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Bush and Pro-Lifers call for complete ban on any clone or stem cell research.
April 9, 2002 11:38 PM   Subscribe

Bush and Pro-Lifers call for complete ban on any clone or stem cell research. The movement for a ban got a significant boost Tuesday when Sen. Bill Frist, R-Tenn., said he would support the cloning ban legislation, which the Senate is expected to debate in the weeks ahead. Though not a surprise, the announcement from Frist, a heart-transplant surgeon, is important because his views on medical topics are respected by many in Congress. "Many are overpromising on the science" benefits that are possible from cloning, Frist told reporters. He also said creating a human embryo "for reason of experimentation leads to destruction of that embryo and to me that is morally unacceptable."
posted by skallas (26 comments total)

 
Is it safe to assume that scientists are truly overpromising on the this technology? Every couple months or so cloning advances and the fears of rebirthing Hitler or whatever begin to wane away. Current stem research suggests that new organs could be regrown inside your own body and that viable stem-cells can be produced from adult cells.

I see two problems here. One is the moral pro-life statements which, if the trials of abortion have shown us anything, are impracticle and arguably without merit. Second, politicians refuse to break this up into two seperate issues or bills. Full bodily human cloning and stem-cell research are seen as the same thing and that's the message that's being presented to the public.
posted by skallas at 11:45 PM on April 9, 2002


No help from Frist, specifically anyway, but this might be a good primer for discussion.
posted by BlueTrain at 11:52 PM on April 9, 2002


Meanwhile, Vatican spokesman Cardinal Francis Arinze compared abortion, euthanasia and genetic experiments to the Sept. 11 terror attacks, saying Tuesday they all share a "contempt for human life."(Nothing about pedophilia) thru USS Clueless.
posted by Mack Twain at 11:55 PM on April 9, 2002


>One is the moral pro-life statements which, if the trials of abortion have shown us anything, are impracticle and arguably without merit.

Cough...Cough...(sweeping generalization)...Cough...Cough
posted by shepd at 12:06 AM on April 10, 2002


Now that Bush is against Stem Cell cloning, it means that either John Howard will do his usual circus trick and backflip from his current stance, or, for the first time in history, scientists may actually come FROM America TO Australia to practice science.

I know which one I find more likely.
posted by Neale at 12:09 AM on April 10, 2002


Wow, I'm glad pro-lifers are so morally opposed to this. (I'm pro-life). I mean, it's so important to ban all stem cell research, since things like abortion are completely legal. Maybe they are just trying to pick battles they can win, and gain some political momentum.

I'm a bit confused about the connection between stem cell research and cloning, so here commences my thinking out loud.

In the article BlueTrain cites, Frist says:
Furthermore, we can be confident that a ban on human cloning will not be a barrier to the aggressive pursuit of embryonic stem cell research and other critical biomedical research.

They are banning cloning because it necessesitates experimenting on and destroying embryonic stem cells( according to the Chicago Times):
He also said creating a human embryo "for reason of experimentation leads to destruction of that embryo and to me that is morally unacceptable."

Miscarriage is tragic and leads to destruction of an embryo, but it is not illegal, or immoral, it just happens. If in fact you accept that an embryo is a human, experimentation is wrong. But is breeding(no intentional killing involved) wrong?

I don't understand the value of cloning. Is it so we can grow new organs using stem cells (preferably adult). That use of an embryonic stem cell (with unique DNA), as merely a crop to be harvested, is wrong, because it is killed in the process. Adult stem cells are acceptable, since there is no death involved. If you do not believe that the embryo is a human, then harvesting embryos is perfectly fine. There is some separation between cloning and stem cell research, but it is a fine line which Congress does not want to deal with.

Whatever the case, the federal government does not have a law outlawing murder, or punishing murder. Each state does. This issue should probably be decided on a state by state basis anyway, since there is so much disagreement over fundamentals, such as when does life begin?
posted by insomnyuk at 12:29 AM on April 10, 2002


Wow, I'm glad pro-lifers are so morally opposed to this. (I'm pro-life). I mean, it's so important to ban all stem cell research, since things like abortion are completely legal. Maybe they are just trying to pick battles they can win, and gain some political momentum.

Picking battles, sort of...this is like an interest group who wants the US to stop all drug abuse. Hypothetically, it would still focus upon alcohol and nicotine, but it would also hit new drugs that come into market with such force that legalization would be nearly impossible. I believe that's the case here with stem-cells and cloning. Conservatives still oppose abortion, but are hitting this new target quickly and with strong opposition so that it can quickly dealt with. If the issue becomes stagnant, their impact might be weakened.

Whatever the case, the federal government does not have a law outlawing murder, or punishing murder. Each state does. This issue should probably be decided on a state by state basis anyway, since there is so much disagreement over fundamentals, such as when does life begin?

This could be a state issue, but I doubt it. Take note that major issues are dealt with through the federal govt., notably Supreme Court rulings. Think about the death penalty, abortions, flag burnings, civil rights, etc. Local/State govts. start most issues; the federal govt. finishes them.
posted by BlueTrain at 12:51 AM on April 10, 2002


I've yet to hear an argument against cloning that doesn't turn into fears of some kind of science-fiction fantasy landscape. What I mean is, people expect that cloning research (I emphasize this, because it's not commercial cloning being done, but only scientific explorations of cloning) will result in us "harvesting" bodies for organs, or having clones replace dead people, or achieving "immortality" through limitless clones of ourselves.

As responible adults, I think we can avoid these results with properly moderated, government-controled cloning research. Banning it outright would bring nothing but "outlaw" science across borders, and may bring far worse consequences.

As for stem cells-- this is a non-issue as far as I'm concerned. The embrionic research would have to obtain the neccessary embryos from volunteers, and if it's the parent's choice to make that donation, I really don't see the problem with the expense.

But then, I'm pro-choice. Go fig.
posted by Down10 at 12:53 AM on April 10, 2002


The link given is linking to a story about some soldier killed by a mine, not the stem cell/cloning story. I'm assuming the link worked for some since there does seem to be discussion about the story...
posted by gyc at 1:10 AM on April 10, 2002


Full bodily human cloning and stem-cell research are seen as the same thing and that's the message that's being presented to the public.

This concept is not hard to understand but the general public's willful ignorance about "scientific" things is going to make this kind of distinction impossible to convey to most people. It is extremely frustrating to me (a scientist) that our representatives want to legislate something they clearly don't understand. This would be like congress legislating which commands programmers must code with. It's stupid, ignorant of what scientists are really doing, and it only serves to promote popular fear.
posted by plaino at 4:19 AM on April 10, 2002


Not only is it wrong to lump cloning and stem cell research together but a ban on stem cell research (or opposition of it) is just plain dumb. Stem cell research (from what I have read, but I would love for someone else to elaborate) would get along just fine using the excess embryos created during the thousands of in vitro fertilization processes that take place all the time to help women get pregnant. If life begins at conception, why not bring some worth to these short lives by allowing mankind to learn more wonderous medicine, rather than just throwing the extra embryos away which is what is done now. Of course you don't here the pro lifers screaming murder about this.
posted by McBain at 5:49 AM on April 10, 2002


It is so frustrating to see this call for a ban on stem cell research because stem cells don't have to be collected from just embryos. Embryonic stem cells can be collected from umbilical cord blood after the delivery of an infant. No embryo is destroyed in the process.

There are ways to collect and bank this blood in the delivery room through the services of privately funded banks. Expectant parents can take the initiative and pay for the collection and storage themselves which can start at $1,500. The cost alone is prohibitive to many.

Unfortunately, there is no method currently available in the U.S. for parents to donate this supply at the birth of their child. Prior to delivering my son, my husband and I spoke with a doctor at EVMS/The Jones Fertility Institute who is doing stem cell research to see if we could donate the cord blood to his study. While the doctor is working with the Red Cross to try and establish collection criteria and fund storage facilities, nothing currently exists. As a result, if parent's don't do it themselves, the cord blood is destroyed. The doctor is hopefull this option will be available in about 5 years.

There are studies that have shown the stem cells collected in this manner are useful. I'm sure there are more than I've linked.

I hope the ban does not go into effect. If it does, I hope it doesn't stop this type of research. I've already written to my Senator.
posted by onhazier at 6:27 AM on April 10, 2002


Stem cell research (from what I have read, but I would love for someone else to elaborate) would get along just fine using the excess embryos created during the thousands of in vitro fertilization processes that take place all the time to help women get pregnant.

Yes. For research.

However, if the goal of the research is to make it possible for one to grow a perfectly matching replacement organ for oneself then cloning yourself as an embryo and harvesting the appropriate stem cells will have to occur. It still leads to deliberate creation and destruction of a potentially viable human. As my previous comment implies, I am not opposed to this in principle but the temptation to proceed to whole-person cloning (which I do oppose) would be enormous.

Cloning raises interesting copyright/patent issues. Can you own a copyright on yourself? Suppose cloning became commonplace, could a celebrity legally stop someone from cloning them from a discarded hair follicle or piece of skin?
posted by plaino at 6:39 AM on April 10, 2002


But is breeding(no intentional killing involved) wrong?


Clearly, yes.
posted by rushmc at 8:43 AM on April 10, 2002


It still leads to deliberate creation and destruction of a potentially viable human.

Potential. And therein lies all the difference. Or would you support seeing your local power company start charging you for all the potential energy in your home as well?
posted by rushmc at 8:44 AM on April 10, 2002


The DNA Copyright Institute emerged last year to allow people to copyright their DNA.
posted by jgilliam at 8:47 AM on April 10, 2002


I agree with Neale here. America banning cloning research is only going to put other countries ahead of us in that technology. Oh well.
posted by Foosnark at 9:02 AM on April 10, 2002


Potential. And therein lies all the difference. Or would you support seeing your local power company start charging you for all the potential energy in your home as well?

If you read my comment carefully you will see that I am on your side of this issue. However, your analogy is not valid because the power company doesn't lose energy until some appliance in your house uses it. A better analogy would be the fishmonger who charges you for all the fish he had to throw back. (Which he does charge you for, it's just folded into the cost of the product).
posted by plaino at 10:10 AM on April 10, 2002


I agree with Neale and Foosnark, the technology will progress elsewhere. I've read that China views biotechnology in general and therapeutic cloning in particular as their Sputnik, their chance to move into the global lead in one of the sciences. I'm amazed that the U.S. might be making a conscious decision to sacrifice it's lead in one of the most promising scientific fields.
posted by homunculus at 10:43 AM on April 10, 2002


I'm amazed that the U.S. might be making a conscious decision to sacrifice it's lead in one of the most promising scientific fields.

We laugh (or cry I suppose) at how the religious right has kept Middle Eastern education marginalized and backward. Well let's not forget the religious right in the US lest they someday become our own personal Taliban et al.
posted by plaino at 11:16 AM on April 10, 2002


Part of the point I was trying to make, is that we already create embryos and discard the ones we don't need in order to get rich barren women pregnant, and nobody screams bloody murder. These are embryos formed from sperm and egg, and the pro lifers constantly say that constitutes a human life. As soon as the first one implants in the woman, the rest are tossed.

But now if I want an embryo of myself (i.e. my own DNA) cloned so that stem cells can be gathered to say grow me a new liver or heart to save my life this is somehow unethical because the embryo (of me) is thrown away.

I am just trying to say that if the religious types are going to argue on the basis of morals than it has to cut both ways, no matter how unpopular being against modern fertilization techniques is.
posted by McBain at 1:17 PM on April 10, 2002


However, your analogy is not valid because the power company doesn't lose energy until some appliance in your house uses it.

And how is that not analagous?
posted by rushmc at 6:12 PM on April 10, 2002


>Part of the point I was trying to make, is that we already create embryos and discard the ones we don't need in order to get rich barren women pregnant, and nobody screams bloody murder. These are embryos formed from sperm and egg, and the pro lifers constantly say that constitutes a human life. As soon as the first one implants in the woman, the rest are tossed.

Oh jeez, "pro-choicers" just aren't getting it here.

Pro-lifers aren't about making non-viable cells live (not the ones I've talked to, anyhow). They are about ensuring that completely viable humans that are existing within a womb (or any other sufficiently advanced technology to do the same thing) survive. The difference?

Well, I'll explain it to you.

If I found a non-swimmer flailing about in water and I left him in it, it technically wouldn't be murder (would make a very interesting court case though, and I'm not coldhearted enough to ever do this). Now, if instead I pushed him in that water I would be a murderer.

There's the difference. Left alone most aborted babies would live. Left alone cell masses in test tubes would not.

As a pro-lifer my position on this issue depends on wether or not it fits the "murder" definition above. As far as I see it, up to now it doesn't, and so therefore as a pro-lifer I'm against the ban.
posted by shepd at 7:57 PM on April 10, 2002


>Left alone cell masses in test tubes would not.

Then why is creating (or even cloning) embryos in test tubes for the purpose of harvesting stem cells not okay? You are not taking the position of Bush, shepd, so your argument isn't meaningful. I am pointing out how the "morality" argument being used by Bush (and supported by many) is flawed.
posted by McBain at 7:57 AM on April 11, 2002


Left alone most aborted babies would live.

Actually, left alone, NONE of them would live, as they all require a host (mother) to develop to viability.
posted by rushmc at 8:52 AM on April 11, 2002


Pro-lifers aren't about making non-viable cells live (not the ones I've talked to, anyhow). They are about ensuring that completely viable humans...

"completely viable" refers to beings that can exist on their own - strictly, "completely viable" would probably not apply until at least a couple years (and maybe not 'til college). "Viable" is 26 weeks at this point. ("Humans" is way more complicated but we'll skip that for the moment.)

Left alone most aborted babies would live. Left alone cell masses in test tubes would not.

It's funny that they're "babies" when you think they should live and "cell masses" when you don't, even though they are in fact the exact same thing. And the point of course, as rushmc pointed out, is that alone they would never survive. You're distinguishing between leaving them in the mother when they're already there, and not implanting them in a mother when they're not already there - essentially, passive abortion is okay.

However, it's not entirely passive, as people who go through these fertility treatments are completely aware that they will be "throwing away" some embryoes - so anyone who pays for these treatments effectively has easily four or five abortions - and no one seems to be getting upset over it. They are actively choosing to make these embryoes and then tossing them - and they are the same "cell masses" that sometimes get made accidently and removed from wombs in abortion.
posted by mdn at 10:08 AM on April 11, 2002


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