Cloning and Congressional responsibility

Posted: Nov 30, 2001 12:00 AM
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- You gotta love irony. This week, a condom manufacturer announced the results of a worldwide survey on sex and proclaimed the United States the "world's sexual superpower." According to the company, Americans average 124 sexual encounters annually, beating even the libido-driven French for top love-making honors. (124 times?!!__- who are these people?) And in the same week, an American laboratory announced that as amorous as we are, there is the need -- and the ability -- to create human life other than "the old-fashioned way." Advanced Cell Technology (ACT), a research company based in Massachusetts, claims it has successfully cloned human life. Leave it to scientists to take all the fun out of things. The history of cloning actually dates back to the 1950s, when Robert Briggs and Thomas King cloned a tadpole in 1952. But it was in 1997 that cloning was brought to the world's attention, when Scottish scientist Ian Wilmut and his colleagues at the Roslin Institute announced that they had successfully cloned a sheep named Dolly -- making the ewe the first inhabitant of our brave new world. In 1998, mice were replicated from adult cells at the University of Hawaii. Last year, it was learned that in Oregon a rhesus monkey named Tetra was cloned by dividing an embryo into four pieces -- three of which did not survive -- technically making Tetra an "artificial quadruplet." In the spring of this year, American scientist Panayiotis Zavos announced that he and his team would be ready to clone humans for couples with infertility troubles. And now, the claim by scientists from Advanced Cell Technology that it had cloned a human embryo is being echoed by others yelling, "Me too," in the race to play God. Just hours after the ACT assertion appeared in print, Brigitte Boisselier, of Clonaid, another "bio-engineering company," purported that her company has been "doing embryos every day." Neither company's claim has been subjected to "peer review," but they did succeed in getting what they apparently wanted even more than scientific verification -- attention. Unfortunately for those tinkering with human life, and proudly announcing their "breakthrough achievement," very little of the attention they received could be classified as "positive reinforcement." President Bush described the human cloning experiments as "morally wrong" and went on to say, "We should not as a society grow life to destroy it." The Vatican issued a statement saying that "despite the declared 'humanistic' intentions by those who predict sensational cures via this path ... what is needed is a calm but firm judgment which shows the moral gravity of this plan and which motivates an unequivocal condemnation.'' And Dr. Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, called for Congress to pass a "comprehensive ban on human cloning." And therein lies the problem. The Congress, as usual, can't manage to get its act together. Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., called the experiments "ghoulish," and Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., called upon the Senate to act "before the Christmas recess" on the bill, passed in July by the House of Representatives, banning cloning. It won't happen. There are too many in the Senate wedded to the unrealistic expectation that human cloning is going to lead to some "miracle breakthrough" for debilitating and deadly maladies. They apparently believe that it's OK to kill a few little "human embryos" if it will help to save many adult humans. Sadly, by the end of the week in which the scientists announced their "success" in cloning human life, the story had died like their embryos. The brief interlude of "congressional concern" over human cloning was soon subsumed by a flurry of generally good news from Afghanistan and bad news about the economy. The American people, grown complacent over the killing of unborn children in their mother's wombs, hardly seem to care that other lives are being snuffed out in laboratory petri dishes. And almost no one took notice when the pro-suicide Hemlock Society announced this week that it is going to help doctors in Oregon fight Attorney General John Ashcroft's decision that doctors using federally controlled drugs to kill their patients could lose their licenses. Congress continues to fail us. It refuses to protect the lives of the unborn. It has failed to prevent physicians from killing their patients. And it is long past time for Congress to act on legislation to prevent the cloning of human life. But then again, this is the same Congress that failed in its responsibility to declare war against those who use airliners to take human life. It's probably asking too much of that same Congress to act responsibly when it comes to the most innocent of all -- the lives created in laboratories just so that they can be killed. Jack Kevorkian, must be laughing in his cell.