(reprinted with permission from tothesource.com)
We Live In Amazing Times. Here are some headlines you did NOT see a few days ago: "Pro-family Activists Support Key Women’s Rights Issue", "Germany Joins Forces With the US Against the UK", "Key Islamic States Follow the Vatican’s Lead", "Developing Nations Ally With the US and Russia To Oppose Global Lobbying By the Biotech Industry and its Scientist Allies".
I wonder why? They would all have made great headlines. They are even true. And they give us some of the best news we have had in a long time.
Of course, at the same time they would break open one of the favorite stereotypes of the press: that anyone who opposes “therapeutic cloning” is a pro-life nut, and that the only reason President Bush opposes it is that he is under their power.
But Russia? Saudi Arabia? African and Pacific island states? Germany?
What is this dirty little secret that the press has labored to keep quiet?
The legal committee of the United Nations General Assembly has voted for a declaration that calls on the nations of the world to ban all human cloning – for whatever purpose.
The vote still needs to be sustained in the full General Assembly, but because the legal committee is a committee of the whole (all the nations are represented) its own vote is big news.
After several years of proposals, delays, votes, and more votes, we have a decision. And it’s a very good decision.
True, “declarations” do not have binding force. In the first place, discussion focused on whether the UN could agree on a “convention,” which is a kind of treaty that nations sign onto (if they choose) and are then obliged to write into their own laws. But since conventions are voluntary (like the Kyoto convention on global warming: no-one is obliged to sign it), the difference between a convention and a declaration is not as big as its critics (like the UK) have already begun to claim. One of the most famous documents of the 20th century is the UN’s Universal Declaration on Human Rights.
Make no mistake, this cloning declaration is big news. Because it tells the world that biotechnology is an ethical issue, and that the huge lobbying efforts of biotech companies and celebrities who want to clone human embryos by the millions for experiments and death has not succeeded. However, they have brought efforts to ban cloning in federal law to a stalemate. The Senate may yet pass the Weldon-Brownback cloning ban, though despite its huge success in the House it has been stalled. But there are other places where big biotech money does not get in the way of democracy quite so easily.
Another reason the UN cloning ban is big news is this: it includes a ringing declaration of the rights of women in the face of demands by corporate biotech and the customers they serve. And while feminist activists have often found themselves opposing pro-lifers on abortion at the UN, this time something strange has happened.
Some women’s rights campaigners have been glad to side with pro-lifers on cloning – for a simple reason. Advocates of “therapeutic cloning” always gloss over one key requirement of their planned embryo experiments: the eggs. Cloning makes embryos without sperm, but it does not make them without eggs.
It has been calculated that it could take 100 human eggs to get one human embryo clone for an experiment. That means it will take hundreds of millions of women to provide the eggs needed for “therapeutic cloning” to provide the one-on-one medications that have been promised – for example, in the notorious speech of Ron Reagan, Jr., to the Democratic Convention last fall.
Women’s advocates may not oppose embryonic stem cell research using spare in vitro embryos, but they are very unhappy about having women super-ovulate so they can be the egg factories for experimenters, biotech corporations, and wealthy consumers wanting their "own personal medical toolkit".
That’s one reason why Judy Norsigian, famed editor of the pro-choice healthcare book Our Bodies, Ourselves, signed the rebuttal to California’s Prop. 71 (which allocated $6 billion to cloning and stem cell research). It explains why around the world many nations that allow abortion do not want to allow biotech corporations to buy poor women’s eggs wholesale.
So feminists have been pressing to control these new technologies, and the UN Declaration passed by the legal committee includes a clause that sets out their concern: in section (d) "Member States are called upon to take measures to prevent the exploitation of women in the applications of life sciences".
If and when the American press does get around to reporting on this vote in the United Nations, it will have to come clean on the whole story.
I wonder how many California voters who backed Prop. 71 knew that “therapeutic cloning” is a serious crime in many parts of the world? And I don’t just mean Catholic countries where human life is taken more seriously than in others. I mean in Canada. And Australia. And Germany, where they know a thing or two about unethical science.
Last July France made “therapeutic cloning” a felony. Do it there and you will get seven years in jail.
Strange bedfellows at the UN have blazed the trail for cloning bans around the world. Let’s work to get this news out in the media of our communities.
Nigel M. de. S. Cameron, Ph.D. is Chairman of the Center for Bioethics and Culture Network
Listen to Dr. Cameron on Chicago Public Radio discussing human cloning – March 2, 2005
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