to approve the measure swiftly, by an overwhelming margin.
Opponents of the measure offered various amendments in Committee which would have prohibited essentially only the live birth of cloned humans while permitting – in fact, protecting—human cloning for research purposes. Granted, trying to obtain ready-to-order live babies from cloning is immoral and repugnant. But so also is mass-producing living human embryos for research, and allowing – nay, mandating – that they be killed in the process of harvesting the desired body parts (that is, stem cells). While this nightmarish scenario seems the stuff of science fiction, it is not only legal in the United States, but is the ongoing goal of companies like Advanced Cell Technology of Worcester, Massachusetts and others.
The real battleground awaits in the Senate where two bills will compete. Senators Sam Brownback (R-KS) and Mary Landrieu (D-LA) have introduced the "Human Cloning Prohibition Act of 2003" (S. 245), a counterpart of the House bill's real ban on human cloning. Senators Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) have introduced a deceptively titled bill – the "Human Cloning Ban and Stem Cell Research Protection Act of 2003" (S.303) which will not ban cloning at all.
The Hatch/Feinstein bill would not allow a cloned human to be born, but would allow cloning for research provided cloned embryos are killed. Let's look at claims being made in favor of the Hatch-Feinstein bill and then look at the facts.
CLAIM: "What we'd allow is not human embryo cloning. It's really somatic cell nuclear transfer (or "SCNT") or "nuclear transplantation."
FACT: These terms are just scientific terms for the very process the Raelians claim to have used to create cloned baby "Eve" (if any such clone does exist). The same process was used to create "Dolly," the first successfully cloned sheep. "SCNT" is cloning.
CLAIM: "We won't allow experimentation on cloned human embryos. The Hatch bill allows only the research use of 'unfertilized blastocysts' up to 14 days' of age (not counting time housed in temperatures below zero degrees Centigrade)."
FACT: Human embryo is the scientifically accurate term for a human during the developmental continuum beginning with the one-celled zygote (Day 1), through initial cell division into blastomeres, then morula, blastocyst (Day 4-11), gastrula, neurula, etc., and ending as a "fetus" at approximately Day 56, when all essential internal and external structures are present. But there's an even bigger ruse afoot here:
CLAIM: "The blastocyst is unfertilized, so it's not really a human we're dealing with."
FACT: Not human? Recall the many photos of Dolly over the years with her bulging belly, wooly coat and endearingly docile facial expression? Did anyone seriously suggest that Dolly is something other than a sheep, because she came into being by a process other than fertilization? The proposition that a cloned human embryo with human DNA, alive and developing, is something other than human due to her location in a lab dish or the circumstances of her creation is frightening to contemplate. As technology develops to create artificial wombs or gestate cloned children in surrogates, classifying them as somehow "subhuman" would spell disaster for humanity. Would any abuse of human clones be thought unacceptable?
The Hatch/Feinstein bill purports to cut off experimentation on human clones (sorry, "unfertilized blastocysts") after 14 days of embryonic development. This arbitrary limit is certain to fall. Researchers working with embryonic stem cells admit the difficulty of controlling stem cells derived from blastocysts, both in vitro and after injection into animal subjects. Israeli researchers, extracting stem cells from pigs to develop functioning kidneys, found the optimal time to harvest stem cells is Week Four in pigs (or Weeks 7-8 in humans). At earlier stages stem cells tend to differentiate into "non-kidney structures such as bone, cartilage and muscle," while at later stages "the risk of rejection increases" (AAP, "Kidneys may be made from stem cells," Dec. 26, 2002 at http://news.ninemsn .com.au/Health/story_44234.asp ).
Once we label cloned human beings as subhuman, the only things holding us back from killing them for their stem cells at the optimal time of 7-8 weeks' gestation are moral queasiness and the technical problem of keeping embryos alive that long in human, animal or artificial wombs. Plenty of doctors in the U.S. have already learned to overcome any queasiness over destroying embryos at that age and beyond. And artificial wombs are already quite advanced in nurturing some mammals (such as goats) well into gestation.
Far-Fetched? No. The future if we don't act now!
Despite the dangers of failing to enact a total ban on human cloning, defeat of the Hatch/ Feinstein bill and passage of the Brownback/ Landrieu human cloning ban are by no means assured. Far too many in the public and in the U.S. Senate have been deceived by some scientists and lobby groups into thinking that medical breakthroughs are only possible, or at least will occur much sooner, if scientists can create and kill human embryos to conduct embryonic stem cell (ESC) research. As readers of Life Insight know, ESC research has never been used in humans because of the consensus that risks are far too high – including risks of tumor formation and uncontrollable differentiation into unwanted tissue types. What's more, even if ESCs were developed to the point where they could be used to cure disease, an estimated one billion human eggs would be needed to create cloned embryos for the 22 million Americans suffering from ALS, Parkinson's, Alzheimer's and diabetes alone.
But ESC is not even necessary to find cures for these conditions and others. Adult stem cells, including stem cells from umbilical cord blood, and other recently-developed therapies are already achieving astonishing successes in trials to cure diabetes, Parkinson's, MS, heart disease, "Bubble-boy" syndrome, Crohn's disease, leukemia and other forms of cancer, and scores of other conditions that were thought incurable only a decade ago. (See R. Doerflinger, "Good Morality is Good Medicine," NRL News, Dec. 2002, at 7.)
So crucial is the outcome of this legislative battle that the National Committee for a Human Life Amendment (NCHLA) and the Pro-Life Secretariat are asking all Catholics to urge their Senators to support the real ban on cloning, the Brownback/ Landrieu bill (S. 245), and reject the false "ban" sponsored by Senator Hatch and others.
NCHLA is distributing pre-printed postcards for parish use in fifteen states where one or both Senators are undecided on S. 245. But Catholics in all states are invited to read and distribute the campaign's new educational flier on the issue and to call, write or e-mail their Senators. The educational flier, order forms for the flier and postcards, and a parish instruction manual can be found at www.nchla.org /campaign.htm. Mailing and e-mail addresses, phone numbers, etc. for your Senators can be found at www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm. The Capitol switchboard is 202/ 224-3121.
Additional information on cloning and stem cell research is available at www.usccb.org/prolife/issues/bioethic, www.stemcellresearch.org and www.cloning information.org.
Please act today to ensure that these morally unacceptable practices go no further.
"Human cloning – for any purpose – is an enormously troubling development in biotechnology. It is unethical in itself and dangerous as a precedent. ... It is also a giant step toward a society in which life is created for convenience, human beings are grown for spare body parts, and children are engineered to fit eugenic specification. We cannot allow human life to be devalued this way" (U.S. Statement on Cloning to the United Nations, Feb. 2002).
New Doctrinal Note Speaks to Catholics' Role in Political Life
A Catholic member of Congress is asked to vote on two bills. The first, designed to elicit vital intelligence concerning future terrorist attacks, permits the torture of suspected terrorists. The second aims to speed up the pace of medical research by funding broad-scale experimentation on human embryos, created specifically for research and destroyed after use.
Homeland defense and curing disease are legitimate government goals. Yet we instinctively recoil from torturing humans, and from creating and destroying innocent human lives. We know such acts are wrong, irrespective of religious teaching, current law or public opinion. They are wrong because torture and taking innocent life are opposed to the "moral law rooted in the nature of the human person," to use the words of the Doctrinal Note on some questions regarding the participation of Catholics in political life, issued by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on November 24, 2002.
Today, many deny the existence of the objective moral truth of natural law. Moral relativists believe all individuals' personal views of right and wrong have equal validity. Yet some views are more "equal" than others. As to public policy, they reject moral views informed by religious faith, and then justify this by distorting the meaning of "separation of Church and state."
Should Catholic politicians jettison their religious beliefs which conflict with the prevailing mentality — a mentality that is individualistic, disdainful of religion and often fixated on materialism? Is returning to private life their only other choice?
The Doctrinal Note reminds Catholic politicians, bishops and lay faithful of our "right and duty to recall society to a deeper understanding of human life." It's not a question of imposing one's religion on others. For democracy to succeed, it must be based on a correct understanding of the human person. Lacking this, the majority can oppress the minority, the strong exploit the weak. Fundamental rights of life, liberty, conscience and equality under the law would be lost.
The truth about the nature of God and man is the foundation for justice and peace on earth, and for hope in eternal life. God, who is Love, wills our happiness. Because he has loved, forgiven and redeemed us, we are called to love God and to love like God, defending the lives and dignity of all who bear God's image, from the moment of their conception to the moment of their natural death.
No individual or government can validly deprive human beings of the God-given rights which they possess as images and heirs of God. And because these truths flow from the nature of God and man, they form a consistent, unified whole. One cannot accept some aspects of the truth and reject others, as if they were simply planks in a political party's platform. It is morally incoherent to say you respect all God's children and advocate bombing civilians in war or torturing those suspected of crime. It is incoherent to seek better healthcare for the poor and advocate the destruction of their children by abortion.
Choosing among political parties, policies and programs that are consonant with moral truths and Church teaching is something we all must do. But we may not ignore or reject moral truths because they are unpopular or ask too much of us. So what's a Catholic to do? Whether politician or not, the answer's the same: Live a Catholic life fully and without apology.
Very Bad News for the U.N. Population Fund
Since its founding in 1969, the United Nations Population Fund (also known as UNFPA, the acronym of its earlier name) has expended almost $5 billion on population control programs worldwide. In the early days, population control was seen by many as an appropriate response to fears of a population explosion that could doom billions of humans to starvation. Today, with fertility rates in steady decline, UNFPA usually justifies its actions under another dubious and discredited notion — that curbing population growth is essential to achieving "sustainable development" in countries of the developing world. UNFPA executive director Thoraya Obaid, for example, recently stated: "We cannot confront the massive challenges of poverty, hunger, disease and environmental destruction unless we address issues of population and reproductive health" (Feb. 5, 2003 press release).
The old – and real – agenda remains unchanged: to liberate women from the shackles of children, husbands and their own biology by legalizing abortion worldwide. Even coerced sterilization and abortion for women who desire more than one or two children are accepted or tolerated as "necessary" to achieve population reduction targets and workforce equality.
The pro-life and human rights communities have a tough time convincing Congress and the public about the true aims of international family planning practices. UNFPA directors and their partners in international family planning consistently speak about reproductive "choice" and deny any element of coercion. UNFPA officials have responded to past charges of coercion with intentionally ambiguous statements, institutional denials and orchestrated media campaigns.
But the status quo is about to change. One of the most important must-read nonfiction books that will never appear on the New York Times' list of best sellers is The United Nations Population Fund: Assault on the World's Peoples. The slim, copiously footnoted volume is the work of Douglas A. Sylva, Ph.D. who heads the International Organizations Research Group. It is the second in a series of White Papers published by the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute (C-Fam).
Dr. Sylva and C-Fam have produced a work that is likely to forever change the annual debate on U.S. funding of UNFPA and other population control organizations. Dr. Sylva has combed official records of the U.S. Department of State, UNFPA, other U.N. sources and numerous other primary sources to expose UNFPA's record of complicity in human rights violations in China, Vietnam and elsewhere — coupled with gross mismanagement of funds and complete lack of candor regarding its involvement in programs of coercive abortion and sterilization. Some of his findings are as follows:
- UNFPA helped lay the foundations for China's "one child per family" policy, first adopted in 1979. UNFPA provided China with $50 million in seed money and expertise in demographics and data processing that were probably indispensable. Briefly, China's policy constitutionally requires all married couples to practice "family planning." Menstrual cycles are charted by the State Family Planning Commission (SFPC) to monitor compliance. Birth permits are issued for the first child only, except in some rural areas where officials have been lax or open to bribery and two children have been allowed under some circumstances. Subsequent pregnancies are forcibly aborted, even during full-term delivery. Infanticide has been documented. After the first birth, IUD use is mandatory. A second birth triggers mandatory sterilization of one parent. Additional penalties for "out-of-plan births" can include "social compensation fees," i.e. fines of three times the parents' annual salary, imprisonment of the couple and their family members, and destruction of homes and property. Wide-scale abortion and sterilization are also carried out for eugenic reasons.
As the brutality and staggering sweep of China's family planning program became known in the mid-1980s (i.e., 53 million forced abortions between 1979 and 1984), UNFPA vigorously denied the program's coercive nature while also praising its effectiveness. Between 1994 and 1998, under pressure from U.S. human rights advocates, UNFPA stopped funding China's program. But their collaboration officially resumed in 1998 in 32 counties of China where, UNFPA insisted, no quotas, permits or coercion were taking place (unlike the rest of the country). Since then, UNFPA has steadfastly maintained the voluntary nature of family planning in those 32 counties and its complete innocence or ignorance of any quotas or coercion. Today, UNFPA continues to pour millions of dollars into these 32 counties of China for computers, data processing equipment, surgical and medical equipment and project vehicles, all of which are instrumental in enforcing China's coercive policy.
- Vietnam: In 1991, UNFPA's then executive director Nafis Sadik announced that UNFPA, with the assistance of Chinese demographers, was ready to export China's "successful" program to Vietnam. Social compensation fees, confiscation of land, forced use of IUDs and forced abortions have all become features of Vietnam's "two child per family" policy. Dr. Sylva states that "UNFPA operates at least seven programs in Vietnam, and has spent tens of millions of dollars to support" its highly successful, coercive population reduction program.
- Peru: UNFPA contributed over $10 million to a massive sterilization campaign which began in 1995. The campaign was rife with coercive practices – quotas were set, cash bonuses were paid to health workers for each client sterilized, and poor women were bribed with nutritional supplements and clothes for their children. In addition, sterilization surgeries often were performed in "substandard conditions" resulting in medical complications and death. When these abuses were brought to the attention of the U.S. Congress and media, largely through the investigations and efforts of Steve Mosher and the Population Research Institute, Peruvian leaders eventually had to admit the coercion and apologize for it.
- Mismanagement on a monumental scale: Compared to the human rights abuses summarized above, fraud and mismanagement seem almost trivial. Yet the level of systemic incompetence is breathtaking. A United Nations Board of Auditors Report revealed that in the 1998-1999 biennium, UNFPA could not account for how 50% of the money it distributed to nations and to non-governmental family planning organizations was used!
"Weakness in project formulation" and "poor project design" meant the success of most of UNFPA's efforts could not be adequately gauged. The Auditors analyzed twelve completed projects and found that nine "were not successful" and three "were distinct failures." Failures do not simply mean money was wasted; in some cases, they can mean that lives are lost. UNFPA boasts of being "the largest international supplier of condoms to developing countries for the past 30 years." Yet, in 2002 the government of Tanzania rejected a shipment of 10 million UNFPA condoms because they were defective – they leaked! Because UNFPA erroneously promotes and distributes condoms as the first line of defense against HIV/AIDS, the Fund's lack of oversight can lead to increased rates of infection and death.
Since 1985, a provision of U.S. law (the Kemp-Kasten Amendment) has barred U.S. funding of organizations that support or participate in the management of a program of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization. Thanks to the detailed, carefully documented evidence amassed in The United Nations Population Fund: Assault on the World's Peoples, the annual Congressional debate on UNFPA funding should be more lopsided than ever.
Copies of the White Paper can be obtained by contacting C-FAM at (212) 754-5948, by fax to (212) 754-9291 or e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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