In recent years, we have heard a lot of arguments in favor of therapeutic cloning, that is, cloning humans for medical purposes only. Reproductive cloning that would result in live births, we're told, is something no one wants. And so lawmakers claim that the government ought to ban reproductive cloning but allow—even encourage—therapeutic cloning, as if anyone could control what's done with the clone once produced.
But if no one is interested in reproductive cloning, how do we explain a recent book by Santa Clara University Law School professor Kerry Lynn Macintosh? In Illegal Beings: Human Clones and the Law, Macintosh argues that opponents of human reproductive cloning are bigots, and she compares anti-cloning laws to anti-miscegenation laws that forbade blacks and whites from marrying.
Just as those laws were designed to keep mixed-race babies from being born, anti-cloning laws show prejudice against another group of possible babies: human clones.
Macintosh believes that whether or not reproductive cloning is banned, some scientist somewhere will go ahead with it anyway. (And on that score, I'm afraid, she is right.) In the meantime, she argues, a ban on cloning will have helped build prejudice against clones. Thus, the human clones who are born will face a society that treats them as "a suspect class" and routinely discriminates against them. "It is human nature to fear that which is dangerous and to hate that which we fear," she explains. "Unfortunately, that includes human clones."
Well, Macintosh's logic is fundamentally flawed. She doesn't deal with the most basic objection: You cannot argue that we must legally be allowed to clone human beings on the basis that they will be treated badly if they are illegally created. The first question is whether it's right or wrong to create them in the first place.
Is it wrong? Macintosh tries hard to prove that it isn't, but she fails to address troubling questions.
For example, she doesn't deal with the fact that human clones are actually not their parents' children. A clone would be the genetic twin of the person from whom he or she was cloned. Imagine how this would undermine family relationships. But Macintosh argues, "Families built through [current] assisted reproductive technologies are stable and loving." That's no comparison at all. Families developed through current reproductive technologies don't result in an adult raising his or her own sibling as if that sibling were an offspring.
Macintosh also ignores what this will do to children who are manufactured this way. As my colleague Nigel Cameron at the Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity told PBS, "We're moving into a whole redefinition of the way in which children and parents relate, because children become people whom we can design, rather than if they just come to us as gifts. . . . We're talking about children who are also consumer products."
Now, we may say this is much ado about nothing: Nobody is going to clone humans. Oh, yeah? A generation ago, folks said gays could not get marriage rights. All radical social movements start the same way—generally, as here, arguing on the grounds of discrimination. That's why a ban on all human cloning is urgently needed. Otherwise, the lives that will be devalued will not only be the clones', but ours, as well.