Human Cloning Announcement Draws Reaction, Criticism

Washington, DC - A company's claim that it is first to clone a human embryo has drawn opposition from the White House, the Vatican and other pro-life advocates who see it as a step toward cloning human beings and the destruction of unborn children.

Researchers at Advanced Cell Technology in Worcester, Massachusetts say they hope to clone human embryos to kill in order to obtain embryonic stem cells for research.

But rival scientists pointed out that the ACT team did not even get close to creating embryos large enough to take stem cells from. Only one of the eggs survived as long as the six-celled stage, and they all stopped growing after a few hours.

"From what I saw yesterday, these guys didn't get very far," Kevin Wilson, spokesman for the American Society for Cell Biology, said in a telephone interview.

In response, President Bush said Monday that the breakthrough was ``morally wrong, in my opinion. We should not, as a society, grow life to destroy it,'' Bush said.

Also, a top Vatican official, Monsignor Tarcisio Bertone, also condemned the cloning, saying that while the goal of curing disease is laudable, ``the end doesn't justify the means.'' Promises of ``sensational'' cures from diseases can't justify the step by scientists in the United States. Vatican teaching holds that life begins at conception, so destroying an embryo would end a human life.

Speaking Monday on NBC's ``Today'' show, the company's top executive Michael West replied that the work does not involve human life, but rather ``cellular life, a fundamental distinction.''

``I consider myself pro-life, by the way, and I do not see this as a pro-life issue at all,'' West said.

Pro-life advocates vehemently disagreed with West's notion and numerous pro-life lawmakers and leaders of pro-life organizations held a joint news conference Monday afternoon.

``To manufacture a human being is a terrible human rights abuse,'' said pro-life Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) at the conference. ``Mad scientists are still mad scientists no matter how white their lab coats are and how many bioethicists they hire to justify their actions.''

Flanked by representatives from a diverse collection of pro-life groups and leaders, pro-life Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS) promised to fight for Senate action on a human cloning ban. The organziation Friends of the Earth also lent their support to the press conference.

Brownback is set to introduce a bill calling for a six-month moratorium on cloning and then a vote on a total ban, said his spokesman Erik Hotmire. However, a spokesman for Majority Leader Tom Daschle said the senator had no plans to bring the issue up before adjournment.

``We don't know who else in the country is working on the issue of human cloning. This needs to be stopped,'' said Brownback.

Poll numbers show most Americans oppose cloning humans. By a 2-to-1 margin, respondents said in an ABC News/Beliefnet poll in August they thought cloning a human embryo for medical purposes should be illegal.

Pro-Life Infonet
27. november 2001