What Is Leon Kass Up To Now?

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"Conservatives Draft a 'Bioethics Agenda' for President," reads the Washington Post headline today. Apparently dissatisfied with inept efforts to ban all human cloning by his pro-life ideological allies on Capitol Hill, Leon Kass, chairman of the President's Council on Bioethics, is circulating an alternative proposal.

The Post has not apparently laid hands on an actual copy of Kass' new proposals, but I suspect that they mirror those made by the conservative majority of the President's Council on Bioethics' 2002 report Human Cloning and Human Dignity: An Ethical Inquiry. In that report, the conservatives came out in favor of establishing "a national agency…with broad oversight, advisory, and decision-making authority" to regulate biomedical research. Furthermore, the majority on the Council favored a 4 year moratorium on human cloning to produce transplant tissues, declaring "Our society needs more time to explore the full moral significance of taking such a step, to debate the moral and practical issues involved, and to seek a national consensus—about all research (emphasis mine) on early human embryonic (and fetal) life (not just that formed through cloning techniques)."

Kass told the Post, "The rapid advance of new technologies makes it urgent to look afresh for successful ways to defend human procreation against a broad range of degrading practices and to protect nascent human life against creation solely for research."

As I asked when the report was first issued: What does Kass mean by all research? "Is this an effort to turn back the clock on such beneficial technologies as assisted reproduction or pre-implantation diagnosis of genetic diseases in embryos? Does this debate include another fruitless and contentious effort to force a national consensus on the morality of abortion and contraception? Kass lost the debate on assisted reproduction in the 1970s. Is this a way for him to reopen that debate for a second round in which he hopes to fare better?"

So the answer to my question is yes, Kass is trying to turn back the clock. It is clear that he has never given up on trying to deny the benefits of safe reproductive and biomedical technologies to future generations and that he never will.

NEXT: Children of a Much Lesser God

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  1. “Conservatives” in favor a new “national agency”.

    Gee, that’s shocking nowadays, isn’t it?

  2. Our society needs more time to explore the full moral significance of taking such a step, to debate the moral and practical issues involved, and to seek a national consensus

    Despite the controversy, the Wright brothers announced they would continue trials on their “flying machine”. Orville was reported as commenting “If Kass had been around four hundred years ago, Columbus never would have made it off the beach!”

    “What a prick,” was Wilburs only comment.

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