Ohio Right to Life Statement in Support of Human Cloning Ban
(Below is the text of a March 11, 2008 memo to the Ohio Senate Judiciary - Civil Justice Committee in support of the S.B. 174, which would ban human cloning.)
The purpose of this memorandum is to demonstrate Ohio Right to Life's support for S.B. 174, which would prohibit human cloning in the state of Ohio.
By adopting S.B. 174, Ohio would be reflecting a widespread condemnation of human cloning that extends across a variety of cultural and religious lines. The worldwide nature of the opposition to cloning is shown by the fact that on March 8, 2005, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a declaration that called upon all member nations “to prohibit all forms of human cloning inasmuch as they are incompatible with human dignity and the protection of human life”. The U.N. declaration also expressed concern about the “exploitation of women in the application of the life sciences”. Since the widespread use of human cloning could require the extraction of a large number of human eggs, many people have expressed concern about the potential health risks to women from high-dose hormone therapy and surgery to remove the eggs and the likely commercial exploitation of poor women worldwide.
In accordance with the U.N. Declaration, S.B. 174 would ban the creation of human embryos by cloning no matter what the intended purpose. Some persons have proposed legal prohibitions only on what they refer to as “reproductive cloning” (cloning to produce a baby). These proposals are intended to permit cloning for research (which is sometimes referred to as “therapeutic cloning”) in which the cloned embryo is killed to remove his or her stem cells. Such proposals would essentially result in a sub-class of humans who would be created and legally exist only for the specific purpose of being killed in research. Further, as the U.S. Justice Department has indicated in testimony before Congress, it would be extremely difficult to effectively prevent attempts at
reproductive cloning when large numbers of cloned embryos exist. The implantation process would be identical to that routinely used for in vitro fertilization and any successful implantation could only be terminated by the morally and constitutionally repugnant act of forced abortion.
Polling indicates that the majority of the American people oppose human cloning, including cloning for research. A May 2006 poll by International Communications Research asked 1000 Americans: “Should scientists be allowed to use human cloning to create a supply of human embryos to be destroyed in medical research?”. 81.2% said “No” and only 11.4% answered “Yes”.
Cloning for embryonic stem cell research in which the embryonic human is killed violates the first principle of all ethical medical research which is to “do no harm”. When we abandon firm adherence to this ethical principle, there are few limits to what may be done in the name of medical research, since, in utilitarian terms, the importance of the individual human who is exploited will always seem insignificant in comparison to the promise of curing the diseases of millions.
However, in this case the “promise” of cures is highly speculative. What is frequently referred to as “therapeutic cloning”, not only degrades human embryos and women’s eggs to the level of a commodity, but has produced no therapies. In fact, despite the intense media hype about embryonic stem cell research, no embryonic stem cell, whether derived by cloning or otherwise, has produced any clinical therapy. In contrast, non-embryonic or “adult” stem cells (which raise no ethical concerns) have been used to produce over 70 clinical treatments for a variety of human illnesses.
Further, recent advances creating "induced pluripotent stem cells" (iPS cells) have virtually eliminated any arguable need for "therapeutic cloning". Induced pluripotent stem cells are reprogrammed adult cells that have the same properties as embryonic stem cells. Since they can be made from the cells of the person who is to receive them, they avoid the problem of rejection by the host that led some people to support cloning. Further, iPS cells do not require the use of human eggs or the creation or destruction of human embryos. Thus, they do not present the ethical problems created by cloning.
We clearly do not have to enter the ethical minefield of cloning in order to produce scientific advances from the area of stem cells. In this case, ethical science and successful science are definitely not mutually exclusive.