We expect that by noon Eastern Time today, there will be a resolution in the UN General Assembly regarding human cloning. We do not know at this point which way the UN will go. We will issue a special bulletin when the decision is made.
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February 18, 2005
Volume 8, Number 9
UN TO DECIDE TODAY ON HUMAN CLONING
A UN committee has been meeting in special session this week to agree to a document on human cloning. After two years of negotiations, a substantive outcome seems more likely than another postponement. Pro-life groups hope that the result of today’s deliberations will be the adoption a political declaration that condemns all forms of human cloning that violate the protection of human life.
Action has been postponed for the past two years partly due to concern about a lack of consensus. Any consensus is still unlikely today, as nations on opposite sides of the debate continue to find it impossible to agree on enough common ground. Supporters of human experimental cloning may push for another delay rather than allowing a vote they could possibly lose.
Historically, countries that support human experimental cloning, including China, South Africa, and Belgium have been in the minority. They have forestalled voting on procedural grounds. Some observers believe that these countries do not want to be on record as voting against the protection of “human life.”
Yet today, pro-life groups are optimistic that countries will allow a substantive vote to proceed. Many delegates at this week’s special session have expressed frustration with the constant delays, and have shown concern that a final result is necessary to maintain the UN’s credibility.
The sticking point continues to be language that would protect “human life,” or in the alternative, the “human being.” Countries that would like to ban all forms of human cloning support the words “human life.” Countries that favor only a limited ban on reproductive cloning have advocated for the words “human being,” which some international legal documents have found to extend only to born individuals. This language would not protect the embryo used in human experimental cloning, where the embryo is killed after a few days of growth, upon the removal of its stem cells.
Negotiations on human cloning have been ongoing at the UN since 2002, when France and Germany proposed the creation of an international convention that would ban human reproductive cloning but allow human experimental cloning. Their proposal was countered by Spain and the United States, which proposed banning all forms of human cloning. Procedural wrangling and substantive disagreement delayed any decision on these proposals over the next two years.
In October 2004, Costa Rica again proposed a convention to ban all forms of human cloning, and Belgium advanced a counter-proposal to ban only reproductive cloning. Negotiations led all sides to drop the idea of a convention, which is a legally binding document, and to attempt to agree on a declaration. While a declaration is nonbinding, it is in effect immediately and may have a strong political impact.
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