SharksWithLasers -- Seth Cooper

A CUTTING-EDGE BLOG FOR THE WORLD OF THE 21st CENTURY, Currently operated by Seth L. Cooper, a 27 year-old attorney in Seattle (sethlcooper at comcast dot net)

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

WASHINGTON STATE'S JUNK BIOLOGY BILL. The attack of the cloners has come to Washington State, in the guise of Senate Bill 5594. The bill is misleading in the extreme, purporting to ban human cloning in the State while redefining the term “cloning” later in the bill so as to give the green light to such unethical activity. This bill should be strongly opposed.

In today’s National Review Online, Wesley J. Smith aptly describes and analyzes this bill in his article “Stealth Cloning.” Smith is an author of a new book on bioethics, an operator of a new blog called Secondhand Smoke, and has testified before many state legislatures on the issue of human cloning. He describes SB 5594 as:

a thoroughly disingenuous piece of legislation that purports to outlaw the cloning of human beings, but by manipulating language and redefining terms, actually permits human cloning and gestation of the resulting cloned embryos through the ninth month.


The primary method of cloning is known as somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT), which (when successful) results in an asexually produced cloned embryo. If SB 5594 truly were to outlaw human cloning in Washington State, it would outlaw SCNT. Instead, the bill engages in deception by simply REDEFINING “cloning of a human being” as

asexual reproduction by implanting or attempting to implant the product of nuclear transplantation [e.g., an embryo] into a uterus or substitute for a uterus with the purpose of producing a human being.


Under SB 5594’s tortured definition, cloning only means cloning for the purpose of bringing a human being to birth. While I’m no medical expert, my legal training serves me quite well in detecting the shell game being played here. Proponents of SB 5594 hope to win by rigging the terms of the debate. Yet, when carefully read, the deceitful nature of the bill is obvious to ANY reader.

The debate over human cloning is not simply a dimension of the abortion debate. Our laws in this regard have come to recognize a zone of privacy involving a woman’s choice about what happens to her own body that a government cannot intrude upon. While good people can disagree on the matter, those privacy considerations are simply NOT present in the cloning debate, where the issue is simply this: are we going to treat human life as something that can be grown only to be destroyed and harvested as raw materials?

Proponents of human cloning want to do precisely this, turning human life into a commodity and source for experimentation unbounded by ethical constraints. But in so doing they must trample upon our understanding of human dignity and human equality—that human life is unique and important simply because it’s human.

This proposed legislation was the subject of Matt Rosenberg’s post (here) last week. Some interesting comments followed that post, including those by Timothy Goddard. Given his background in biology, one hopes he will have more to say on this subject and the bill.

SB 5594 is sponsored by Senators Kohl-Welles, Franklin, Thibaudeau and Kline, and received a hearing in the Senate Committee on Labor, Commerce, Research & Development on February 8. As of this post, no action has since been taken on the bill. I recommend you read Smith's article and contact your legislators.

By the way, Smith is a Discovery Institute Senior Fellow and will be speaking in the Seattle area on human cloning and stem cell research on February 23.

(Cross-blogged at Sound Politics.)

(Downtown Seattle, WA)

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