A License to Clone

Published in The Weekly Standard

IT IS BECOMING INCREASINGLY clear that the bio-anarchists leading the charge to Brave New World want a virtually unlimited license to engage in human cloning. The proof is in the legislation they keep trying to pass.

It is bad enough that in Washington, senators Orin Hatch, Republican of Utah, and Dianne Feinstein, Democrat of California, have introduced the Human Cloning Ban and Stem Cell Research Protection Act of 2003 (S. 303), which would permit the creation of human clone embryos for research, requiring their destruction after the fourteenth day of development. But the much more radical license that bio-anarchists seek is embodied in state legislation introduced beneath the radar of the national media.

If these bills ever became law, researchers could create human embryos for the purposes of experimentation, implant them, and allow them to gestate through the ninth month of pregnancy, by which point they would have to be exploited for research and killed.

New Jersey was the first state whose legislature attempted to create this broad cloning license. The bill–S. 1909–was a sneaky piece of legislation. Its ostensible purpose was to permit stem cell research on embryos left over from in vitro fertilization. But lurking in the text, clearly discernible upon careful reading, was a more sweeping agenda.

First, the legislation would have explicitly authorized the manufacture of human embryos via the cloning procedure known as somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT). Second, unlike the Hatch-Feinstein bill, the legislation would not have proscribed the implantation of clone embryos into a woman’s womb. This is important, because if an act is not illegal, it is legal. Finally, the legislation would have made the “cloning of a human being” a “crime of the first degree.”

The key to understanding the dangerous scope of this legislation is its definition of the term “human being”:

As used in this section, “cloning a human being” means the replication of a human individual by cultivating a cell with genetic material through the egg, embryo, fetal and newborn stages into a new human individual. (My emphasis.)

Since, under S. 1909, implantation of a clone embryo would be legal, and only the cloning of a “new human individual” all the way through the “newborn” stage would be illegal, the bill would have authorized the gestation of a human clone fetus for any period up through nine months. To avoid criminality, presumably the fetus would have to be aborted, at latest, just before birth.

This bill passed the New Jersey Senate without a dissenting vote. From there, it went to the New Jersey Assembly (A. 2840), where despite warnings about its implications the Health and Human Services Committee passed it on to the Assembly floor. Only when the odious details began to become publicly known did the sponsors withdraw it. And even then, the governor and some state newspaper editorials criticized opponents as standing against medical progress.

Perhaps it was all a big mistake. Perhaps the authors of the New Jersey bill never really meant to authorize clone implantation and gestation through the ninth month. If so, a significant number of New Jersey legislators voted for legislation they did not understand.

But now, that lame excuse won’t wash. A Democratic state senator from El Paso named Eliot Shapleigh has just introduced S.B. 1034 into the Texas senate. It’s a bill with language almost identical to that of New Jersey’s discredited S. 1909.

Like the New Jersey bill, S.B. 1034 purports to be about embryonic stem cell research. Like the New Jersey bill, it would authorize the creation of embryos through SCNT without banning the implantation of clone embryos into a woman’s womb. Instead, just as in New Jersey, the bill would outlaw only “the replication of a human individual by cultivating a cell with the individual’s genetic material through the egg, embryo, fetal, and newborn stages into a new human individual.”

One bill with this enabling language might be written off as an aberration. But two?

It seems there is a method to this madness, but my call to Shapleigh’s office went unreturned. Obviously, the time has come for the media to show a little skepticism about the supposedly benign human cloning agenda, and find out who it is that wants such a breathtakingly radical cloning license, and why.

Wesley J. Smith is a senior fellow for the Discovery Institute. He is the author of “Culture of Death: The Assault on Medical Ethics in America.”

Wesley J. Smith

Chair and Senior Fellow, Center on Human Exceptionalism
Wesley J. Smith is Chair and Senior Fellow at the Discovery Institute’s Center on Human Exceptionalism. Wesley is a contributor to National Review and is the author of 14 books, in recent years focusing on human dignity, liberty, and equality. Wesley has been recognized as one of America’s premier public intellectuals on bioethics by National Journal and has been honored by the Human Life Foundation as a “Great Defender of Life” for his work against suicide and euthanasia. Wesley’s most recent book is Culture of Death: The Age of “Do Harm” Medicine, a warning about the dangers to patients of the modern bioethics movement.