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Are Human Clones Really Human?

Jun 17, 2002 | Killing Embryos

What follows is an excerpt from a letter sent to U.S. Senators on the human cloning issue by NRLC on June 17, 2002.  The complete NRLC letter is posted at www.nrlc.org/Killing_Embryos/senateletter061702.html.

Biotech lobbyists and their allies are currently torturing language and logic in insisting that humans created by the cloning process will not really be human.  For example, on June 14 Senator Feinstein took the Senate floor to argue in favor of legislation to allow human cloning if the clones are not allowed to live past 14 days.  Senator Feinstein repeatedly referred to these developing members of the species Homo sapiens, up to 14 days old, as “unfertilized eggs,” and she even asserted that such an “unfertilized egg is not capable of becoming a human being.”  (Congressional Record, June 14, 2002, page S. 5580)

When Senator Feinstein refers here to “eggs,” she is really talking about two-week-old human embryos.  Her assertion that such a two-week-old embryo “is not capable of becoming a human being” is nonsense.  Even one who does not consider a two-week-old human embryo to be a human being must admit, if possessed of a shred of intellectual honesty, that one of these cloned embryonic humans if implanted into a uterus can indeed be born as a human baby — as has already occurred with Dolly the sheep and countless other cloned mammals.  As President Clinton’s National Bioethics Advisory Commission, in its 1997 reportCloning Human Beings, stated:  “The Commission began its discussions fully recognizing that any effort in humans to transfer a somatic cell nucleus into an enucleated egg involves the creation of an embryo, with the apparent potential to be implanted in utero and developed to term.”  (For quotations in which NIH and prominent pro-cloning researchers also acknowledge that somatic cell nuclear transfer will create a “human embryo,” see www.nrlc.org/Killing_Embryos/factsheetembryo.html)

Really, if the subject were not so serious, dehumanizing word games such as Senator Feinstein’s would be downright laughable.  (See “The Amazing Vanishing Embryo Trick,”www.nationalreview.com/comment/comment-johnson071701.shtml )  Yes, of course, Dolly and all the other cloned mammals are “unfertilized,” in the sense that their individual lives began not with a sexual union of sperm and egg  (“fertilization”), but through laboratory activation of a nucleus taken from a single parent.  That is what cloning is – asexual reproduction.  Like the human clones envisioned by Senator Feinstein, every one of these cloned mammals were “unfertilized” when they were two-week-old embryos.  They were “unfertilized” as they developed in the uterus, they were “unfertilized” when they were born, and they will be “unfertilized” for as long as they live.

In the same fashion, if an “unfertilized” (because cloned) human embryo is implanted, develops through the pre-natal period, is born, and lives to be one hundred, he or she will still be “unfertilized.”  Would Senator Feinstein say that such a born human clone is not a “human being”?

Perhaps there are some who would indeed so assert.  In a press release dated February 5, 2002, Senator Hatch said, “No doubt somewhere, some — such as the Ralians — are trying to make a name for themselves and are busy trying to apply the techniques that gave us Dolly the Sheep to human beings. Frankly, I am not sure that human being would even be the correct term for such an individual heretofore unknown in nature.”

Categories: Killing Embryos