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Reproductive Cloning
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Charles Murtaugh didn't like Sen. Sam Brownback's editorial in the NRO either.

He rightly points out that Brownback misrepresents public opinion on cloning, but when he goes on to draw the distinction between what he calls "baby cloning" and "embryo cloning"...well, let's say I strongly disagree.

Brownback is the sponsor of a Senate counterpart to the House bill -- expected to face a much more uphill battle -- and he lays out a mostly-familiar argument that all cloning is the same biologically (i.e. it always begins with nuclear transfer) and therefore morally. It's a bit incoherent, for instance invoking the Raelians' effort at baby cloning as a reason to ban embryo cloning, which is objectionable because it results in the destruction of human life: so is cloning bad because it creates life, or because it destroys it?

Good question. My answer is: Cloning itself isn't bad. And if anything, therapeutic (or "embryo" cloning) is the more questionable of the two, since the embryo is created with the express purpose of being destroyed.

But let's focus on reproductive (or "baby cloning"). I've heard objections based on the social impact (e.g., the child will be under pressure to perform up to the standards of its other kids aren't?), but most of the objections really boil down to the "safety argument".

If anyone can find a "credible scientist" openly working on baby cloning, let me know. I don't think they exist, if only because everyone knows that working on it would put them ethically outside the pale. Repeat after me: animal studies suggest that for every successfully-born human clone there would be twenty abortions, miscarriages or stillbirths. These are odds that no mainstream researcher would risk, especially given the public outcry that would result from failures.


When in-vitro fertilization research first began, what kinds of failure rates did they have?

Robert Edwards, a Ph.D. physiologist, and Patrick Steptoe, a gynecologist, pioneered IVF in Great Britain during the 1970's.


Two Australian groups were only two years behind in achieving IVF pregnancies but they chose a different route. They stimulated their patients with fertility drugs in hopes of recovering more than one egg. As their initial success rates, about 5% per attempt, were higher than that of Steptoe and Edwards, all subsequent new IVF programs also used stimulated IVF. Eventually even Steptoe and Edwards adopted this approach as well.

Let's do the math, shall we? 5% is 1 out of 20. According to this article, initial success rates were even lower. That means early IVF research had a greater failure rate than estimates for cloning. Was this risk acceptable? Should IVF research never have been done?

Even now, thirty years later, estimates of the success of IVF techniques range between 10-25%, the upper end being extremely optimistic. Should IVF be outlawed? If you use Murtaugh's moral logic, yes.

But what about natural impregnation?

It is estimated that up to 50% of all fertilized eggs die and are lost (aborted) spontaneously, usually before the woman knows she is pregnant. Among known pregnancies, the rate of spontaneous abortion is approximately 10% and usually occurs between the 7th and 12th weeks of pregnancy.

There's over a 50% failure rate for natural impregnation. Should women who try to get pregnant the good old-fashioned way be prosecuted? For every baby born, at least one fertilized embryo died.

The point is, impregnation is always risky, moreso when done outside of the mother's womb, but risky nonetheless. If Murtaugh wishes to ban IVF, at least there would be some moral consistency. Right now, the argument against reproductive cloning is incoherent.

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