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Ethicist urges effort to make cloning international human rights violation

WASHINGTON (BP)–Congressional adoption of a ban on human cloning should be the first step by the United States in a campaign to make such a practice an “international human rights violation,” a Southern Baptist bioethicist said.

The Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission has called for a legislative prohibition on human cloning. Such legislation was introduced recently in Congress. The Human Cloning Prohibition Act, S. 790 and H.R. 1644, would establish a ban on all human cloning, whether it is done for reproductive purposes or for research on embryos.

“Because we live in a global, scientific village, we need to pass this bill quickly and then make determined efforts to collaborate with an international ban on human cloning,” said Ben Mitchell, biomedical consultant for the ERLC.

“We stand at a momentous fork in the road,” said Mitchell, associate professor of bioethics and contemporary culture at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. “This bill would prevent us from going down the road to ‘man-made man.’

“We must have a ban on both reproductive and therapeutic cloning,” he said. “So-called therapeutic cloning, or research cloning, would not only result in the destruction of embryos for experimental purposes but would inevitably lead to reproductive cloning. Once cloned embryos were available in a clinic’s lab, any doctor could implant those embryos into a woman who wanted to carry that embryo to term. Since all of that could be done in the privacy of a doctor’s office, the only effective means of prevention is to criminalize cloning.”

In introducing their bills, the chief sponsors, Sen. Sam Brownback, R.-Kan., and Rep. Dave Weldon, R.-Fla., denied there is a “need for this technology to ever be used with humans — whether for reproductive purposes or for destructive research purposes.”

Brownback chaired a hearing recently on human cloning at which both proponents and foes of his legislation testified. At the hearing before the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Science, Technology and Space, Brownback said the importance of this issue “cannot be underestimated. It is an issue that touches on our humanity in a way few issues” have, he said, according to a written release.

Among those who are promoting cloning are Panos Zavos, formerly of the University of Kentucky, and Italian physician Severino Antinori. They have teamed up to establish the International Cloning Consortium and have said they intend to clone a human being in the near future.

In addition to the ERLC, other organizations supporting the legislative ban are the U.S. Catholic Conference, the United Methodist General Board of Church and Society, National Right to Life Committee and Family Research Council.

At the 1997 SBC meeting, messengers approved a resolution supporting a legislative ban on human cloning and human-embryo research.