Congressman Meisner from the state of Michigan introduced House Bill 4900 to amend sections of the public health code dealing with embryonic stem cell research (http://www.rtl.org/html/legislation/prolifeleg/pdf/EthicsTechnology/1998-SB864.pdf). It is being sold by Rep. Andy Meisner as a bill that will both permit embryonic stem cell research and prohibit human cloning. As with the Missouri and federal proposals, this bill legalizes human cloning while pretending to ban it.

 

It is similar to the other bills in that it:

 

  1. Avoids using the word “embryo” as much as possible (the MI law currently contains the word, but Meisner’s bill proposes to replace all but one occurrence with “fetus”)
  2. Prohibits human cloning by falsely defining human cloning as implanting a cloned embryo in a womb to gestate through birth.

 

Regarding the second, the bill boldly states, “A licensee or registrant shall not engage in or attempt to engage in human cloning.” Sounds good! I guess this means MI will not engage in research involving cloned embryos. But wait! That would be the proper conclusion if words meant something, but in the Meisner bill words don’t mean anything at all. Words mean whatever Meisner says they mean. He defines human cloning, not scientifically as the asexual creation of a human zygote through somatic cell nuclear transfer, but rather as “creating or attempting to create a human being by using the somatic cell nuclear transfer procedure for the purpose of, or to implant, the resulting product to initiate a pregnancy that could result in the birth of a human being.”

 

As with the other bills, Meisner’s bill claims to ban human cloning by redefining the term. Rather than defining “human cloning” in terms of the process involved, and the resultant product of that process, Meisner defines human cloning in terms of what a scientist purposes its creation for. If you use somatic cell nuclear transfer to create a human being for the purpose of implanting it in a womb and gestating it through birth, that is considered “human cloning” and is illegal. What about using somatic cell nuclear transfer to create a human being asexually for the purpose of destructive research? According to Meisner that is not cloning. Why? Is it a different process from the one he described? No. Was the product of that process different? No. So why is one considered human cloning and the other not? Because Meisner says so!

The fact of the matter is that what one purposes to do with the product of “somatic cell nuclear transfer” does not make it, or fail to make it a clone. A clone is a clone regardless of what we do with it. Intentions do not create reality. Reality is what it is apart from what we purpose. The fact of the matter is that the act of cloning is complete at somatic cell nuclear transfer. What one decides to do with the clone (gestate it through birth, kill it for research) subsequent to the act of cloning does not change the fact that the entity itself is a human clone. But that doesn’t matter to those like Meisner. It’s much more convenient to just define cloning in such a way that it has nothing to do with cloning, ban the pseudo-form of cloning, and then go on about your cloning business all the while affirming your opposition to cloning! Wouldn’t it be funny if someone stole Meisner’s car, get apprehended, and then tell Mr. Meisner that they did not “steal” his car because they did not intend to sell it. When Meisner protests they can explain to him that “theft is the taking of someone else’s property without their permission for the purpose of selling it.” Since they had no intentions of selling it, it is not stealing. I don’t think Meisner would be persuaded. Neither should we be persuaded by his disingenuous bill.

 

Since this bill is the amending of an existing law it is important to look at what Meisner wants to take out. The law currently reads: “A person shall not use a live human embryo or neonate for nontherapeutic research….” Meisner proposes to delete “human embryo” and insert “fetus” in its place. It’s obvious why he wants to swap “fetus” for “embryo.” It’s hard to justify killing embryos when the law says you can’t. By changing the language to “fetus,” experimenting on humans up to 8 weeks old becomes legally justifiable.

 

But what about the deletion of “human”? Why delete that word? Is a fetus not human? Yes it is. Is it scientifically inaccurate to call it human? No it’s not. Then why delete the word? It is being deleted for political purposes, not clarity or scientific accuracy.

 

Thankfully the Michigan congress is controlled by pro-life Republicans, so currently the bill is going nowhere. Let’s pray it stays that way.