An open letter to Governor Matt Blunt
March 22, 2005
I am writing you to ask you to reconsider your position and to support Senate Bill 160, which would ban human cloning, including therapeutic human cloning in Missouri.
I am legal counsel for the Missouri Baptist Convention, which passed a resolution in its Oct. 25-27, 2004, convention at First Baptist Raytown, Missouri. The resolution opposed embryonic stem cell research. I am writing this letter in my individual capacity, not as the MBC lawyer.
I listened to the debate on SB 160 at the hearing Feb. 2. I appreciate the scientific complexity and the emotional intensity of this issue. I was impressed by the quality of the debate by senators and witnesses. This was our legislative process at its best, on one of the hardest issues of our time.
Ultimately, legislative bodies will make ethical rather than scientific judgments. Ethical presumptions will have to guide us when scientists cannot provide answers with certainty.
Sen. Chris Koster, R-Harrisonville, was quoted in The Kansas City Star, comparing the senate to a jury who, after eight hours of conflicting scientific testimony, must decide whether SCNT (somantic cell nuclear transfer or cloning) produces a human being. I would suggest to counsel that the law often allocates the burden of proof according to some ethical presumptions. Here, the ethical presumption should be in favor of human life. If in doubt about whether the SCNT blastocyst is a human being, we should presume that it is, and put the burden of proof on SCNT advocates to prove otherwise.
SCNT advocates have tried to meet this burden by suggestion that, without implantation, SCNT blastocyst seems unable to “turn on” genes needed to create humans. They concede that SCNT, worked well enough to produce Dolly, the sheep, but they say no primate or human blastocyst developed into a clone — yet. They do not deny that the process is the same, and with the same result.
One proposed “Solomonic” solution is to “cut the baby in two” by dividing the issue: prohibit the implanting of an SCNT blastocyst, but permit therapeutic cloning for research and disposal. Solomon did not really intend to cut the baby in two, but to reveal the hearts of the disputants. He ultimately resolved the issue in favor of the humanity of the baby, and against expediency for peace-making. A Solomonic solution today would refuse to “split the question” by banning only implantation, and would presume the humanity of early human beings, a.k.a. “early stem cells.”
Some argue that there can be no humanity without a sperm. The harsh reality is that sexual reproduction, involving the union of sperm and egg, is now not the only way to get a new human being at the embryonic stage of life. Somatic cell nuclear transfer results in a human being at the one-celled stage of life with the complete human genetic complement of 46 chromosomes.
During the campaign, you noted that you and other pro-lifers have often said that “life begins at conception.” I have said that same thing many times. But science has progressed, and so must our pro-life slogans. We must now say that most human life begins at conception, but that some human life begins at “inception.” Inception is when the nucleus of the somatic cell (body cell with all 46 chromosomes) is transferred into the enucleated egg (egg whose own nucleus has been removed) and then chemically or electrically stimulated.
Every human being who ever walked the face of the earth – including Jesus – started out as a one-celled human embryo with 46 chromosomes in his nucleus. We were human as we traveled down the fallopian tubes and before we implanted. So are any human beings at a very young stage of development created by SCNT.
Consequently, creating human life at its embryonic stage by cloning (somatic cell nuclear transfer) for the purpose of killing that human life (by harvesting its stem cells after five days development) for the putative benefit of a third person is always and everywhere immoral and no civilized society should ever allow it.
I believe this is where the presumption of human life leads us. This issue is too fundamental to compromise with a ban on implantation only. Unless you find the evidence convincing beyond doubt that a therapeutic clone is not a human embryo, then you should invoke the presumption to protect human beings, whether called “putative” or “ potential” or “early stem cells.”
Be assured of our prayers for you and other leaders to have the wisdom of Solomon as you make these decisions. If we honor God in building a culture of life, He will honor us, and will bless our homes, and hospitals, and universities, and churches and businesses. Let us explore and invest in every ethical avenue including adult stem cells, cord blood cells, fat cells, etc., which have already produced wonderful results. But please lead Missourians to always draw the ethical line in favor of the presumption of human life.