Contrary to earlier press reports released by most major media Friday, pro-life organizations have cried victory after the United Nations shelved competing proposals for a treaty to ban human cloning. The UN agreed to meet to discuss the issue again in February during the current session of the Sixth Committee in order to finalize a compromise proposal put forward by the Italian delegation.
The compromise means that the UN General Assembly will not vote on rival resolutions as erroneously stated in earlier press reports, claiming that the February discussions would lead to a less powerful declaration.
The Italian compromise proposal calls for countries to prohibit any attempts at the creation of human life through cloning and any research intended to achieve that aim and to ensure that in the application of life sciences human dignity shall be respected in all circumstances.
In particular, the compromise states that women shall not be exploited (millions of eggs would be needed in order to carry out the research).
The compromise, however, does not preclude any subsequent consideration of a Convention.
The Costa Rican Resolution calling for a convention to Ban all human cloning would have no legal effect for several years due to the long process of negotiations and ratification and would only legally bind those countries ratifying it. Thus, the immediate effect of passage of both the Costa Rican proposal for a total ban and the Italian Declaration would be to send a strong message that the world community wants countries to pass legislation banning all forms of human cloning.
A key pro-life insider at the United Nations explained to Catholic News Agency that "the reason our side did not pursue voting on the Costa Rican proposal (although we had over 60 co-sponsors and many more who promised to vote for it; and the other side had about 20 co-sponsors and we thought we could win a vote on the substance) was because the other side threatened a procedural 'No Action' motion that would delay action until next year's meeting of … the General Assembly in September."
The source revealed that many small countries - although almost all are for a total ban- are under enormous pressure from the opposition. According to the UN insider, there are only a small handful of countries that do not support a total ban on human cloning.
"The most important result of our over three years of work is that we have prevented the passage of a Convention that would approve of 'therapeutic cloning,' which appeared to be on a fast track at the beginning because of the total lack of knowledge and misinformation," the source said.
The side supporting a total ban on human cloning has a strong, legally consistent message. It claims that if the UN condones therapeutic cloning it would be the first time the international organization condones the creation of human life for the express purpose of using it for experimentation, a process that necessitates killing human beings in their embryonic stage for their stem cells.
In addition, for the first time, the UN would not only approve this, but would also require states to pass and enforce laws requiring that it be carried out.
Pro-lifers argue that the UN has never condoned or required the violation of the basic human rights of another human being, even though some countries were engaged in such violations.
The UN, therefore, has a responsibility to set ethical standards for the protection of the lives, dignity and worth of all human beings, even if some countries choose to violate these rights, pro-lifers say.
Costa Rica's ambassador to the UN, Bruno Stagno Ugarte, suggested that the United States and others would not be willing to bend on the words, "human life." He underscored that there was nothing in the Italian resolution on the issue that would prevent his country from reviving calls for an international treaty.
According to an AP story, the Belgians (sponsors of the resolution allowing research cloning) object to using "human life" because they fear it could be interpreted to ban all forms of human cloning. They would rather have a document that uses the language "human being." "This is the best compromise you are going to find," Stagno Ugarte told The Associated Press. "It's an important word, I can see that. But it's either that or it's 'embryo.'"
U.S. State Department spokesman Adam Ereli told the AP that the United States was still pleased with Friday's vote.
"It's our longstanding position that all human cloning is wrong, and we are proud of our efforts to prevent human cloning," he said. "So the fact that there isn't any action by the UN to endorse cloning is a moderate success."
"This, in effect, sends a very strong message: this is the direction in which the UN wants to go," said Jeanne E. Head, vice-president for international affairs for National Right to Life, commenting on the Italian resolution.