OU Supports Bipartisan Bill Banning Human Cloning While Permitting Important Biotech Research

Posted on April 30, 2002 In Press Releases

Today, at a Capitol Hill news conference, the nation’s largest Orthodox Jewish umbrella organization – the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, representing nearly 1,000 congregations, expressed its support for the “Human Cloning Prohibition Act of 2002” introduced by a group of bipartisan members of the U.S. Senate, led by Senators Kennedy (D-MA), Specter (R-PA), Feinstein (D-CA) and Hatch (R-UT).

The proposed legislation would criminally outlaw scientific attempts to produce a new human being genetically identical to one already alive; in common language – to engage in reproductive cloning. However, the legislation would permit nuclear transplantation [what has been referred to in common language as ‘therapeutic cloning’] research which holds the promise of revolutionary medical advancements.

In March, the Union, together with its affiliated Rabbinical Council of America, issued a policy statement that articulated the traditional Jewish position on this critical public policy question. The policy statement – which can be viewed in full at www.ou.org/public/Publib/cloninglet.htm – states in pertinent part:

Our Torah tradition places great value upon human life … The Torah commands us to treat and cure the ill and to defeat disease wherever possible; to do this is to be the Creator’s partner in safeguarding the created. The traditional Jewish perspective thus emphasizes that the potential to save and heal human lives is an integral part of valuing human life. Moreover, our tradition states that an embryo in vitro does not enjoy the full status of person-hood and its attendant protections. Thus, if cloning technology research advances our ability to heal humans with greater success, it ought to be pursued since it does not require or encourage the destruction of life in the process… However, cloning research must not be pursued indiscriminately. We must be careful to distinguish between [nuclear transplantation] – which ought to be pursued, and cloning for reproductive purposes – which we oppose. Thus, this research must be conducted under strict guidelines and with strict limitations to ensure that the research is indeed serving therapeutic purposes…

UOJCA director of public policy Nathan Diament stated that “the bipartisan legislation introduced today embodies the guidance Judaism provides on this morally weighted public policy question; namely, to value life’s worth by working to save the living, but to be mindful of life’s Divine miracle by prohibiting the reproduction of humans in the laboratory.”