March 31, 2005
To: Members of the Maryland State Senate
We write to express our grave concern about legislation currently
pending in Maryland (Senate Bill 751). This bill is designed to
authorize and fund human embryonic stem cell research, including the
harvesting and use of body parts taken from human clones in the
embryonic and fetal stages of development. This legislation, if
enacted, threatens to make Maryland a haven for unethical medical
practices, including the macabre practice of human fetal farming.
As reported out of committee, the legislation expressly defines
“state-funded stem cell research” as “stem cell research conducted
using donated unused human embryos or eggs which were created
for individuals being treated for infertility…” (sec. 20-1101 (H),
emphasis added). This phrase is itself misleading, because fertility
clinics do not ”create” human eggs – rather, they give women
potentially harmful fertility drugs and then surgically harvest the
eggs thus produced. The incentive this legislation may provide to
fertility clinics to make women produce more eggs and more embryos
in this way – so that some eggs and embryos will be left “unused”
and become available for research – raises serious concerns, not
least regarding the health of women in these clinics.
It is also important to realize that the only way stem cell
research can make use of donated eggs is to use those eggs to
create new human embryos, which would then be destroyed for their
stem cells. Nothing in SB 751 forbids this result. Researchers will
be able to remove these eggs’ nuclei, then inject them with the full
complement of 46 chromosomes from human individuals’ body cells, to
produce human embryos designed as genetic copies of those
individuals. As the March 25 legal opinion of the state attorney
general’s office concludes, this legislation will authorize human
cloning for biomedical research (called “therapeutic cloning” by
some, although any therapeutic benefits from such cloning remain a
Moreover, nothing in SB 751 excludes from the scope of
“state-funded stem cell research” projects that require the transfer
of these embryos to women’s wombs, to gestate them to early or late
fetal stages so as to “harvest” more developed cells and tissues.
Such “fetal farming” will be permitted, and potentially eligible for
While the legislation claims to prohibit “human cloning” (sec.
20-1111), this term is defined as “the replication of a human
being” by cloning (sec. 20-1101 (F), emphasis added). The term
“human being” is undefined, leaving Maryland courts to interpret it
as limited to born human beings in accord with state and federal
court rulings on abortion.
The only limit on the use of cloned human embryos for fetal
farming will be that no cloned fetus may be born alive.
Thus the bill contemplates the creation of new members of the
human species by cloning, and their cultivation from the zygote
stage through the late fetal stages for the purpose of harvesting
what the legislation refers to as “cadaveric” fetal tissue.
Please pause to consider whose cadaver the tissue is to be
derived from. It is the cadaver of a distinct member of the species
Homo sapiens, who would be brought into being by cloning and,
presumably, implanted and permitted to develop to the desired stage
of physical maturation for the purpose of being killed for the
harvesting of his or her tissues.
The legislation also purports to ban trafficking in human embryos
for “valuable consideration” (sec. 20-1110). But it expressly
permits “reasonable payment” for “removal, processing, disposal,
preservation, quality control, storage, transplantation, or grafting
of embryonic or cadaveric fetal tissue” (sec. 20-1101 (J)(2),
emphasis added). This is a virtual invitation to cloning
entrepreneurs to conduct in the State of Maryland what would amount
to fetal farming for research, presumably including experimental
treatments. There is nothing in the legislation to prevent cloning
entrepreneurs from paying women a “reasonable” fee to gestate
embryos and submit to abortions for the production of human tissues
and organs, or from charging customers a “reasonable” fee for
“processing,” “preserving,” “storing,” “transplanting,” or
“grafting” fetal cadavers and their tissues. In fact, the bill does
not forbid the outright sale and purchase of human fetuses,
because its ban on commercial trafficking (however ridden with
loopholes it may be) applies only to embryos.
And what if a gestating woman has second thoughts and decides not
to abort the developing fetus? Would a court have to enforce a
contract for abortion? We hope and trust that no court would do
that. But if it does not, we will then have what the sponsors of the
legislation claim they want to prevent: the birth of human clones.
We understand, and deeply share, the desire of the sponsors of
this legislation to promote biomedical advances, cure dreaded
diseases, and ease human suffering. We hope that Maryland will be at
the forefront of exciting research involving stem cells derived
without harming living humans at any stage of development. The
approach marked out in SB 751, however, is not an ethically sound
way to proceed. On the contrary, it constitutes the moral madness of
creating human life solely to destroy it -- with a possible profit
motive that would encourage the grisly practice.
For more information we would like to refer you to Human Cloning
and Human Dignity, a Report by the President’s Council on Bioethics,
chaired by Dr. Leon Kass, on which we have the honor to serve. It is
available online at
www.bioethics.gov/reports/cloningreport/index.html. Five signers
of this letter served on the Council when this Report was issued.
The Report recommends (unanimously) a ban on cloning for the purpose
of baby-making and (by a vote of 10-7) a four year moratorium on
cloning for biomedical research. Please note that although seven of
the seventeen members of the Council supported cloning for
biomedical research (subject to strict federal regulations), none
indicated support for the implantation and gestation of cloned
embryos for the purpose of harvesting cadaveric fetal tissues or
organs, not to mention any commercial trafficking in these fetuses
or their remains.
Robert P. George, J.D., D.Phil.
Mary Ann Glendon, J.D., LL.M
Alfonso Gomez-Lobo, Dr. phil.
Georgetown University Stanford University
Will Hurlbut, M.D.
Gilbert Meilaender, Ph.D.
Peter Lawler, Ph.D.
Diana J. Schaub, Ph.D.
Loyola College in Maryland
Benjamin S. Carson, M.D.
Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions
*Signed as individuals; institutional affiliations are for
identification purposes only.