People who like both the Bush tax cuts (or the war in Iraq) and stem-cell research are in a bad way this year. Some of them are trying to convince themselves, and other people, that the Bush administration policies aren’t really that bad for stem-cell research. After all, it is correctly pointed out, Bush imposed a ban on federal funding, not a ban on research.
I haven’t seen this story in the U.S. media, but the Financial Times reports that the U.S. is pushing, along with Costa Rica, Portugal, Italy, and several African countries, for a U.N. convention that would ban all human cloning, including therapeutic cloning. (Update: Another link here.) Britain, Belgium, South Korea, Japan, and South Africa are on the other side, pushing for a convention covering reproductive cloning only.
One of the big long-term prospects if the stem-cell optimists win their bet, is something called Somatic Cell Nuclear Transfer, which is the technical term for growing your own spare parts. ‘
Whether that turns out to be a live possibility remains to be seen. But the Bush Administration wants to make it illegal everywhere in the world, just in case.
Anyone who follows drug abuse control policy knows all too well the power of international conventions to make innovation difficult. The idea of starting to have international lawyers define what can, and cannot, be done with biotechnology strikes me as a profoundly bad one.
You’re free to disagree, of course. Perhaps you think that therapeutic cloning is inconsistent with the sanctity of life.
But don’t kid yourself that George W. Bush, if re-elected, won’t do his level best to get Leon Kass’s prejudices carved into stone. He’s doing it now.