British Bishops Urge Support for U.N. Ban on All Human Cloning

In Message to Prime Minister Blair

LONDON, SEPT. 23, 2003 ( The Catholic bishops of England and Wales are urging the British government to back a U.N. resolution supported by over 30 states calling for a total ban on human cloning.

As the United Nations prepares to discuss a series of draft resolutions on cloning next week, Cardiff Archbishop Peter Smith, chairman of the bishops’ Department for Christian Responsibility and Citizenship, wrote to Prime Minister Tony Blair to air his concerns.

“The distinction which the UK government has repeatedly drawn in promoting regulations and legislation between reproductive cloning and research cloning — so-called therapeutic cloning — has been heavily criticized by many countries,” said Archbishop Smith.

“In this debate, language is slippery,” he said. “Some things now being called ‘therapeutic cloning’ are perfectly morally acceptable: There is nothing wrong with taking adult stem cells or other cells in the body and cloning them. But what is deeply wrong is the creation of new human lives by cloning, when these lives are then destroyed. This too is being called ‘therapeutic cloning.'”

The archbishop added: “Huge advances have recently been made in adult stem cell research, which is producing prospects of treatment using stem cells without any need to clone young human lives to harvest them.”

“The UK government wants to support a ban on ‘reproductive’ cloning alone,” he said. “But the difference consists only in the objective in the procedure — whether the cloned human life is to be implanted in the womb to be born, or simply used for stem cell research and then destroyed. What we need is a total ban on cloning human lives.”

Meanwhile, more than 60 of the world’s leading scientific academies have urged the United Nations not to ban all forms of human cloning.

Such a global ban, the Interacademy Panel argued Monday, would stifle one of the most promising fields of medical research, the Times of London reported. The proposed measure would block important work with embryonic cells that are “less complex in the biological sense than the average potato,” said Lord May of Oxford, the president of Britain’s Royal Society, one of 63 institutions that have endorsed the document.

His remark outraged pro-life groups. “Lord May’s ideological bias for playing God with human beings in test tubes has made him forget that human embryos cannot grow into vegetables but only continue to develop as humans into ever greater complexity,” said Anthony Ozimic of the Society for the Protection of the Unborn Child.

While the Interacademy Panel wants the United Nations to press ahead with a ban on reproductive cloning, which it regards as unethical and dangerous, it insisted that policies on therapeutic cloning must be set at a national level.

Archbishop Smith, after a meeting with British Health Minister Melanie Johnson to press the case for a complete ban, said afterward: “To allow the cloning of human lives is to separate life and love, and a grave step toward the treating human life itself as a product to be ordered rather than something to be reverenced.”

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