Group of Conservatives Drafts Bioethics Agenda
A group of "influential" conservatives has been drafting a "bold and plausible 'offensive' bioethics agenda" to replace the "too narrowly focused and insufficiently ambitious" congressional agenda that so far has failed to ban human cloning or impose limits on research involving human embryos, according to a document circulating among members of Congress, the Washington Post reports. The group of about 12 people -- led by Leon Kass, chair of the President's Council on Bioethics, and Eric Cohen, editor of the New Atlantis -- has been meeting since December 2004 and recently has begun "the delicate task of building a political coalition" to support the draft agenda, according to the Post.
The circulating document, which was obtained by the Post, says, "We have today an administration and a Congress as friendly to human life and human dignity as we are likely to have for many years to come," adding, "It would be tragic if we failed to take advantage of this rare opportunity to enact significant bans on some of the most egregious biotechnical practices." According to Kass, the group receives no federal funding and his work for the group has been independent from his role as chair of bioethics council, the Post reports.
However, the group's efforts have hit a "major roadblock" in Congress and have come "under attack" by fellow conservatives and opponents of human embryo research, in "an unusual instance of open divisiveness" among President Bush's conservative base, the Post reports. Some of the negative reaction is in response to the group's criticism of Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.), who over the last four years has proposed legislation to ban all human cloning. According to the group, Brownback has made a "strategic mistake" by linking human embryonic stem cell research and human reproductive cloning in the hopes that the "nearly universal repugnance" for reproductive cloning could help lead to a ban on all human cloning, according to the Post.
According to the group, the linking of the two issues has caused the cloning debate to "degenerate into endless discussions about whether a cloned human embryo is a cloned human," without establishing any limits or bans on human embryonic cloning or other research. However, Brownback and some other conservatives have "reaffirmed" their strategy of linking reproductive cloning and cloning for research purposes, according to the Post. "The proposal being promoted by Kass undermines our ability to pass a comprehensive ban on all human cloning," Brownback said.
Some congressional conservatives are concerned that the "split" on the issue could lead to "factional fighting," which could further delay efforts to regulate human embryonic research and cloning, the Post reports. However, supporters of embryonic stem cell research "expressed glee" that conservatives are divided over the issue, according to the Post.
"As long as the anti-scientific forces in Congress want to restrict legitimate science, they're going to have problems getting things passed," Sean Tipton, a spokesperson for the Coalition for the Advancement of Medical Research, said (Weiss, Washington Post, 3/8).