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Statement On Human Embryos and Human Cloning

May 23, 2005

The State of Texas has been one of many states in the forefront regarding the debate of human cloning and human embryo research. The Catholic Bishops of this state share the belief of most Texans that all human life, regardless of development, is made in the image and likeness of our Creator. As such, it is imperative that Texans not waver, even for the noblest of goals, from the commitment to protect every innocent human being. The fact is that human life is sacred and to intentionally destroy innocent human life for medical research purposes is ethically unacceptable.

As it has become painfully obvious, many embryos created by the joining of sperm and egg through in vitro fertilization (IVF) are either abandoned or left in frozen storage. Many in the scientific community have been asking to use so-called “spare” or “excess” embryos from fertility clinics since they believe that these embryos will not be implanted. They believe that they better serve humanity by being relegated to destructive research. We disagree. The truth is that the value of the lives of these “spare” embryos is not affected by whether these embryos are wanted or abandoned, but rather for what they actually are—human beings at the earliest stages of development.

Today many in the scientific community ask to use both these “spare” embryos and to be allowed to use cloning technology, also known as Somatic Cell Nuclear Transfer (SCNT), to create a supply of human embryos. Some in the scientific community have argued that these SCNT embryos are either “pre-embryos” or not even embryos at all, but rather “cells” in a Petri dish that have no chance of fully developing because they were not fertilized. This argumentation is misguided. It is an established fact that medical science has proved that the life of an individual does begin at conception with a complete genetic code, regardless if the embryo is created through fertilization or asexual (cloning) methods. Life DOES NOT begin at “implantation” as some in the scientific community would have us believe, but rather begins at conception as biology has proven. This is a biological fact not just a religious belief. We urge that the Texas Legislature pass laws that prohibit the killing of human embryos, however created, for research purposes. We also oppose any bill that would fund the killing of these human embryos for research and urge the legislature to pass laws that prohibit state funding of the intentional destruction of human embryos. We also urge the legislature to pass a law that bans all forms of human cloning. Simply put, the Catholic Church opposes human therapeutic or reproductive cloning for any reason and we will oppose any legislation that would allow any form of human cloning that creates life.

Let us be clear—we are not opposed to stem cell research, only that stem cell research that kills human embryos. We fully support adult stem cell research since it does not take the life of the donor and we ask our legislature to help these morally acceptable efforts.

It is unfortunate that many in the research community have made expansive claims for the benefits of human embryonic stem cell research. However, these claims are conjectural and have been conjectural over the last several years. Human embryonic stem cell research has not produced one therapeutic benefit since the research began in the late 1990’s. However, at the same time, adult stem cells have been used to help hundreds of thousands, if not already millions, of patients and new clinical uses expand monthly.

We hope and pray that all Catholics and citizens of good intention will thoughtfully consider these reflections and agree that our state government ought not to support research that relies on the deliberate destruction of innocent human beings. Please call on elected officials and urge them to support legislation that bans all forms of human cloning and legislation that would prohibit state funds from being used to destroy human embryos.

Our late Holy Father Pope John Paul II discussed these issues in an address to the Pontifical Academy of the Sciences on November, 2003 when he stated:  “ Any treatment which claims to save human lives, yet is based upon the destruction of human life in its embryonic state, is logically and morally contradictory, as in any production of human embryos for the direct or indirect purpose of experimentation or eventual destruction.”

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