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If it walks like a sheep …

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Posted: 2/25/2005

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Senate president Robert E. Travaglini is enthusiastically sponsoring a bill that would promote human cloning in Massachusetts. Regardless of whether citizens agree with the Church’s teaching on cloning, they need to know the truth about what Senate Bill 25 really proposes. Instead, they are being misled.

During a Feb. 16 hearing, Travaglini told the Joint Economic Development and Emerging Technology Committee opponents have attempted to create “fear and confusion by raising unfounded concerns and suggesting that our bill opens the door to human cloning. It does not.”

Senate Bill 25 doesn’t open the door to human cloning? Travaglini should have checked a dictionary before denying the obvious.

The American Heritage Stedman’s Medical Dictionary defines cloning as “The transplantation of a nucleus from a somatic cell into an ovum [human egg], which then develops into an embryo.” He should know that human embryos generated by cloning are identical to any other human embryo.

In a further effort to obscure the facts, Travaglini described the process of cloning an egg saying that somatic cell nuclear transfer “does not involve the cloning of human beings.”

Another outrageous statement. Readers will recall Dolly, the sheep created in Scotland in 1997, the first clone of an adult animal. Dolly was created in a lab precisely through somatic cell nuclear transfer — the very procedure Travaglini is trying to promote in Massachusetts. Following Travaglini’s logic, Dolly is not a sheep. You decide.

Furthermore, the assertions he made at the hearing that somatic nuclear transfer does not involve the creation of a fertilized egg and that cells are “too tiny to be seen by the human eye” are simply decoys. The fact that in the cloning process an egg is not fertilized by a sperm (creating a fertilized egg) is irrelevant, as the Stedman’s says cloned eggs become embryos. Those embryos are the same size as regular embryos. In fact, they are indistinguishable from any other embryo, capable of developing into full-fledged human beings — just as a cloned sheep embryo became Dolly. The final product is the same, and its ability to develop is independent of the way it was created.

This week, The Pilot is running, on page 10, an ad sponsored by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. The ad shows a photo of Joshua, a newborn baby, under the headline “Only 270 days ago, Joshua was just an embryo.” Research on embryonic stem cells obtained by the destruction of human embryos — whether embryos created by fertilizing an egg with a sperm or by transferring the nucleus of an adult cell into an egg — involves the destruction of human life, one that only 270 days later would become a child as precious as Joshua.

By all accounts, this bill is being pushed hard by the leadership in the Legislature. Perhaps they hope to rush it through before the public has the opportunity to understand fully its implications. Do not be deceived. If it walks like a sheep and sounds like a sheep, you can bet it’s a sheep.