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John Kerry’s Doubletalk on Cloning Human Embryos

Aug 24, 2004 | Killing Embryos

To:       Journalists and Commentators

From:   Douglas Johnson
            Legislative Director, National Right to Life Committee (NRLC)
(202) 626-8820, or send e-mail to Legfederal@aol.com
For further information, see:  http://nrlc.org///killing_embryos/

Re:       John Kerry’s doubletalk on cloning human embryos

Date:    August 24, 2004

Senator John Kerry is misrepresenting both current government policy and the scientific facts regarding medical research using human stem cells.

At the same time, Senator Kerry is trying to obfuscate his support for using CLONING to mass create human embryos for research.  Two national polls released yesterday may point to the motive for this doubletalk.

Some of Kerry’s many recent distortions regarding “stem cell research” are critiqued in a recent column by Will Saletan, the chief political correspondent for Slate (“Revelation of the Nerds:  The religion of stem-cell research,” August 10, 2004).
http://slate.msn.com/id/2104983/

The sweeping implications of Kerry’s positions, particularly with respect to the use of cloning to produce human embryos for research, are explored in “The Party of Cloning,” by Eric Cohen of the Ethics and Public Policy Center (The Weekly Standard, August 30, 2004). http://theweeklystandard.com/Content/Public/Articles/000/000/004/496nwmnv.asp

The practice of using cloning to create human embryos for research is often referred to as “therapeutic cloning” (although a more objective and neutral term is “cloning for research”).  Kerry has endorsed so-called ‘therapeutic cloning’ for years.   [“While I am opposed to reproductive cloning, I believe that the process of somatic cell nuclear transplant (SCNT), commonly referred to as therapeutic cloning, should be protected.”  Kerry letter of Sept. 3, 2002.]  On July 13, 2004, Kerry cosponsored a bill (S. 303) to allow the mass creation of human embryos by cloning solely for research, as long as they are not allowed to continue developing past 14 days.  This bill has nothing whatever to do with so-called “excess” embryos created and stored in vitro fertilization (IVF) clinics.

Kerry’s sponsorship of this bill was specifically referenced by a staffer on the national Kerry campaign, quoted in a news story that appeared in the August 10 Wall Street Journal:

Kerry policy director Sarah Bianchi says the Kerry bill prohibits cloned embryos from developing for more than 14 days or from being implanted in a uterus so they could produce live births.

(The entire August 10 WSJ story, “Kerry treads cloning tightrope,” is reproduced below.)

Yet, in blatant contradiction, this same “national policy director” was quoted as follows in the August 19 Associated Press story:

Bianchi said Kerry would allow scientists to study leftover embryos that had been created for infertility treatment and would otherwise be discarded.  Kerry is “absolutely not” suggesting creating embryos for the sole purpose of research, Bianchi said. 

(The AP story appeared in USA Today here: http://www.usatoday.com/news/politicselections/nation/president/2004-08-20-virtual-candidates_x.htm )

Innumerable prominent supporters of “therapeutic cloning” have acknowledged what should be obvious — somatic cell nuclear transfer (sometimes called “nuclear transplantation”), using a human nucleus, produces an embryo of the species homo sapiens, otherwise known as a human embryo.  This is “human cloning,” even if it is conducted for some purpose other than giving birth.  (If the cloning process did not produce a human embryo, it could hardly turn into a human baby if implanted in a uterus, and the ban on implantation in the Kerry bill would make no sense.  Dolly the cloned sheep began as Dolly the cloned sheep embryo, and so it has been with every other cloned mammal.)  For quotes from pro-cloning or neutral sources demonstrating that “therapeutic cloning” creates human embryos for research, see:
http://nrlc.org///uploads/killingembryos/factsheetembryo.pdf
http://nrlc.org///federal/killingembryos/gearheart022603.html

Why, then, the new claim by Bianchi that Kerry “absolutely [does] not” favor creating human embryos for research?  Perhaps the Kerry campaign’s internal polling has found results similar to those of two new polls, which were conducted independently in mid-August using scientific polling methods (by coincidence, both were released on August 23):

Wilson Research Strategies, Inc., 1,000 national adults, August 16-18, 2004, margin of error 3.1%:
Which of the following comes closest to your view?
1.  Cloning to create human embryos for stem cell research which would kill them should be allowed and only cloning for reproduction should be banned:  24%
2.  All human cloning should be banned:  69%
3.  Don’t know / refused:  7%
[Other questions and answers in this poll relating to stem cell research are found here:
http://nrlc.org///uploads/killingembryos/NRLCStemCellPoll.pdf ]

International Communications Research, weighted sample of 1,001 adults, August 13-17, 2004, margin of error 3%:
Should scientists be allowed to use human cloning to create a supply of human embryos to be destroyed in medical research?
Yes:  13.3%
No:  79.8%
Don’t know:  6.1%
Refused:  0.7%
[Other questions and answers in this poll related to cloning and other forms of embryonic stem cell research are found here: http://www.usccb.org/comm/archives/2004/04-163.htm ]

In the new essay linked above, Eric Cohen writes, “So it seems Democrats are now poised to cross yet another ethical and political boundary:  federal funding for the creation, study, and destruction of cloned human embryos. . . . the ideology of stem cells has made the Democrats the party of cloning.  And like all true believers, they believe inconvenient facts can be ignored and that history is on their side.”

Journalists should not be enablers in Kerry’s attempt to deny the inconvenient fact that “therapeutic cloning” involves the mass creation and destruction of human embryos, nor should his campaign be indulged in its new claim that he does not favor the very result that the legislation he has cosponsored would authorize.

*****

THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
August 10, 2004; Page A4

Kerry Treads Cloning Tightrope
Support for Stem-Cell Research Isn’t a Sure Bet With Voters
By ANTONIO REGALADO and BOB DAVIS

Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry supports creating cloned
human embryos for research, a position that could complicate his efforts
to woo undecided voters with the issue of stem-cell research.

Such cloning raises a variety of vexing ethical issues, including
whether it is proper to create human life knowing it will be destroyed,
and whether research cloning could become a step toward full cloning of
human beings, known as reproductive cloning. Mr. Kerry says he would
prohibit reproductive cloning; rather he would back a limited form of
cloning to treat certain diseases.

Mr. Kerry’s position on cloning could become a focus of voter concern.
That is because the Democratic ticket has been using the stem-cell issue
as a way to attack President Bush on his handling of science and health
issues.

Mr. Bush has said he opposes all forms of cloning. Mr. Kerry would back
the creation of cloned embryos, as one way to obtain stem cells from
patients themselves that then could be used for treatments. Stem cells
are the precursor cells that turn into muscle, organs and all other
forms of tissue and which researchers hope eventually can be used to
treat Parkinson’s disease, diabetes and other diseases.

Yesterday, Democrats and Republicans pushed competing messages on the
third anniversary of a decision by Mr. Bush to allow limited federal
funding of research on existing lines of stem cells taken from embryos
left over from fertility clinics. At the time, the White House estimated
more than 60 lines existed, though only 21 have become available.

Mr. Kerry’s running mate, Sen. John Edwards, said yesterday a
Democratic administration would pursue a two-tiered approach. Democrats
would lift Mr. Bush’s restrictions on research involving embryonic stem
cells and allow research grants for cells created after the Aug. 9,
2001, deadline, increase government funding and institute ethical
controls. It also would back therapeutic cloning, for research purposes.
Therapeutic cloning, in contrast to the research Mr. Bush permits on a
limited number of stem-cell lines taken from embryos, produces new
embryos in laboratories and doesn’t just use spares.

As early as 2003, Mr. Kerry wrote to Massachusetts constituents that
such cloning was necessary to create new stem-cell lines that could
“avoid the rejection complications associated with current stem-cell
therapies.” Two weeks before the Democratic convention, Mr. Kerry
co-sponsored legislation that permits the cloning technique.

Kerry policy director Sarah Bianchi says the Kerry bill prohibits
cloned embryos from developing for more than 14 days or from being
implanted in a uterus so they could produce live births. “The
legislation draws a good line,” she says.

Rep. Michael Castle, a Delaware Republican who backs easing
restrictions on stem cells, says the cloning issue could undermine
political support for that position. “It’s a potential political issue
in the campaign,” he says. “Opponents could say that anyone who is for
broadening of embryonic stem-cell lines is also for so-called
therapeutic cloning.”

Some scientists and patients-rights advocates have pressed Mr. Bush to
expand the number of stem-cell lines the federal government will back.
They say a ready supply of discarded embryos exists in the freezers of
fertility labs that could be used for research. Although antiabortion
advocates say destroying such embryos to capture stem cells is wrong,
they acknowledge they have been losing the public debate to patients’
advocates. The high-profile support of Nancy Reagan and her son, Ron
Reagan, also have given a boost to stem-cell advocates.

“It’s pure political clout,” says Richard Doerflinger, an opponent of
research on embryonic stem cells at the U.S. Conference of Catholic
Bishops.

Charges that Mr. Bush’s policy is hurting people with devastating
diseases have Republicans on the defensive. Yesterday, Jay Lefkowitz, a
former White House official, emphasized that Mr. Bush’s policy actually
“unleashed federal funding for the first time.” First lady Laura Bush
also said proponents were overstating the technology’s potential. “I
hope that stem-cell research will yield cures,” Mrs. Bush said in an
interview with the Associated Press. “But I know that embryonic
stem-cell research is very preliminary right now.”

The debate is likely to shift beyond the issue of using discarded
embryos toward cloning. Proposition 71, a measure on November’s
California ballot, seeks to raise $3 billion for stem-cell research and
offers heavy support for embryo cloning.

Categories: Killing Embryos