Remarks Announcing Proposed Human Cloning Prohibition Legislation
Thank you very much, Dr. Shapiro, for that fine set of remarks and for your report. I thank all the members of the President's Committee of Advisers. I'd also like to thank Secretary Shalala and Dr. Varmus for being here today, along with the President's Adviser on Science and Technology, Dr. Jack Gibbons. And I thank Congressman Brown and Congresswoman Morella for being here and for their interest in this important issue. But mostly let me say again, I am profoundly grateful to the National Bioethics Advisory Commission and to Dr. Harold Shapiro for preparing this report on a difficult topic in a short period of time, requiring an extensive inquiry. Your commitment and your courage in breaking new ground in policy is deeply appreciated.
As the Vice President has said and all of us know, we live in an era of breathtaking scientific discovery. More and more, our future in the world depends upon advances in science and technology. And more and more, the scientific community will influence the course of the future and the lives that our children will lead in the new century that is upon us.
As I said in my commencement address at Morgan State University last month, our scientific explorations must be guided by our commitment to human values, to the good of society, to our basic sense of right and wrong. Nothing makes the necessity of that moral obligation more clear than the troubling possibility that these new animal-cloning techniques could be used to create a child. That is why I acted in March to ban the use of Federal funds for cloning human beings and to urge the private sector to observe the ban voluntarily while we initiated a national dialog on the risks and the responsibilities of such a possibility, and why I asked this Commission to issue this report.
For 3 months, the Commission has rigorously explored the scientific, moral, and spiritual dimensions of human cloning. It has talked to leading scientists and religious leaders, to philosophers and families, to patient advocates and to the general public. From many opinions and beliefs, as Dr. Shapiro said, one unanimous conclusion has emerged: Attempting to clone a human being is unacceptably dangerous to the child and morally unacceptable to our society.
I believe strongly that this conclusion reflects a national consensus, and I believe personally that it is the right thing to do. Today I am sending legislation to the Congress that prohibits anyone in either public or private sectors from using these techniques to create a child. Until the day I sign the legislation into law, the ban on Federal funding I declared in March will remain in effect. And once again, I call upon the private sector to refrain voluntarily from using this technology to attempt to clone a human being.
I want to make clear that there is nothing inherently immoral or wrong with these new techniques—used for proper purposes. In fact, they hold the promise of revolutionary new medical treatments and life-saving cures to diseases like cystic fibrosis, diabetes, and cancer, to better crops and stronger livestock. This legislation, therefore, will not prohibit the use of these techniques to clone DNA in cells, and it will not ban the cloning of animals. What the legislation will do is to reaffirm our most cherished belief about the miracle of human life and the God-given individuality each person possesses. It will ensure that we do not fall prey to the temptation to replicate ourselves at the expense of those beliefs and the lives of innocent children we would produce.
Finally, the legislation will ensure that we continue the national dialog we began 3 months ago and will provide the Nation and the Congress another opportunity to take a look at this issue in 5 years. To make sure that all our voices are heard as we explore human cloning, the legislation specifically requires the National Bioethics Advisory Commission to continue its study and report back in 4 1/2 years. At that time, we will decide how to proceed based on what has been accomplished and agreed upon and debated and discovered in the intervening period.
Banning human cloning reflects our humanity. It is the right thing to do. Creating a child through this new method calls into question our most fundamental beliefs. It has the potential to threaten the sacred family bonds at the very core of our ideals and our society. At its worst, it could lead to misguided and malevolent attempts to select certain traits, even to create certain kinds of children, to make our children objects rather than cherished individuals.
We are still a long way from understanding all the implications of the present discoveries, but it is our moral obligation to confront these issues as they arise and to act now to prevent abuse. Today I hope other countries will see what we are doing and do the same, and I pledge to work with them to enforce similar bans around the world that reflect these values.
Once again, let me say a heartfelt thank-you on behalf of our entire Nation to the National Bioethics Advisory Commission for the remarkable work you have done and the work you have agreed to continue doing in the coming years.
Thank you very much.
NOTE: The President spoke at 11:56 a.m. in the Rose Garden at the White House. In his remarks, he referred to Harold T. Shapiro, Chairman, National Bioethics Advisory Commission.
William J. Clinton, Remarks Announcing Proposed Human Cloning Prohibition Legislation Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/223795