Yesterday, the Democratic House voted on a bill to authorize human cloning. Under the bill, scientists would be able to create cloned human embryos and then to destroy those embryos in the process of producing stem cells. But Nancy Pelosi and her colleagues know perfectly well that cloning is unpopular, so they pretended that the bill bans human cloning.
The bill forbids scientists from implanting a cloned human embryo into a womb, and thus it bans the production of cloned babies. But the act of cloning — the artificial creation of an organism that is the genetic replica of another — would itself be legal.
Many Americans believe that stem-cell research on “excess” human embryos at fertility clinics should proceed. The argument that those embryos will just be “wasted” seems, unfortunately, to have great force for a lot of people. It is important to note that this argument does not apply to cloning. Yesterday’s bill concerned the mass production of living human organisms for research. Polling data show that many fewer Americans support crossing that line, even when the word “cloning” is not mentioned in the polls.
It must be conceded that research on cloned embryos has more scientific potential than research on fertility-clinic embryos. But it has become increasingly clear that other methods of research, which do not involve cloning or embryo destruction, have the same potential. Just yesterday Nature released a study on how adult cells can be reprogrammed to function like embryonic stem cells.
A bare majority of the House voted down this deceptive, unnecessary, and unethical bill. Even 31 Democrats voted no. Today, the House takes up another stem-cell bill: this one a measure to provide federal funding for research on the fertility-clinic embryos. By bringing up the cloning bill, however, Pelosi should have reminded all of us that this measure is part of a larger bioethical agenda that is dangerous and, thankfully, still unpopular.