The Blog

Cloning Doubletalk

Dianne Feinstein and Orin Hatch pretend that their bill to legalize human cloning is actually a ban.

12:00 AM, Mar 26, 2007 • By WESLEY J. SMITH
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Making matters more difficult, eggs are not currently easy to obtain. It requires that egg suppliers undergo an onerous and sometimes dangerous procedure known as super-ovulation in which a woman of child-bearing years is injected with high doses of hormones so that her ovaries release 10 to 20 eggs in a cycle, instead of the usual one. These eggs are then removed with a needle inserted through the vaginal wall. This procedure is not only uncomfortable (it requires anesthesia), but it can also be risky. About 5 percent of women who undergo super-ovulation experience serious side effects, such as infection, infertility, paralysis, loss of limbs (due to blood clots), and even death.

Given these dangers, few women readily volunteer to become egg donors. As a consequence, some researchers argue that they should be authorized to buy eggs from women. Feminists and others object, worrying that egg markets will exploit poor women who, unlike their better-off sisters, will be enticed to risk their lives, health, and fecundity so that Big Biotech can get rich from human cloning.

And just as it "bans" "human cloning," S. 812 purports to ban egg purchases, too. Only it doesn't. Section II (e)(2) states:

Prohibition on Purchase or Sale--No human oocyte or unfertilized blastocyst [meaning cloned embryo] may be acquired, received, or otherwise transferred for valuable consideration if the transfer affects interstate commerce.

Sounds good, right? Not so fast: What Feinstein and Hatch appear to take away from Big Biotech with one hand, they then give back to with the other, by restricting the meaning of the term "valuable consideration" in Section 2(C)(ii). To wit:

The term "valuable consideration" does not include payments . . . to compensate a donor of one or more human oocytes for the time or inconvenience associated with such donation.

So, while the eggs themselves may not be purchased, women can be paid to for the "discomfort and inconvenience" of being super-ovulated to produce the eggs, which, money in hand, she would then "donate" for cloning research. This sleight of hand would put Mandrake the Magician to shame.

THROUGH DECEPTIVE DEFINITIONS and smoke and mirror redirection, the Human Cloning Ban and Stem Cell Protection Act of 2007 claims to ban human cloning, but actually legalizes it. It purports to prohibit egg buying, when instead it explicitly opens the door to paying women to be egg "donors." And it purports to protect "stem-cell research," even though that area of experimentation isn't anywhere mentioned in the bill--other than in the title. The question then, is whether Dianne Feinstein and Orin Hatch are intentionally deceiving the American people, or are merely ignorant about the content of their own legislation.

Wesley J. Smith is a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute, an attorney for the International Task Force on Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide, and a special consultant to the Center for Bioethics and Culture. His website is wesleyjsmith.com.