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Brownback: ‘What is a clone?’ carries enormous implications

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)–With a vote on a proposed cloning ban expected in the U.S. Senate by mid-May, Sen. Sam Brownback is urging voters across the nation to take a stand against the practice.

“The question is, what is a clone?” said Brownback, the key leader of an effort to enact a federal ban on cloning. “Is it a person, or a piece of property, a piece of livestock?”

Making his case recently before 700 Kentuckians — including both of its senators, Mitch McConnell and Jim Bunning — the Kansas Republican said those who advocate cloning fail to consider its implications.

Cloning raises “enormous” issues about humanity’s future, including the question of whether humans will re-create life in their image or allow God to do the creating, Brownback said at the annual banquet of Right to Life of Louisville, Ky., in mid-April.

“A number of people want to research on clones. They want to research on embryos, saying, ‘These are not people, these are pieces of property. They can be done with as their master chooses.'”

Brownback said the pending Senate vote will revive discussion about a topic that has deserved debate since the U.S. Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized abortion. Namely, he said, is a fetus a person or a piece of property?

The same question swirled around slavery, he said, referring to an 1800s Supreme Court decision that ruled slaves were three-fifths of a person.

Likewise, Brownback believes cloning raises similar confusion.

“News accounts say it’s an entity with the potential to be a person,” he said. “We struggle with the idea of acknowledging that this is a person.”

Cloning’s supporters argue it is needed to find cures for such diseases as Alzheimer’s and cancer, he said. But Brownback said the same claims were raised in support of research on fetal tissue and that method hasn’t worked.

In addition, he said, in recent weeks there have been “amazing” advances using adult stem cells to treat multiple sclerosis, manufacture cartilage from fat cells, and repair corneas before putting them back in patients’ eyes.

He said among groups siding with the proposed ban are women’s health groups, who foresee women being exploited by researchers wanting their eggs, and environmentalists, who don’t want animal genetic material placed in humans.

Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieux, a Democrat who supports a woman’s right to choose an abortion, also has signed on as a cosponsor of Brownback’s bill.

“[Cloning] is immoral, unethical, unnecessary and it should be illegal,” Brownback said to hearty applause. “In the words of President Bush, you don’t create life to destroy it.”

Among those in the audience was the leader of a proposed ban on cloning in Kentucky, which passed the state House of Representatives recently but failed in the Senate.

State Rep. Joe Fisher of Fort Thomas, who hopes to reintroduce his bill next year, said no matter what Congress ultimately decides, all states need to adopt legislation against cloning.

While the federal government can ban interstate transportation of cloned material, it is not certain if such a ban would apply within a state, Fisher said.

Citing a 1995 Supreme Court ruling that held the federal government could not ban possession of firearms around a school, he said that precedent casts doubt on whether all cloning could be prohibited across the nation.

Thus far, only Michigan and Virginia have banned cloning and Kansas has been considering it, Fisher said.

Despite testimony during recent hearings that no such research presently occurs within Kentucky, university lobbyists argued scientists should be able to replicate human life for research, Fisher said.

While everyone is opposed “reproductive” cloning that would reproduce a human being, supporters argued that cloning embryos and using their stem cells for the treatment of disease is different, he said.

In reality, they are the same thing, Fisher said.

Without a ban on human cloning, the legislator said it would be impossible to restrict the growing, harvesting and implantation of embryos, predicting the likelihood of “embryo farms.”

“We’re trying to prevent this from happening in the first place so this ethical dilemma doesn’t happen,” Fisher said. “To deny the humanity of an embryo is to deny your own humanity. It contradicts medical ethics. No human life should be extinguished for the benefit of another.”

In an interview after his speech, Brownback noted that the complexity of cloning, and its potential benefits, tend to obscure the reality of the procedure.

While scientists might be able to find a cure for someone’s disease by removing pieces of his or her spinal cord, without one’s consent that wouldn’t be right, he argued.

“But yet it seems as if we continue to get blinded by that, saying this is not a person, it’s property, it’s livestock,” the senator said.

But Brownback also urged the crowd to speak the truth in a loving manner. Noting that the late Mother Teresa was a friend of Sen. Hilary Clinton despite the latter’s pro-abortion stance, he said the late Catholic nun recognized that love brings repentance.

“We should never stop speaking that truth,” he said. “We should always move forward with that great love.”

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  • Ken Walker