We Shall Steal Your Child
January 11, 2003 9:12 PM   Subscribe

Does the state have the right to kidnap your child, if it doesn't approve of the manner in which you became pregnant? Maybe Clonaid ran a huge hoax, maybe they actually produced a clone -- but their refusal to provide the proof is proving more and more legitimate. Florida Attorney Bernard Siegel is pressing the case that if the child is indeed really a clone, then the state is much more qualified to raise it. Now, reasonable people can disagree on the creepiness of cloning, but isn't the image of jack-booted thugs tearing a child from the arms of her loving mother into the hands of government doctors a whole different level of horror?
posted by effugas (41 comments total)
 
Clonaid has no obligation to provide any proof in this matter (their credibility or lack thereof is their own business), and it's ironic that the wacky UFO cult seems to be acting more rationally than the state in this case. If there's no evidence that the child is being abused, then there's no justification for taking the child. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that unless there are reliable allegations that the child is being mistreated, the state has no business even investigating them. It seems pretty clear that this is a case of the state using its power to further an agenda which may have very little to do with the welfare of the child (assuming the child even exists, of course).
posted by biscotti at 9:20 PM on January 11, 2003


Someone alert Sam Sloan!
posted by cadastral at 9:40 PM on January 11, 2003


...isn't the image of jack-booted thugs tearing a child from the arms of her loving mother into the hands of government doctors a whole different level of horror?

why yes, yes it is. in fact, i might go so far as to say it's heinous and despicable.
posted by poopy at 9:48 PM on January 11, 2003


At first, I was ready to be angry at the torch-wielding idiots.

However! If they really did this (p.s. they didn't), then I think it is likely a very foolish and dangerous thing that they did. Not because of any bizarre made-up scientifico-moral qualms, but because from what I understand, animal clones have suffered many health problems. Therefore this is somewhat similar to performing experimental (actually pre-experimental) elective surgery on a child. If that child has some sort of (pseudo-science alert) fucked up telomeres and has a shortened life span then the parents are responsible, morally and probably legally as well.

My objection disappears entirely if cloning is safe.

The other question is the nature of incredible and unsubstantiated claims in the legal world. It seems to me, biscotti, that if I say that I did something that has some legal consequences then I can't defend myself by saying that there is no proof, unless I'm also willing (at the minimum) to repudiate my claim.
posted by Wood at 9:49 PM on January 11, 2003


The claim of abuse being made is that simply by existing, the child has been abused. Tell me...what's the remedy for this sort of abuse?

Would you give your child up to these people?

If you think about it, the alternative fate of the clone was to die but a cell, never to be introduced to an egg and never to be grown to a full fledged human. This is supremely ironic, if you consider those who are arguing on both sides.

It's always interested me that for all the things you require a license to do -- fish, drive, run a business, practice law -- nobody requires government approval to have sex, become pregnant, or raise a child. Regardless of whether anyone or even everyone else things it'd be a good idea, there's something peculiarly private about having a child, no matter how its done or who you have it with.

It's the privacy of this that makes forced sterilization of the mentally handicapped so offensive. Even if it's almost guaranteed that the child would experience problems -- and it's not -- it's not the government's place to violently enforce their standards of childbirth. Safe or not -- you don't take infants from their mothers, you don't even threaten it.

--Dan
posted by effugas at 10:06 PM on January 11, 2003


The claim of abuse being made is that simply by existing, the child has been abused.

Of course, some make that argument about their own, non-cloned, conceptions....
posted by rushmc at 10:10 PM on January 11, 2003


Wood, there is validity to your argument--but where do you draw the line? Can the government tell me I can't have a kid because heart disease runs in my family? Can the government tell me I can't have a kid because I can't afford to vaccinate it? The distinction between what the government is doing here and enforced eugenics is a thin one.
posted by IshmaelGraves at 10:19 PM on January 11, 2003


Effugas, you make a good point of course. (Well, not the one about the alternative not being born at all, sorry, but the other one.) Actually, ... damn I guess I was wrong, because I don't think you can take a child away from a crackhead or anyone else who abused drugs during pregnancy. It's still their kid, so I guess the same thing applies here.

And yet, still... I'm not a technophobe, but let's get hypothetical, suppose a mom and a scientist (maybe one and the same) start trying to put wings on a kid in the womb. And they keep fucking up. Oh well, I guess she can keep 'em. After all there are literally tens of millions of children in this country whose lives would be improved by removing them from their parents and placing them with better parents. Besides finding adoptive parents for disabled children with feeble non-functioning angel wings might be difficult.
posted by Wood at 10:20 PM on January 11, 2003


The idea though, at least I understand it, behind a government seizing a child and placing them in a foster home or orphanage (which is, after all, what the government means by saying they will raise the child) is to prevent the abuse from continuing by removing them from the environment in which it is being experienced. In this case though, a change of environment will do nothing to alleviate any suffering this child will experience as a result of being a clone. While I might see the government charging the parents with criminal negligence should the child be seriously ill in some way as a result of being a clone, I don't think this properly qualifies as "abuse" in the Child Services sense.
posted by Pseudoephedrine at 10:55 PM on January 11, 2003


The lawsuit in question claims that the child may need medical care that the parents are not providing and that a judge should determine whether or not the child is in danger.

This is not the same as taking the child because of how it was conceived -- while the state can't take a child away from its alcoholic mother because it's born with fetal alcohol syndrome, it can if she keeps drinking and endangers the child by abuse or neglect, medical or otherwise. It's nominally the same principle here, although I suspect that the opportunity for publicity is motivating the lawyer more than anything else, given his record.
posted by blissbat at 10:57 PM on January 11, 2003


Ummmm.....right, this is the same state that is still trying to locate potentially more than 100 kids in the foster system already. Ah, what's one more!

Jeez, I love this state!
posted by photoslob at 11:09 PM on January 11, 2003


It seems to me, biscotti, that if I say that I did something that has some legal consequences then I can't defend myself by saying that there is no proof, unless I'm also willing (at the minimum) to repudiate my claim.

Are there legal consequences here? Are there laws about cloning on the books in Florida? I see no mention of this in the article, all I see is that the state seems to think that it would be a better parent to the alleged child than its parents, simply because of the manner of its conception.
posted by biscotti at 11:27 PM on January 11, 2003


Wasn't there an X-Files episode about clones named Eve (is that really the name of the clone, or am I making that up?) who were raised by the government....? From what I remember, that didn't turn out very well.

On a more serious note, if the child does exist and isn't in any danger, the state should not get involved - no matter how the child was conceived. In theory, a clone baby is no different than an ordinary baby other than the genetic structure. Also, if the child is to be taken away due to lack of medical attention and other such care... aren't there dozens of cases like this where the state tries to interfere with a "religion" with such beliefs? (I use "religion" in quotation marks because I'm not sure the cult considers itself a religion).
posted by elf_baby at 11:51 PM on January 11, 2003


jack-booted thugs tearing a child from the arms of her loving mother. . .

errr...shouldn't that be "sister"? If'n they're genetically identical and all that...
posted by Vidiot at 12:51 AM on January 12, 2003


jack-booted thugs tearing a child from the arms of. . .

What? Elian is still in Florida?
It was all a horrible, horrible dream?
Oh, her mother...
Never mind...
posted by y2karl at 1:08 AM on January 12, 2003


The lawsuit is complete grandstanding horseshit from one PR queen to another. Here's more on Siegel, the "commissioner" of an indie wrestling promo company called Florida Championship Wrestling. Dave Barry wrote a funny column poking at Siegel's role in the "league" a couple of years ago.
posted by mediareport at 9:40 AM on January 12, 2003


Wow, y2karl, good job how you phrased that as if to imply that had any relevance whatsoever to the subject of this thread.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 9:40 AM on January 12, 2003


the image of jack-booted thugs makes me think that effugas is right wing anti-government dittohead whose opinion I should immediately discount.

I read the article. There was no mention of jack boots or other footware.

The relationship between dittoheads and clones can be left to a separate thread. (Though I will venture that it could benefit society to separate dittoheads from their ideological parents.)
posted by alms at 10:10 AM on January 12, 2003


Since when has the government needed a valid reason to take children away from their parents? There have been numerous cases of late where it took as little as a teacher overhearing a kid say at school that their parent had spanked them.
posted by rushmc at 10:12 AM on January 12, 2003


Are you talking about this case, rushmc? If so, it was a bit more complicated than a spanking complaint:

When Travanti pulled her out of class, he accused her of concealing the suspension. Latosha feared what he'd do and what her father would do.

That's when she told Travanti she didn't want to go home because her father would beat her with a pipe.

School officials, who are required by state law to report suspected child abuse, summoned CYF. A caseworker called Davis at the Allegheny County public defender's office, where he conducts intake interviews. Davis refused to talk to her and went to the school.

He was angry, loud and uncooperative. He saw no reason for CYF to be involved. He told the CYF worker, "Young lady, your services are not needed here," and refused to answer her questions about discipline.

So the caseworker got an emergency order to seize the child. She took Latosha to Children's Hospital, where doctors found two old bruises on her leg but no evidence of abuse. Still, the caseworker placed Latosha in foster care.

posted by mediareport at 10:24 AM on January 12, 2003


My objection disappears entirely if cloning is safe.

If you object to 'unsafe' celluar divisions resulting in a human child, do you also wish to have the governement observe all 'unsafe' conceptions?
posted by rough ashlar at 10:34 AM on January 12, 2003


I busted out laughing when I read "Siegel's lawsuit claims that Clonaid is trying to commercially exploit the child ...". As if his entire case isn't his attempt to "commercially exploit" the child. (Anyone here think he is motivted out of anything other than publicity for himself?)
posted by MidasMulligan at 10:42 AM on January 12, 2003


Wood: The other question is the nature of incredible and unsubstantiated claims in the legal world. It seems to me, biscotti, that if I say that I did something that has some legal consequences then I can't defend myself by saying that there is no proof, unless I'm also willing (at the minimum) to repudiate my claim.
Um, from strictly a legal perspective, surely the answer here is: No. If I say I rob a bank, it's down to the state to prove it. I don't, at any point, have to say "Nope, didn't really". At least, that's how I thought it worked, what with that whole presumption of innocence, etc. Of course, once the case is dismissed there's no reason they couldn't bust me for wasting their time, I suppose :)
posted by kaemaril at 11:25 AM on January 12, 2003


[...]do you also wish to have the governement observe all 'unsafe' conceptions?

Fecundation screeners? The Office of Homeland Impurity? Sounds right.
posted by Opus Dark at 3:15 PM on January 12, 2003


Are you talking about this case, rushmc?

I've read of one or two publicly-reported cases, and also have spoken to two different individuals who had this happen within their families.
posted by rushmc at 3:29 PM on January 12, 2003


Kaemaril, if a bank is robbed and you say you did it, you're going to jail. It's called a confession. And in the unforced kind (like the sort you do on your own out in the wide world away from police truncheons) they are widely considered great evidence. Try to get up on the stand and say "I did it, now prove it." The fact that you do this off the stand changes things quite a bit, but not entirely, and not enough, I think, to repudiate the general principal.

p.s. Rough, I was wrong, mea culpa!
posted by Wood at 3:31 PM on January 12, 2003


Seeing as Clonaid's stated goal is to obtain immortality for their members thru the use of clones.
Whether through rampant organ harvesting or some undiscovered form of mind transference or brain transplants.
It seems to me that they view a clone as property to be used however they see fit, and not as a child or a person.

That sounds like a dangerous place to leave a child (clone or not) and the state should take steps to protect it (clone or not)
posted by Trik at 4:52 PM on January 12, 2003


please forgive my ignorance, i haven't informed myself of the current state of legislation regarding cloning... but my opinion is this:

if there is a law against cloning then prosecute the perpetrators, otherwise butt out!

In my mind, if clonaid was successfull in cloning a human they were highly negligent... but neither the child, nor the couple desperate to reproduce are the people that should feel the effects of any possible repurcussions.
posted by canucklehead at 5:02 PM on January 12, 2003


It's a sneaky way to prove or disprove the existance and identity of this child.

I, for one, would like to know.
posted by cinderful at 6:28 PM on January 12, 2003


the image of jack-booted thugs makes me think that effugas is right wing anti-government dittohead whose opinion I should immediately discount.

You couldn't be more mistaken. I have huge respect for our government -- I think it's very sad when people forget that TLA's aren't the only thing that can deprive us of our rights. Hell, it's almost guaranteed that at some point in my career, I'll be working for these guys. Certainly I've already worked with them.

It's just that I don't believe that part of our government's mandate involves driving an American citizen into hiding simply to retain custody of her own child, based the theory that simply having the child is abuse enough. "You shall give us the infant -- for the good of the state" -- I'm sorry, that's terrifying on its face.

Knowing that the lawsuit is being pushed by a PR whore should make me worry less, but that the court may use the opportunity (I note the lack of jurisdiction, but they don't seem to) to acquire the child is horrifying.

My use of the phrase "jack-booted thugs" comes from a very simple truth: Nothing less will tear the child from her mother. Elian may not be apropos -- but the image sure as hell sticks.

Humans have violently defended their children since before they were humans.

Trik -- I've seen no evidence that they'd eventually use the clone for body parts; there's some very interesting questions about inducing births where the brain never develops past a stem (this is a common cause of stillbirth), but almost nobody has seriously suggested that a cloned child has any less rights than, say, the second of identical twins.

--Dan
posted by effugas at 9:48 PM on January 12, 2003


Wasn't there an X-Files episode about clones named Eve (is that really the name of the clone, or am I making that up?) who were raised by the government....? - elf_baby

Yes, as a matter of fact, there was an X-Files episode about clones named "Eve." Read all about it here. (Sorry to go a bit O/T there, but I'm just an X-Phile and couldn't help myself! *wink*)
posted by eclectica at 10:12 PM on January 12, 2003


It's a sneaky way to prove or disprove the existance and identity of this child.

Which is an important thing to establish, and I think that's really what's going on with the case. From the article: "if the judge determines the baby is in danger, she should be turned over to state care." Given the purported extraordinary origin of this child, I don't think it's unfair for someone to examine her and her living situation to determine her health and how she's being cared for.

By far the most likely explanation at this point is that the clone-child simply doesn't exist. We have no proof of anything, just an eccentric group's claim. It's interesting that I happen to have been re-reading Carl Sagan's book The Demon-Haunted World lately - one of his main points is that to make a scientific claim like that, but provide no evidence at all (indeed to refuse to on the foolish pretense that "no one would believe it anyway") is in effect no different than to say the claim is not true.
posted by dnash at 8:24 AM on January 13, 2003


Which is an important thing to establish

Why? Important in a "titillate us, tabloids!" kind of way, maybe. Whether or not these particular children are clones or not, there will soon be many who are, all over the world. The issue is what is important, not the grandstanding, publicity-seeking fringe group.

to make a scientific claim like that, but provide no evidence at all (indeed to refuse to on the foolish pretense that "no one would believe it anyway") is in effect no different than to say the claim is not true.

Hear, hear.
posted by rushmc at 9:11 AM on January 13, 2003


rushmc, I just meant it's important to establish the truth or falsehood of the cloning claim, because if true it's an important scientific event that warrants lots of inquiry and so forth. If someone claimed they'd cured cancer, but wouldn't provide proof, wouldn't we want something done to find out if they were telling the truth or not?

You're right that there may be some tabloid titillation to be found in proving the kid exists and is or isn't a clone. But wouldn't it be better to have the real facts, one way or the other, instead of the wild tabloid speculation?
posted by dnash at 9:44 AM on January 13, 2003


There has to be some sort of a worthy middle ground between the government stepping into family issues over every perceived issue, and the government doing nothing permitting horrific cases of child abuse. This is a case where the government seems to be pretty well out of line, but there have than other cases recently where I am kind of glad that the government chose to step in.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 11:05 AM on January 13, 2003


If someone claimed they'd cured cancer, but wouldn't provide proof, wouldn't we want something done to find out if they were telling the truth or not?

No, we wouldn't. We would dismiss them as kooks.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 12:50 PM on January 13, 2003


But wouldn't it be better to have the real facts, one way or the other, instead of the wild tabloid speculation?

Certainly, it would be better to have the real facts (it always is). But do we have the right to coerce them?
posted by rushmc at 4:57 PM on January 13, 2003


Just wondering here...

How, exactly, is a clone a "child"? It's certainly a "young human," but there is no familial relationship to anyone, at least not one that has previously ben recognized in most forms of law.

If I were the state of Florida and wanted to sieze this kid (I don't know that I would), I might argue that anyone — even the DNA "donor" — would have to formally adopt a clone if they wanted to legally be acknowledged as its "parent."
posted by oddovid at 6:23 PM on January 13, 2003


I would say that (all else being equal) genetic ties supercede legal ties (or lack thereof), oddovid. "Child" may not be the exactly correct term, but to deny the necessary existence of a custodial relationship would be rather silly.
posted by rushmc at 6:28 PM on January 13, 2003


I admit to playing Devil's advocate a bit, but these are precisely the types of issues that ? in the courts or the legislature ? need to be settled.

For instance (and I may be splitting hairs, but that's what lawyers do) the Oxford Dictionary of law defines child as "the offspring of parents." Plural.

A clone is certainly not that, and if cloning were to be allowed the law would have to change one way or another to reflect that. It's fine to simply say "well, it's obvious," but you can bet the first time a clone falls heir to a fortune (say), there'll be other relatives pointing to the legal definitions.

Adopting the sci-fi scenario that clones do become common, they or their families would soon be creating these types of situations as test cases to get these sorts of issues cleared up. The fact that these Clonaid kooks aren't trying to shore up either their scientific or legal cases confirms they're not in earnest.
posted by oddovid at 6:56 PM on January 13, 2003


Maternal psychology doesn't make exceptions for economic necessity or even genetic dissimilarity; mothers giving up their children for adoption and surrogates need to have the baby removed extraordinarily quickly to suppress most of the bonding instinct.

The law is a representation of said instinct, generally whether it likes it or not. What assumption do you think the whole "next of kin" heirarchy plays off of?

Regarding abuse: I submit that the state's a priori abuse claim is itself directly putting the child at risk. Think about it: Whatever you might think of the Clonaid doctors, give them your baby girl to examine, and they'll give her back.

I just can't say the same about the court appointed physician -- not as long as the court(utterly lacking jurisdiction) is willing to entertain the a priori argument.

As such, if I was the parent, It'd be negligent, even reckless to even prove the existence of the child, let alone submit it to a medical examination from which he or she may never return.

It's really a different kind of case, folks: The abuse being claimed is inherent in the existence of the child. That does very nasty things to the calculations of risk, and the legitimate perception of participation in a just system.

Given this turn of events, none of us in good conscience can demand evidence of the child's existence or genetic heritage. Would you yourself provide such evidence if it meant you'd never see your child again?

Of course, this whole fiasco ends up being a great political compromise: Anti-cloners get to see Clonaid's reputation destroyed, while Pro-cloners get to keep researching stem cells and waiting for a proper university to produce the first clone.

It's a great political compromise. The loser is the child who cannot even be known to exist, let alone become the benefactor of the finest medical care in the world. But, did I mention it was a great political compromise?

--Dan
posted by effugas at 7:13 PM on January 13, 2003


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