Did Obama Allow Human Cloning? Part 2 of an E-mail Debate

Catholic scholars Robert P. George and Douglas Kmiec on Obama's new embryonic stem cell research policy

By + More

By Dan Gilgoff, God & Country

Here's the next installment of the E-mail debate between conservative Catholic legal scholars Robby George and Doug Kmiec over whether President Obama's executive order on embryonic stem cell research authorizes federally funded human cloning. In the first E-mail in this post, Kmiec responds to George's charge that Kmiec wrongly stated that Obama's executive order prohibits human cloning.

See the first installment of this debate here.


From: Kmiec, Douglas Sent: Friday, March 13, 2009 3:07 a.m.To: Robert P. GeorgeCc: Gilgoff, DanielSubject: RE: Cloning

Thanks, Robby. You're correct; the report I was given on the President's recent action did not have the adjective, reproductive, and I am in full accord with the CDF [the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith] guidance on this in Dignitatis Personae as I inartfully expressed in my original note to Dan by simply affirming Cardinal Rigali's more contemporaneous statement responding to the new presidential directive.

That said, I remain optimistic that some responsible ethical boundaries can be stated clearly in the NIH directives to follow, especially since I don't believe the President has any desire to disregard ethics, though obviously, as with other topics in this area, disagreement across Judaic and Christian and other traditions on the significance of the embryo pre-implantation remains an early point of disagreement which troubles all that follows. But then, you know this, and despite this lack of common ground among believers and the resistance among some believers and nonbelievers to concede what we would describe appropriately as the natural, objective (indeed scientific) fact of life, I remain of the view that you and Leon Kass and others well trained in these topics should make every effort to be in active conversation with NIH for that purpose. It is unlikely that the President or his advisors will concede fully the limits articulated by the CDF, but by asking the NIH to respond to them directly, the final directive I am certain would be improved. By my lights, it should lead to a clearly stated research preference against the primary use of embryonic cells, even as I recognize this is less than what would be fully respectful of life as our Church has helped us discern. I am sending a copy of this note to Dan Gilgoff clarifying that I am in opposition to all forms of cloning, reproductive or therapeutic, and to the extent the President is pursuing a different course, I respectfully continue to disagree with the President in this area.

Thanks for bringing this important point to my attention,


Douglas W. Kmiec

Caruso Family Chair &

Professor of Constitutional Law

Pepperdine University School of Law


From: Robert P. GeorgeSent: Friday, March 13, 2009 8:03 a.m.To: Kmiec, DouglasCc: Gilgoff, DanielSubject: RE: Cloning

Dear Doug:

Thanks for your prompt response to my message. I hope you didn't misunderstand my request. I was not asking you to correct or clarify the record regarding your own views. I'm sure that everyone knows that you are opposed to human cloning for any purpose and that you would never countenance the creation of human beings by cloning or any method for purposes of research in which they are killed in the embryonic stage of development.

The error I am concerned about in what you said in the interview with Dan Gilgoff concerns President Obama's position, rather than your own. As currently posted, readers are told that the President opposes and has indeed prohibited human cloning. I'm sure that Catholic, Evangelical, and other pro-life readers of the interview are finding that report about the President's position encouraging and reassuring. Unfortunately, it is the very reverse of the truth. In fact, President Obama supports cloning to create human embryos specifically for research in which they are destroyed, and he is willing to have federal funds directed to research that uses cells and cell lines derived from those embryos. This "creation for destruction" position, as it has become known, takes us far beyond the use of IVF embryos that are cryopreserved in assisted reproduction clinics (bad as that is). (During the campaign, it was sometimes said that Obama and McCain did not differ on the embryo research question. It seemed to me at the time that this was not true, since McCain was a co-sponsor of the Brownback-Landrieu ban on human cloning for any purpose, and Obama was a co-sponsor of competing legislation to allow human cloning while forbidding implantation and gestation of human embryos produced by cloning. Now we know for sure that it wasn't true.)

So, before I write anything myself, I just want to make sure that what is being set right on the public record is your account of the President's position on human cloning. I don't think a note to Dan Gilgoff clarifying that you are opposed to all forms of cloning, and that "to the extent the President is pursuing a different course, I respectfully continue to disagree with the President," does the job. Having stated, on the basis of an erroneous report you were given, that the President prohibited human cloning, I think you need to make sure readers are informed that the President did nothing of the kind, and that in fact he supports human cloning to create embryos specifically for use in research in which they are destroyed, and that he is willing to let research using materials taken from human embryos created by cloning be funded with federal taxpayer's dollars. Is that fair enough? Please let me know.

Thanks again for promptly replying and for your attention to this matter. Thanks, too, for the encouragement to be in touch with the NIH about its ethics guidelines for stem-cell research.

Best wishes,


  • Read Part 3 of this debate.
  • Follow Dan Gilgoff on Twitter.
  • Read more about religion.