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State legislation and the cloning debate: Implications for biomedical research and reproductive health policy

Richard N. Gottfried, Chair, Health Committee, New York State Assembly, 250 Broadway, Suite 2232, New York, NY 10007, 212-312-1492, gottfrr@assembly.state.ny.us

The author is co-author of New York State Assembly Speaker Silver’s bill, similar to recent California and New Jersey laws, to outlaw reproductive cloning but expressly permit therapeutic cloning for research or treatment. The paper will explain the legislation and discuss its importance for promoting research and treatment; influencing Federal legislative, executive, and judicial decisions, and shaping the reproductive rights debate. The primary rationale for prohibiting reproductive cloning is the potential for giving birth to a human being with major birth defects. Experimenting with creating born human beings until we “get it right” is not ethically acceptable. Although there is no New York law against therapeutic cloning, legislation to affirm its legality would encourage research work in the state. The spread of such state legislation around the country would influence Federal legislative, executive, and judicial decisions on cloning and stem cell research (as New York’s 1970 abortion law shaped the structure of Roe v. Wade). It is critically important in drafting legislation to avoid language that tends to grant “personhood” to anything other than a born person. At the same time, pressing the stem cell research issue promotes better public understanding of reproductive health policy issues. The opposition to stem cell research is based largely on the assertion that a clump of embryonic cells should have the same legal and moral status as a born person – the same assertion underlying opposition to legal abortion. Seeing that assertion in this context undermines the credibility of the assertion.

Learning Objectives:

Keywords: Reproductive Health, Bioethics

Related Web page: assembly.state.ny.us/mem/?ad=075&submit=Go

Presenting author's disclosure statement:
I do not have any significant financial interest/arrangement or affiliation with any organization/institution whose products or services are being discussed in this session.

Defining Personhood: Ethical and Public Policy Implications for Reproductive Health Services and Biogenetic Research

The 132nd Annual Meeting (November 6-10, 2004) of APHA