Human Cloning Semantic Gymnastics

We thought the anti-life people were quite clever in covering up what happens in an abortion by their use of various misleading terms to describe what actually happens. For example, using terms like fetus instead of baby, or choice over abortion. Now the cloning people are feverishly working on the same strategy. A South Korean scientist, Woo Suk Hwang, who created 11 human clones, said, “Cloning a human being is nonsense. It is technically impossible. It is not cloning. It is Somatic Cell Nuclear Transfer.” But, guess what? Somatic Cell Nuclear Transfer is the scientific term describing human cloning – it’s exactly the same thing.

What Dr. Hwang seems to oppose is creating a living human embryo by cloning, and then planting that new human in a womb to carry to term and deliver an infant. He has conveniently tried to change the meaning of the word “clone” to indicate only when that procedure is carried to term. In fact, he is creating a living embryonic human clone who then is killed for the stem cells within him or her for other research.

It is becoming obvious that those who want to clone humans will never use the word clone if they can avoid it. An alternative term that they use for the created human embryo is “Nuclear Transfer Construct.” Another comment was that this is “a process by which a blastocyst is made.” However, both are human cloning.

The term blastocyst is a medical term used to describe a human embryo who is four to six days old. But when they call this “thing” a blastocyst, most of the listeners’ ears tell them that this is not human.

Most of our readers have heard that there are two kinds of cloning. “Reproductive” cloning is when this new human is planted in her womb, brought to term and delivered. “Therapeutic” cloning is when the same new human is killed for his or her embryonic stem cells or for other lethal experimentation.

This is more semantic gymnastics, as there is only one type. Since killing is not therapeutic, this term is a lie. President Bush calls it “research” cloning, an accurate label. But we should call it “clone to kill” for that is what it is.

In mid-May Dr. Hwang began with 185 female eggs that were extracted from 18 women. Thirty-one had their nucleus removed and replaced with a nucleus from the person whom he wanted to clone. These artificially fertilized eggs started to subdivide in the normal growth process of a human embryo. Only one successful clone, however, was produced for every 17 eggs that were cloned. Of these, 11 apparently grew to the blastocyst stage. He then cut these tiny humans open and extracted their embryonic stem cells, which killed them. With these, he created 11 stem cell lines that reproduced themselves in culture tubes.

Why a clone?
Why create a human clone to get embryonic stem cells when you can more easily obtain such cells from thousands of available frozen embryos? There are three significant objections to using embryonic stem cells from frozen embryos.

1. Since such stem cells would come from the body of another living human, they would have a different DNA. This then could be recognized by the recipient’s body as foreign tissue, like a transplanted kidney. This tissue could be rejected.

2. Such embryonic stem cells could carry infection. In a worse case scenario, if the donor woman, whose embryo was frozen, had AIDS and you extract the embryonic stem cells and use them to treat another person, that person would also have AIDS. In a recent case, a lady, who had died, willed her organs for transplant. Four people each received one of her organs, which carried a lethal virus and three of them died.

3. Plasticity is the major problem. This means that embryonic stem cells very often grow wild when planted in another human. They can and do develop into many different types of body cells: skin, bone, kidney etc. These can form tumors and be fatal.

If Dr. Hwang’s efforts were to bear fruit, human clones would be created to have their embryonic stem cells removed. If they would be able to be used to treat other humans, it would seem that the objection of tissue rejection has been solved. The reason being that the nucleus in those cells comes from the patient and is returned to the patient. But the shell, and much of the interior structure of that original egg, still comes from a different human. Contained in it, for example, are tiny substances from the donor woman called mitochondria, as well as other substances. If this were a hen’s egg, you could compare the nucleus to the yolk. The other material would be compared to the white of the egg. So, will this “egg white” be recognized by the recipient’s body as foreign tissue and also cause rejection? No one knows, but that possibility certainly exists.

The objections of carrying infection and tumor formation are not in any way resolved by what Dr. Hwang has done. In particular, tumor formation looms as an almost absolute barrier to the use of human embryonic stem cells, whether they come from someone else’s frozen embryos or from your own cloned embryo.

We frequently hear about the federal ban on embryonic stem cell research. There is no such thing. The only ban is on the use of federal tax money. President Bush authorized tax money to be used only for certain embryonic stem cell lines already in existence when he set-up that policy. It prohibits creating new embryonic stem cell lines by killing living human embryos.

However, several states have moved in this direction. California voted to use three billion dollars for embryonic stem cell research and human cloning. Massachusetts and Connecticut have followed suit. New Jersey is the worst of all. Its legislature authorized money to do human cloning but with a new twist. An ancient Hebraic law says, “Thou shalt not kill.” This has morphed into a human rights law on the books of every nation of the world. However, New Jersey has now said something different. Not only can you create new humans by cloning, but if after two or three weeks of life, you do not kill them, you go to jail. This is a first.

We seem to be on our way, in some states and in Korea and other countries, to creating human embryo farms. If Senator Orrin Hatch and others have their way, the US will pass laws authorizing funding for embryonic stem cell research which he has correctly called, “the critical first step to cloning.” On the positive side, this spring the United Nations General Assembly, by better than a two-thirds margin, overwhelmingly passed a ban forbidding all human cloning. Sadly, this is not binding on other nations.

What about those “surplus frozen embryos?” Some fairly wild numbers are being quoted. Hundreds of thousands of these tiny little humans are in the “concentration can,” as Professor Lejuene so aptly put it. We are told that unless they are put to good use, they will all be destroyed (they would never say killed). Actually, ninety to ninety-five percent of frozen embryos have not been released by their parents. Some of the remaining parents will not authorize them to be used for destructive research. When thawed out, about fifty percent of these tiny humans die. Only a small percent of those who survive can be implanted and continue their growth toward infancy.

One positive answer is to adopt “snowflake” embryos. These are frozen human embryos whose parents no longer want to implant them. They have generously allowed them to be adopted and planted into another woman’s womb. In a heartwarming press conference, President Bush was surrounded by these bouncing babies and their parents. During which he pledged to veto any bill that would authorize federal funding of embryonic stem cell research. Keep tuned.

Life Issues Institute welcomes comments relevant to columns that are civil, concise, and respectful of other contributors. We do not publish comments with links to other websites or other online material.