Governor McGreevey of New Jersey made the most important decision of his political career on Sunday, when he decided to go through with his publicly stated intention and signed the worst bioethics bill in the world – forced through the NJ legislature by the slimmest of margins by the heavyweight lobbying of biotech interests and their friends.
The bill will put New Jersey on the map in the same way that the Dutch parliament made their nation the world’s euthanasia capital. Its supporters present it as an innocuous and forward-looking bill opposed by “pro-life extremists.” But the experiments it will make into public policy in NJ are illegal in nations around the world that are hardly in the hands of conservative Republicans – such as Germany, France, and Norway. They have been banned in Australia, and Canada is on the verge of banning them.
But the bill goes even further. Indeed, it will forever be cited in the history books as the Brave New World (New Jersey) Act. Because it doesn’t just “permit human stem cell research in New Jersey,” as the synopsis says. It permits experiments that involve the cloning of human embryos, and their implantation in the womb, and their growth all the way through pregnancy. All that is forbidden is their development “into a new human individual” after birth.
This is exactly what opponents of experiments on human embryos have feared will come way in the future – the experimental use of cloned fetuses implanted in the womb. But now we don’t have to wait for the future. The worst bioethics bill in the world has opened the door wide to this ghastly vision, with the backing of leaders in the biotech corporate world.
Our American system of government is built, as we know, on “checks and balances.” Here is a wonderful example of the wisdom of the founders in designing it as they did. The NJ legislature was railroaded into passing a profoundly bad bill. The Governor had the opportunity to tell them to think again. Because he did not – we shall now be speaking of his state as McGreevey’s Brave New World.
Nigel M. de S. Cameron, Ph.D.
Dr. Cameron is founding editor of the journal Ethics and Medicine, which this year celebrates its 20th anniversary. He serves as Chairman of the Center for Bioethics and Culture (Oakland, Calif www.thecbc.org ), and as Director of the Council for Biotechnology Policy (Washington, DC). He has given congressional testimony on issues such as stem cell research and cloning. In 2002 he served as bioethics adviser on the US delegation to the United Nations meeting on human cloning, but these comments represent his own position.
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