“Man,” I cried, “how ignorant art thou in thy pride of wisdom!”
—Mary Shelley, Frankenstein
[Editor’s note: Information included in this article was presented as proponent testimony for H.B. 308 before the Ohio House Health & Aging Committee, November 13, 2013.]
No longer the stuff of science fiction, cloning humans and creating animal human hybrids presents disturbing ethical dilemmas requiring legislative restraint. Proposed House Bill 308, an Ohio Ban on Human Cloning & Animal Human Hybrids, is to outlaw this human-animal genetic experimentation.
One would think that such legislation would be quick and easy to pass. But it has been ten years of foiled attempts, as the research industry turns out in droves to lobby protest, while at the same time claiming it doesn’t indulge in macabre research.
Cloning is As Cloning Does
Some try to minimize the ethical problems with this experimentation in claiming support for “therapeutic” cloning but not for “reproductive.” However, the same technology is used for each—to genetically duplicate an existing human being.
So-called therapeutic cloning means experimenting on cloned human embryos—for example to extract embryonic stem cells—after which the embryos die (clone-and-kill), while reproductive cloning means implanting a cloned human embryo in a womb for a cloned child to grow and be born.
Clone and Kill
Researchers want to be free to conduct therapeutic cloning for embryonic stem cell research, but most condemn reproductive cloning. Some claim there is research underway for a way to extract embryonic stem cells from a human clone but not kill the embryo, and this they believe would solve the most glaring ethical problem.
But this would not solve the clone-and-kill ethical problem. The question with proposed technology to extract embryonic stem cells without killing cloned embryos is this: What is to happen to the living embryos after the stem cells are extracted?
Whether or not they are killed, human embryos cannot give informed consent. Such consent is standard ethical practice for experimentation on any member of the human species, unless they personally benefit or will not be harmed significantly, which is not the case with embryonic stem cell experimentation.
Embryonic Stem Cell Myth
Embryonic stem cells have not produced a single sure cure, and researchers are becoming disenchanted. In November 2011, the California-based Geron Corporation, which obtained approval from President Obama’s administration to conduct the first experiments using human embryonic stem cells, announced it had ceased experiments using living human embryos.
Adult stem cells—that is, stem cells derived from non-cloned, non-embryonic sources such as bone marrow, umbilical cords, baby teeth, and more—have produced near miraculous cures. If we want to recruit the best and the brightest researchers, as well as highlight Ohio, the money and demonstrated success lies here.
House Bill 308 also bans human cloning experimentation complicated with the additional use of animals. The need for such a ban was emphasized in June 2008, when British Parliament passed the Human Fertilisation Embryology Act.
This act permits researchers to not only create cloned human embryos for research then destruction, but also to fertilize human eggs with animal sperm or vice versa to create “hybrid” embryos.
The only boundary is that any embryos created with human and animal DNA are to be killed 14 days after creation. The reason given for such experimentation is the presumed potential to use hybrid embryos to extract embryonic stem cells for research on diseases.
At the time of the vote on animal-human hybrids, Parliament member Edward Leigh voted against the decision, saying that use of hybrid clones crosses an “entirely new ethical boundary. … In many ways we are like children playing with landmines without any concept of the dangers of the technology that we are handling.”
Besides those who opposed Britain’s bill for its human experimentation, environmentalists also opposed it, for several reasons: genetically modified hybrids could devastate environments of native animal populations; introducing humans into animals could create hybrids with superior abilities which could affect the balance of the ecosystem; and increased transmission of both human and animal diseases is possible.
More recently, Britain’s Daily Mail reported in July 2011 that scientists in that country had secretly created 150 animal-human embryos over the previous three years.
In response to this revelation, crossbench peer Lord Alton said,
“Ethically it can never be justifiable – it discredits us as a country. It is dabbling in the grotesque. At every stage the justification from scientists has been: if only you allow us to do this, we will find cures for every illness known to mankind. This is emotional blackmail.”
In the United States, bills banning human cloning and/or animal-human hybrids have already been passed in various states. For example, eight states ban human cloning for any purpose (AR, AZ, IN, MI, ND, OK, SD, VA), and two states prohibit animal-human hybrids (AZ, LA).
Bills banning human cloning and animal-human hybrids have also been introduced in the U.S. House and Senate. The Human Cloning Prohibition Act was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives in May of this year, to amend the federal criminal code to prohibit any public or private person or entity from: (1) performing or attempting to perform human cloning; (2) participating in an attempt to perform human cloning; or (3) shipping, receiving, or importing the product of human cloning for any purpose.
In 2008, Congressman Chris Smith (NJ-Rep), and in 2009, Senators Sam Brownback (KS-Rep) and Mary Landrieu (LS-Dem) introduced Human-Animal Hybrid Prohibition Acts in the House and Senate, respectively, to ban human cloning to create human-animal hybrids. These federal bills sought to ban creating part-human, part-animal creatures in laboratories and thus blur the line between species.
In explaining the need for this legislation, Senator Brownback said,
“Creating human-animal hybrids, which permanently alter the genetic makeup of an organism, will challenge the very definition of what it means to be human and is a violation of human dignity and a grave injustice.”
“If We Can, We Will”
Similarly, Ohio’s House Bill 308 seeks state-level protection for human beings from the same genetic confusion, and also prohibits the transfer of a nonhuman embryo into a human womb, and the transfer of a human embryo into a nonhuman womb.
As stated earlier, implanting a cloned being in a womb to be born is labeled “reproductive” cloning. This type of cloning with humans has been nearly universally condemned up to now, but whether this will remain out of bounds is no longer sure.
As the boundaries are already being pushed with animal-human hybrids, the transfer of animal and human embryos between animal and human wombs is not far-fetched either. Despite the fact that simply the desire to genetically mix humans with animals is morally abhorrent, and such experimentation kills human life, the only principle some scientists appear to operate under is, “if we can, we will.”
We support good research for the betterment of human health and welfare, and are grateful for those who conduct it. But all people must oppose as morally evil research that experiments on human beings at any stage of development without regard for human dignity—as is historically evident in nations that have engaged in such abuses. We expect researchers to respect and follow this ethical guideline as commonsense scientific discipline.
Pride of wisdom at the expense of human life is willful ignorance of inevitable monstrous consequences.
Paula Westwood is Executive Director of Right to Life of Greater Cincinnati, board member for Ohio ProLife Action, and weekly pro-life news contributor for the Son Rise Morning Show, broadcast nationally via Sacred Heart Radio/EWTN (513/728-7870, firstname.lastname@example.org).
All opinions expressed belong solely to their authors and may not be construed as the opinions of other writers or of OCR staff.
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