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Jewish World Review Jan. 22, 2002 / 9 Shevat, 5762

Cal Thomas

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Roe vs. Wade vs. cloning -- THE National Academy of Sciences has concluded that creating human clones is unsafe and should be outlawed. However, the NAS would permit cloning from human embryos for the purpose of conducting research on possible cures for diseases.

How appropriate in the 29th anniversary month of Roe vs. Wade, which effectively declassified human beings as unique compared to other living things, that an influential scientific body should take one more step away from a model of humanity based on intrinsic value and toward a utilitarian model which says that humans, like everything else, have only the value assigned them by society.

The language used by the NAS in a report released Friday (Jan. 18) reveals the group's moral emptiness. Cloning for research is referred to not as "therapeutic cloning'' but "nuclear transplantation to produce stem cells.'' Perhaps "cloning'' was not testing well in focus groups, so advocates had to come up with more acceptable words. This is nothing new. The Third Reich employed euphemisms to anesthetize any latent German moral consciousness. "Transportation Company for the Sick'' was a sign placed on trucks that rolled through German streets carrying human cargo to their final earthly destinations. America long ago moved from "abortion'' to "pregnancy termination.'' It sounds nicer.

The NAS opposes reproductive cloning not because of any moral consideration, but only because it is "unsafe'' at this time. "Human reproductive cloning should NOT NOW be practiced,'' the NAS report states (emphasis mine). With no moral compass, science may well approve the procedure in the future when what is "safe'' will be redefined. Abortions are "safe,'' according to official medical doctrine, but they are never "safe'' for the baby being killed and are frequently unsafe for the mother, considering the physical, psychological and spiritual harm many women say they suffer from the procedure.

Again, the NAS deifies public opinion when it says the issue of reproductive cloning should be revisited within five years if new scientific and medical literature indicates cloning people would be safe and if "a broad national dialogue on the societal, religious and ethical issues'' suggests that reconsideration is warranted. One can always find people -- especially clergy -- to endorse and justify anything. The late Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun, when he crafted the ruling in Roe vs. Wade, found clergy to give him what he thought would be moral cover.

Most members of the new President's Council on Bioethics strongly oppose any type of cloning, a position endorsed by President Bush. Members of both parties in Congress have indicated they would like to see restrictions on cloning.

Council member Dr. Michael S. Gazzaniga, director of the Center for Cognitive Neuroscience at Dartmouth College, argued at a meeting of the panel on Friday (Jan. 18) that research scientists should regard human embryos the way doctors look at organs they intend to transplant. One "harvests'' organs from a patient who is brain dead, and because an embryo also lacks a brain, there is no difference, Gazzaniga said.

Dr. Leon Kass, council chairman, said that analogy bothered him.

"Doesn't bother me,'' replied Dr. Gazzaniga.

"Should it?'' asked Dr. Kass.

"That's just something you're comfortable with or not comfortable with,'' Gazzaniga shrugged.

Dr. Gazzaniga perfectly reflects our imprecise and shifting morality. One's comfort level is now the standard by which people determine moral truth. "If it feels good, do it'' was unsophisticated and sounded self-centered. "Nuclear transplantation'' sounds scientific, trendy, even ennobling. Those developing humans who are about to die salute you, Dr. Gazzaniga.

In Roe and subsequent court decisions sired by this illegitimate and immoral ruling, the final legal protection of human life was removed. People who now seek distinctions between reproductive cloning to copy one's self and therapeutic cloning to cure diseases engage in ethical hairsplitting. Unless humans are seen as created in G-d's image and endowed by Him with the right to live, there will be no stopping the scientists and doctors from doing whatever they wish to whomever they will. Their only obligation will be to make us comfortable. Sufficient psychological, pharmacological and media assistance will help them achieve these ends.

No wonder the ancient writer warned of the consequences of proceeding as if we are our own G-d: "In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit.'' (Judges 21:25)

JWR contributor Cal Thomas is the author of, among others, The Wit and Wisdom of Cal Thomas Comment by clicking here.

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