Holy See's Call for a Ban on All Human Cloning

U.N. Speech by Archbishop Migliore

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NEW YORK, SEPT. 30, 2003 (Zenit.org).- Here is the text of the Holy See’s speech delivered Monday at a U.N. session on human cloning. Archbishop Celestino Migliore, permanent observer of the Holy See to the United Nations, gave the speech.

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Statement by
H.E. Archbishop Celestino Migliore,
Apostolic Nuncio, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the U.N.
on Agenda Item 158:
International Convention against the Reproductive Cloning of Human Beings

Mr. Chairman,

On behalf of my Delegation, allow me to congratulate you and other members of the Bureau on your election. We stand ready to cooperate with you and all other delegations in deliberating and deciding upon this important issue regarding human cloning.

The item on human cloning has been on our agenda for over two years now. Its multifaceted impact on the very life of all humanity as well as on convictions rooted in different cultures requires a common set of clear benchmarks that expeditiously address all of the issues concerning human cloning. In order to contribute to the debate in a constructive manner, my delegation has presented its views in a position paper that offers some parameters within which the debate could possibly unfold. The position paper has been circulated by this Working Group under document symbol, A/C.6/WG/CRP.1, which is now before you.

While virtually all delegations stand in opposition to reproductive cloning, there is a diversity of views on the so-called «therapeutic» cloning; however, we must understand as clearly as we can that the distinction between the two is superficial.

Mr. Chairman,

We do need to support the advancement of human biological sciences to the benefit of all members of the human family. To this end, the Holy See supports the procurement of human «adult» stem cells as well as the use, for research or experimental purposes, of the «adult» stem cells, and of material derived from them, when it is pursued in a way that does not offend human dignity and, if applied clinically, respects the principle of informed consent. Procuring, investigating and developing potential therapies with «adult» stem cells, as far as is known, is a scientific course that holds great promise.

On the other end of the spectrum, the cloning of human embryos to produce stem cells for potential therapeutic use has not only failed to demonstrate any verifiable scientific promise, it also raises serious ethical questions. The experimental or research cloning of embryonic stem cells requires the production of millions of human embryos with the intention of destroying them as part of the process of using them for scientific research. The early human embryo, not yet implanted into a womb, is nonetheless a human individual, with a human life, and evolving as an autonomous organism toward its full development. Destroying this embryo results in a deliberate suppression of an innocent human life.

Mr. Chairman,

My delegation is of the view that any possible attempt to limit a ban on human cloning to that undertaken for reproductive purposes would be nearly impossible to enforce simply because human embryos cloned for research purposes would be widely available and would have the potential to be brought to birth. Since human reproductive cloning is universally condemned, only a complete ban on all forms of human embryonic cloning would achieve the goal of prohibiting human reproductive cloning.

There are other grave ethical problems which are of concern to my delegation. In the first place, if «research» cloning with embryos were permitted, it would require, to be effective, a large number of human eggs or oocytes. The process of obtaining these eggs, which is not without risk, would use women’s bodies as mere reservoirs of oocytes, instrumentalizing women and undermining their dignity. In the second place, the massive demand for human oocytes would disproportionately affect the poor and marginalized women of the world bringing a new type of injustice, victimization and discrimination into existence.

Furthermore, a partial ban on «reproductive» cloning would only encourage the development of commerce in cloned human embryos and their derivatives for scientific research or for industrial research and related development purposes.

Mr. Chairman,

These points lead to one logical conclusion: only a comprehensive convention on human cloning, that would address all these issues and not just reproductive cloning, will be able to respond to the challenges of the twenty-first century on this issue. Situations that pose grave dangers to human dignity can only be effectively addressed by international agreements that are comprehensive, not partial. While a partial agreement might address immediately some issues related to human cloning, it could generate more problems. The most durable solution should therefore be an all-inclusive legal instrument. In fact, comprehensive conventions are not at all new to this Organization and lately they would even seem to be the preferred legal instrument. Moreover, an all-inclusive convention could provide a legal instrument that would sufficiently enable States to formulate appropriate domestic legislation on human cloning. For all these reasons, my delegation wishes to reiterate its fundamental position that only a comprehensive convention will be able to address all issues related to human cloning.

Mr. Chairman,

As we debate this important issue, let us remain positive in our outlook and constructive in our objective. In this spirit, my delegation shares the view of many others that the procurement and use of human «adult» stem cells, is a moral and sound way to help all, not just some, human beings. With the passage of each day, their great scientific promise increases. Do we really want to render an effective and timely service to many of our fellow human beings suffering from incurable diseases? I am sure we all do. Let’s give a powerful signal in that direction.

In this context, let me recall here an old and wise principle of conduct. When, in an effort to advance human science or to help human beings in need, one faces a choice between an unobjectionable means, such as «adult» stem cells, and a means that is universally recognized as raising profound ethical questions, such as «research» cloning, prudence dictates choosing only the unobjectionable means.

For these reasons, the Holy See seeks a complete and explicit prohibition of all techniques of creating new individual human embryos by cloning.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

(Text distributed by Holy See Mission)

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