Is cloning an important topic in the abortion debate?

kid-dressed-as-spidermanCould cloning be an important issue for the very heated abortion debating? It’s gone from science-fiction to reality. Dolly the clone sheep entered our world, “on 5 July 1996.”(cloning) In fact she has already left it as, “she was euthanized on 14 February 2003, aged six and a half” middle aged for a sheep, because she, “suffered from arthritis in a hind leg joint and from sheep pulmonary adenomatosis, a virus-induced lung tumor.” (cloning) Cloning made news wave via during a cult’s 15 minutes of fame when the Raelians claimed, “cloning is the way to immortality” and started a religious movement based on Panspermia and a desire to clone their way to immortality. A young westerner would likely leap to the Star Wars Prequel trilogy immediately, given it’s commercial and merchandizing success with a key story component being a clone army. Beyond all these interesting cultural ripples, which themselves sometimes have offered important thoughts on the broader, philosophers and politicians have had to deal with reality in more practical applications, including the abortion issue.

“The most sophisticated defenders of abortion choice concede that the unborn, long before birth, is a human being, though they argue that it lacks a property essential acquiring the status of a moral person.” (Beckwith Pg. 65) Author Benard Nathanson , known for his 1979 work, Aborting America, has argued that since “Some human beings may not result from conception.” (Beckwith Pg. 74) conception cannot be the beginning of life. He, as others, are not denying the genetic identity of the newly formed distinct human individual (zygote) but sees this exception as a reason we can’t place the beginning of humanness there. He might ask, “Since a clone was never conceived, is it then never human?” Obviously the result would be just as human, just as Dolly was clearly a sheep, who lived, ate, died and even reproduced after being cloned.

The argument faces several difficulties. Beckworth admits that, “Nathanson is correct in asserting that a human clone would be a human being who has come into existence without benefit of conception.” (Beckwith Pg. 75) Beckwith’s defense is worth noting, even if he could have gone a bit farther. He states “This world only mean that conception is not necessary condition for a human being to come into existence,” And demonstrates a flaw in Nathanson’s logic. There is a very serious difference between a necessary and sufficient condition. For example a necessary condition for checking out a book at a library is going to the library (also having a library card, etc.) but that doesn’t necessarily mean one would check out a book, one could leave without doing so. A necessary condition always results in something taking place. So Nathanson’s demonstration only proves that conception is a sufficient but not necessary condition.

The idea that the clone would be originated without any conception is obviously false as well. It would only require material from a previous conception. This is similar to the humorous tale of the scientist who shakes his fist and God and says he is unneeded, that he can create life. God responds with “go ahead” and as the scientist begins to gather dirt from the earth God interrupts him, “not so fast, get your own dirt.” Nathanson is only pushing a problem back and creating a hypothetical situation similar to twins. However the zygote is produced, once it is a zygote it is fully human, and the “clone” distinction only describes origin, not value not value and thus leaves us back at the main question of the debate, should the genetic human be concerned less of a person when in the womb?


Beckwith, Francis J. Defending Life a Moral and Legal Case Against Abortion Choice Cambridge University Press New York, NY 2007

Carroll, Robert T. Raelians The Skeptic’s Dictionary 1994 (Accessed 9/25/15)  (Note, obviously I’m not going to agree with a lot on this particular site, but it’s use was intentional, we should be skeptical of somethings, and all things should be examined, even our faith, but unlike this site, I think it stands up to examination.)

Cloning Dolly the Sheep, Animal (Accessed 9/25/15)