A United Nations (U.N) committee on Friday approved a resolution to ban all forms of human cloning incompatible with human dignity and the protection of human life, drawing criticism from nations that already legalized some forms of human cloning but prompting praise from the United States and millions of pro-lifers around the world.
The bitterly divided committee voted 71-35 to accept the resolution; there were 43 abstentions, including many Islamic countries who refused to vote lest there be a consensus. The resolution now goes to the U.N. General Assembly for the final vote, where if approved, the resolution will become a recommendation not a legal requirement - that applies to all 191 members.
The resolution calls on its member states to implement legislation "to prohibit all forms of human cloning in as much as they are incompatible with human dignity and the protection of human life."
It also calls demands that countries "adopt the measures necessary to prohibit the application of genetic engineering techniques that may be contrary to human dignity."
Member states are also asked to take measures to prevent the exploitation of women in the application of life sciences."
The United States, one of the most avid supporters of the ban since the topic arose on the table two years ago, said the resolution was a victory for life.
"We're obviously very pleased," said Richard Grenell, spokesman for the U.S. mission to the United Nations. "This means that the United Nations is stating very clearly that member states should adopt legislation outlining all cloning practices."
Austin Ruse, president of the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute, one of the main NGOs involved in the negotiation, agreed that the resolution sent a powerful and pleasing message.
"This is a powerful message to the world community that this morally questionable procedure is outside the bounds of acceptable experimentation," said Austin Ruse, president o the Institute.
However, nations already performing some forms of human cloning, such as stem-cell research, said they will not abide by the resolution, even if it should pass.
"Belgium doesn't feel bound by this declaration and doesn't intend to call into question its legislation in this area," said Marc Pecsteen, Belgium representative to the U.N.
South Koreas representative, part of a 20-nation block in favor of stem-cell research and therapeutic cloning, also said each member state should decide their own laws on therapeutic cloning since "Human life means different things to different cultures and religions."
He added that stem cell research, an endeavor already undertaken by South Korean scientists, did respect human dignity because it helped relieve people from suffering.
Britains U.N. Ambassador Emyr Jones Parry also said his nation will continue to permit stem cell research and therapeutic cloning research "because of the hope it offers of new treatments to benefit millions of people and their families."
"This is a weak, non-binding political statement." he said. "The number of states that failed to support it is greater than the number that backed it."
Great Britain earlier this month gave the green light to allow the cloned sheep Dollys creator to begin cloning human embryos for the sake of medical research. The decision prompted an outcry from pro-lifers around the world, who pointed out that the creation of human embryos solely for the purpose of destroying it was an abhorrent act that should be banned.
In therapeutic cloning, cloned embryos are grown in a lab so scientists could harvest stem cells master cells that form into all the other cells of the body for research. The scientists, who claim stem cells are the key to finding the cure for dozens of nerve-related diseases such as Alzheimers, then discard the remaining parts of the embryo.
Last year, the UN abandoned efforts to draw up a legally binding treaty on cloning because members could not decide on whether to ban all forms of human cloning or to allow some forms such as stem cell research to remain as a legal option. The General Assembly then decided in November to seek a nonbinding political declaration, which today passed the preliminary vote.
Despite the resolution being nonbinding, the 17,000-member Christian Medical Association applauded the U.N. for drafting this much-needed statement on human dignity and urged individual nations to voluntarily abide by the recommendations by passing laws in their own countries.
"We trust that the United Nations' call to protect human dignity and human life as well as to prevent the exploitation of women will motivate lawmakers to adopt policies that follow this ethic," noted CMA Senior Policy Analyst Jonathan Imbody. "No longer should we accept equivocation on this fundamental human life issue.
"The United Nations has recognized that there is simply no ethic, religious or otherwise, that can justify exploiting and taking the lives of some to further the interests of others. "Now it is time for Congress to take up this principled stance and ban human cloning in America in all its forms--including so-called 'therapeutic cloning', SCNT and every other name devised to mask human cloning."