de S Cameron, Nigel M., Lahl, Jennifer, Ethics & Medicine
Something remarkable took place in Congress in February, as left and right joined forces to pass a ban on human cloning by a large majority. Support for the bill by Reps. David Weldon, R-Florida, and Bart Stupak, D-Michigan, came from anti-abortion conservatives, liberal pro-choice Democrats such as Rep. David Wu of Oregon, and even the House's one independent, pro-choice socialist Bernard Sanders of Vermont. Sanders did not just vote for the bill: He served as a co-sponsor and made a floor speech in its favor. This was not business as usual.
The vote was the culmination of a process in which anti-abortionists joined hands with Judy Norsigian (feminist guru and editor of the women's health book Our Bodies, Ourselves) and Brent Blackwelder (president of Friends of the Earth), as well as mainline religious groups such as the pro-choice United Methodist Church. A new cause is emerging, and it is beginning to unite the two centers of conscience in American culture, on the right and the left.
The dispute in Congress and the country is simple to state. Most people agree that we do not want the birth of cloned babies. Yet, the biotech industry wants freedom to manufacture and destroy a very large number of cloned human embryos. Most people do not agree. Many of them believe that the embryo should be protected as nascent human life. Many believe that the only effective way to prevent the birth of cloned babies is to stop the manufacture of cloned embryos. There are also major concerns about the abuse of women in the harvesting of the eggs that will be needed for embryo cloning (in huge numbers, according to the biotech industry). These reasons have brought together unusual allies from the anti-abortion, feminist, and environmental communities.
Cloning marks the first great debate of the "biotech century." How it is resolved in public policy will set the tone for decades of debate, as the Pandora's Box of bioscience is opened wide. That's why the biotech industry, brashly led by its trade group BIO (http://www. …