Critics of Human Cloning Ban are Guilty of the Very Mistakes Attributed to Proponents

By Dave Andrusko

A patient treated at the University of Minnesota using uncontroversial adult stem cells, the only kind that has worked.

Although it’s true that “traditional media,” particularly many local newspapers, no longer pack the wallop they once did, they still can be a source of almost limitless mischief. Having grown up in Minneapolis, I know few newspapers that more consistently confuse fact with their own biases than the pro-abortion-to-the-core (Minneapolis) Star Tribune.

The following illustration applies not just to the difficulties faced by NRLC’s state affiliate, Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life (MCCL), as they attempt to ban human cloning. Cloning proponents employ the same baffling array of misinformation and misdirection whenever opponents try to rein in the practice.

The Star Tribune, and to a lesser extent, its cross-the-river rival, the St. Paul Pioneer Press, is determined to paint proponents of a ban on human cloning as ignorant duffuses who cannot make even elementary distinctions, and in the process would leave the state of Minnesota stranded in the backwaters of medical research. It is the same strategy employed by the San Jose Mercury News in its attack on MCCL’s proposed legislation and legislation passed in 2009 Oklahoma (see below).

Of course, it is those belittling the proposed ban that cannot make the distinctions. Or, to be more accurate, choose not to do so as to muddy the waters.

It would take 10,000 words to try to clear up all the confusion, so let’s just take the main points.

MCCL describes its proposal thusly: “The human cloning funding ban would prevent state funding for the manufacture and destruction of cloned human beings.” Critics attribute to MCCL their own error: confusing apples and oranges and/or throwing them both in the same bushel. So, to clarify…

1. The proposal would prohibit state funding for creating cloned human embryos, using the cloning technique, somatic cell nuclear transfer.

SCNT combines the nucleus (the genetic material) from a somatic cell (a normal body cell) with an egg cell which has had its own genetic material removed. SCNT creates a new embryo, a new human organism.  The resulting embryo is a clone of the donor of the genetic material.

Critics build their case by refusing to acknowledge an indisputable biological truth. While vigorously supporting so-called “Therapeutic cloning” and opposing so-called “Reproductive Cloning,” they gloss over the fact that BOTH are cloning. The beginning is the same; it is the outcome that differs.   

In the former case, that new human being is scavenged for the embryo’s stem cells. The embryo is destroyed, but the process is described as “therapeutic” cloning. The term is a misnomer on two counts. It is certainly not therapeutic for the embryo that is destroyed, and no therapies have ever been developed from this process. In the latter case, the embryo would be implanted in a woman with the idea that the child would be theoretically carried to birth (reproductive cloning).

2. In their haste to denounce MCCL, critics write as if cloning and embryonic stem cell research are the same thing. They aren’t. Cloning/SCNT is the creation of an embryo by removing the nucleus of a human egg, and placing the nucleus of a body cell (typically, a skin cell) of a person into the egg. Stimuli are applied and, if successful, a cloned human embryo is created.

Embryonic stem cell research is conducted with stem cells lethally extracted from a human embryo. The embryo may have been created via in vitro fertilization, human cloning, or any other technique to create an embryo.

This legislation has a discrete objective: preventing the funding of human cloning. None of the embryonic stem cell research being done in Minnesota would be affected by the ban on human cloning funding. The University of Minnesota, which carries enormous weight in my home state, has testified that it is not conducting research with stem cells derived from cloned embryos.

3. Not only are critics of MCCL’s proposal confused about what the ban would prohibit, they consistently trot out examples of success stories that supposedly would not have occurred had this ban been in place. (This includes the University of Minnesota.)

But the examples are always of people who have been treated using adult stem cells—which we’ve written about dozens and dozens of times in this space—not embryonic stem cells (cloned or otherwise). Pro-lifers vigorously support this kind of treatment, which destroys no human embryos, and which has a lengthy track record of treating patients.

MCCL showed on its blog a photo of a young patient “successfully treated at the University of Minnesota using adult stem cells. His story highlights the potential of adult stem cells to help people. It does not tell us anything about human cloning, or about embryonic stem cell research, which have had no therapeutic success.”

Last point and deliciously revealing. The San Jose Mercury News editorial mercilessly hammered MCCL and NRLC’s Oklahoma affiliate, Oklahomans for Life. It began this way:

“Time magazine last month touted recent advances in stem cell research as one of the world’s ‘10 best shots for tackling our worst problems.’”

But if you take the time to read the Time magazine article (,28804,2059521_2059712_2059711,00.html #ixzz1IZISpVuC),you find that Alice Park is talking almost exclusively about adult stem cells and induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs). The latter, she writes, consists of “turning back the clock on an already developed cell like one from the skin, bypassing the embryo altogether with four important fountain-of-youth genes that rework the skin cell’s DNA machinery and make it stemlike again.” (Emphasis added.)

MCCL’s legislation is morally and ethically sound, supported by the scientific and medical evidence, and, best of all, actually tells the story straight.

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