The United Methodist Church

Statement By Jaydee R. Hanson Assistant General Secretary United Methodist Church General Board of Church and Society

Date: 11/30/2001

Washington, DC – I join my colleagues here this afternoon in expressing my dismay, but not surprise, at the announcement by Advanced Cell Technologies (ACT) that they have had some limited success in attempting to generate human embryos through somatic cell nuclear transfer and parthenogenesis. ACT announced their intention to proceed along this path some months ago.

At its 2000 General Conference The United Methodist Church adopted a resolution calling for a complete and total ban on these activities, which ACT indicates are intended to create embryos for the purpose of destruction. The Church called for a ban on “all human cloning, including the cloning of human embryos.” It also called for a ban on “therapeutic, medical, research, and commercial procedures which generate waste embryos.”

The resolution adopting these policies expresses The United Methodist conviction that we are “stewards of creation,” and “that technology has brought forth great benefit and great harm to creation.” United Methodists are also convinced that people are created by God and are more than the sum of our genetic heritage and social environment. We recognize that human knowledge on this issue is incomplete and finite and that it is possible that we will never know all the psychological, cultural, social, or genetic consequences of such procedures.

The United Methodist General Board for Church and Society has endorsed and continues to strongly support immediate passage by the Senate of HR 2505, the House bill received in the Senate and enrolled on August 3rd of this year, after an overwhelming bipartisan victory in the House. We also urge all 8.4 million members of The United Methodist Church in the United States to be in contact with their Senators and to urge them to support and vote for that bill.

I want to express my concern over possible confusion that will result from the article about the ACT activities as it appeared in Scientific American and in related press statements, interviews, and other public statements which seem to conflate stem cell research with human cloning, try to establish some artificial difference among embryos based on the intent of the person doing the manufacturing, and in claiming that what ACT is attempting to is to “activate a call” rather than create an embryo.

The creation of human embryos by somatic cell nuclear transfer (cloning) or any other procedures is not necessary to pursue adult, placental or even embryonic stem cell research, which is where we have been promised medical miracle cures for debilitating diseases will come. The importance of cloning human embryos seems to be more about patenting, commercialization, and profit making – you might check to see how much ACT stock rose on Monday – than healing. Ian Wilmot, the manufacturer of Dolly the sheep called ACT’s announcement on Sunday “science by press release.”

It is important to note regarding these promised cures that as recently reported in The Nation magazine, Dr. Muin Khoury, director of the Office of Genetics and Disease Prevention at the Centers for Disease Control, believes they will be useful only for a handful of rare diseases. And if it follows the pattern of typical American medicine, these treatments will also only be available to the wealthiest of our fellow citizens.

Embryos, are embryos, are embryos! The “intent” of the manufacturer has no relevance to the nature of the living entity. Calling what they and others are attempting to produce “therapeutic clones,” or even worse “activated cells” is the kind of blind double speak that George Orwell depicted so well in Brave New World. Under this rubric, I suppose we would have to call Dolly an “activated cell” that grew out of control. Ian Wilmott seems, however, to know that Dolly is a sheep, as does Dolly.

Finally, I want to raise a critical issue that seems unmentioned in virtually every press report or “information packet” produced by the people who wish to manufacture human embryos. Each of these failed “experiments” in human cloning or coaxing a woman’s egg to grow on its own (parthenogenesis) requires, as attorney and author Lori Andrews and feminist Judy Norsigian point out, that a woman undergo what is a painful and dangerous series of hormone and surgical procedures. Something which people concerned about justice cannot leave unmentioned.

We are at a time in global and scientific history when, as Senator Edward Kennedy said not too long ago, “there can be no turning back to the days when scientists were left totally on their own to chart their own course…. The public will immerse itself in the affairs of science.”

The public has immersed itself in this issue off and on since the 1970s and very deeply since the appearance of the activated sheep cell – Dolly. I absolutely agree with Senator Kennedy on this — as I do on many things, including women’s rights — and it is time that the United States Senate follows the House of Representatives in representing the overwhelming opinion of the American people and enacts the Human Cloning Prohibition Act, HR 2505.

Only the General Conference speaks for the entire denomination. The General Board of Church and Society is the international public policy and social action agency of The United Methodist Church.