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The Arrival of Human Cloning

It’s here. Don’t get used to it.

May 27, 2013, Vol. 18, No. 35 • By WESLEY J. SMITH
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That workaround isn’t available when the point is precisely the creation of embryos for research. These will not be “leftover embryos” from in vitro fertilization—the current funding requirement. Moreover, the Dickey-Wicker Amendment is not a permanent federal statute. Rather, like the Hyde Amendment prohibiting Medicaid funding of abortion, it must be passed each year as part of the budgetary process. Now that human cloning has arrived, look for its proponents to oppose reauthorizing Dickey-Wicker, even as opponents mount an effort to make the amendment permanent. 

Exploitation of women. SCNT requires one egg for each attempt at cloning, but human eggs for use in research are in short supply. So the biotech industry is seeking legal authorization to pay women for their eggs. The harvesting of eggs, however, can harm the supplier. The potential side effects include infection, loss of fertility, stroke, and in rare cases death.

The recent Cell paper paid a great deal of attention to the egg issue. Apparently, not just any eggs can be used if cloning is to be successful. “SCNT reprogramming is dependent on human oocyte [egg] quality,” the authors write. Indeed, most of the eggs the researchers used provided poor embryos, but the four highest-quality cloned embryos—those from which embryonic stem cells were derived—all grew from eggs supplied by the same donor. This, the paper says, “warrants further studies .  .  .to elucidate the genetic and clinical parameters associated with optimal oocyte quality for human SCNT.”

Yikes. Not only will cloning encourage treating women’s reproductive assets as marketable commodities, but a concentrated search may soon be on for women who can produce prime cloning-quality eggs—furthering the objectification of female biological functions. Expect an additional political conflagration over legal efforts to protect women from being exploited by the biotechnology industry. 

The fact that human beings can be cloned is a scientific triumph, but it is also an ethical earthquake. Because these experiments offer the potential to advance scientific knowledge, they will tempt us—always for “the best” reasons—to set aside our convictions about the intrinsic dignity of all human life. 

Wesley J. Smith is a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute’s Center on Human Exceptionalism. He also consults with the Patients Rights Council and the Center for Bioethics and Culture. 

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