April 10, 2002 White House address on cloning by President George W. Bush.
Well, thank you all so very much for coming to the White House. It’s my honor to welcome you to the people’s house.
I particularly want to honor three folks who I had the honor of meeting earlier: Joni Tada, Jim Kelly and Steve McDonald. I want to thank you for your courage, I want to thank you for your wisdom, I want to thank you for your extraordinary perseverance and faith. They have triumphed in the face of physical disability and share a deep commitment to medicine that is practiced ethically and humanely.
All of us here today believe in the promise of modern medicine. We’re hopeful about where science may take us. And we’re also here because we believe in the principles of ethical medicine.
As we seek to improve human life, we must always preserve human dignity. And therefore, we must prevent human cloning by stopping it before it starts.
I want to welcome Tommy Thompson, who is the Secretary of Health and Human Services, a man who is doing a fine job for America. I want to thank members from the United States Congress, members from both political parties who are here. I particularly want to thank Senator Brownback and Senator Landrieu for sponsoring a bill about which I’m going to speak.
As well, we’ve got Senator Frist and Senator Bond and Senator Hutchinson and Senator Santorum and Congressman Weldon, Stupak, and eventually Smith
and Kerns. They just don’t realize — thank you all for coming — they seem to have forgotten we start things on time here in the White House.
We live in a time of tremendous medical progress. A little more than a year ago, scientists first cracked the human genetic code — one of the most important advances in scientific history. Already, scientists are
developing new diagnostic tools so that each of us can know our risk of disease and act to prevent them.
One day soon, precise therapies will be custom made for our own genetic makeup. We’re on the threshold of historic breakthroughs against AIDS and Alzheimer’s disease and cancer and diabetes and heart disease and Parkinson’s disease. And that’s incredibly positive.
Our age may be known to history as the age of genetic medicine, a time when many of the most feared illnesses were overcome.
Our age must also be defined by the care and restraint and responsibility with which we take up these new scientific powers.
Advances in biomedical technology must never come at the expense of human conscience. As we seek what is possible, we must always ask what is right, and we must not forget that even the most noble ends do not justify any means.
Science has set before us decisions of immense consequence. We can pursue medical research with a clear sense of moral purpose or we can travel without an ethical compass into a world we could live to regret. Science now presses forward the issue of human cloning. How we answer the question of human cloning will place us on one path or the other.
Human cloning is the laboratory production of individuals who are genetically identical to another human being. Cloning is achieved by putting the genetic material from a donor into a woman’s egg, which has had its nucleus removed. As a result, the new or cloned embryo is an identical copy of only the donor. Human cloning has moved from science fiction into science.
One biotech company has already begun producing embryonic human clones for research purposes. Chinese scientists have derived stem cells from cloned embryos created by combining human DNA and rabbit eggs. Others have announced plans to produce cloned children, despite the fact that laboratory cloning of animals has lead to spontaneous abortions and terrible, terrible abnormalities.
Human cloning is deeply troubling to me, and to most Americans. Life is a creation, not a commodity. Our children are gifts to be loved and protected, not products to be designed and manufactured. Allowing cloning would be taking a significant step toward a society in which human beings are grown for spare body parts, and children are engineered to custom specifications; and that’s not acceptable.
In the current debate over human cloning, two terms are being used: reproductive cloning and research cloning. Reproductive cloning involves creating a cloned embryo and implanting it into a woman with the goal of creating a child. Fortunately, nearly every American agrees that this practice should be banned. Research cloning, on the other hand, involves the creation of cloned human embryos which are then destroyed to derive stem cells.
I believe all human cloning is wrong, and both forms of cloning ought to be banned, for the following reasons. First, anything other than a total ban on human cloning would be unethical. Research cloning would contradict the most fundamental principle of medical ethics, that no human life should be exploited or extinguished for the benefit of another.
Yet a law permitting research cloning, while forbidding the birth of a cloned child, would require the destruction of nascent human life. Secondly, anything other than a total ban on human cloning would be virtually impossible to enforce. Cloned human embryos created for research would be widely available in laboratories and embryo farms. Once cloned embryos were available, implantation would take place. Even the tightest regulations and strict policing would not prevent or detect the birth of cloned babies.
Third, the benefits of research cloning are highly speculative. Advocates of research cloning argue that stem cells obtained from cloned embryos would be injected into a genetically identical individual without risk of tissue rejection. But there is evidence, based on animal studies, that cells derived from cloned embryos may indeed be rejected.
Yet even if research cloning were medically effective, every person who wanted to benefit would need an embryonic clone of his or her own, to provide the designer tissues. This would create a massive national market for eggs and egg donors, and exploitation of women’s bodies that we cannot and must not allow.
I stand firm in my opposition to human cloning. And at the same time, we will pursue other promising and ethical ways to relieve suffering through
biotechnology. This year for the first time, federal dollars will go towards supporting human embryonic stem cell research consistent with the ethical guidelines I announced last August.
The National Institutes of Health is also funding a broad range of animal and human adult stem cell research. Adult stem cells which do not require the destruction of human embryos and which yield tissues, which can be transplanted without rejection, are more versatile that originally thought.
We’re making progress. We’re learning more about them. And therapies developed from adult stem cells are already helping suffering people.
I support increasing the research budget of the NIH, and I ask Congress to join me in that support. And at the same time, I strongly support a comprehensive law against all human cloning. And I endorse the bill — wholeheartedly endorse the bill — sponsored by Senator Brownback and Senator Mary Landrieu.
This carefully drafted bill would ban all human cloning in the United States, including the cloning of embryos for research. It is nearly identical to the bipartisan legislation that last year passed the House of Representatives by more than a 100-vote margin. It has wide support across the political spectrum, liberals and conservatives support it, religious people and nonreligious people support it. Those who are pro-choice and those who are pro-life support the bill.
This is a diverse coalition, united by a commitment to prevent the cloning and exploitation of human beings. It would be a mistake for the United States Senate to allow any kind of human cloning to come out of that chamber.
I’m an incurable optimist about the future of our country. I know we can achieve great things. We can make the world more peaceful, we can become a more compassionate nation. We can push the limits of medical science. I truly believe that we’re going to bring hope and healing to countless lives across the country. And as we do, I will insist that we always maintain the highest of ethical standards.
Thank you all for coming. God bless.