Reuters, Jan. 4, 2003
By Frances Kerry
MIAMI, Jan 3 (Reuters) – A Florida attorney who asked a state court this week to appoint a legal guardian for the baby girl purported to be the first human clone said on Friday that the court had set a hearing in the case for later this month.
Clonaid, set up by a sect that believes aliens created mankind, said in Florida a week ago that it had produced the first cloned baby. It refused to present the child publicly, say where it was or show medical evidence of the cloning.
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The company, whose claim drew widespread skepticism among scientific experts, said on Friday that a second cloned child was due to be born this weekend in Europe to a lesbian couple.
Attorney Bernard Siegel filed a petition with the state juvenile court in Fort Lauderdale on Tuesday aiming to protect the first purported human clone, saying the child was being exploited and may have suffered birth defects.
“If someone has knowledge of an abused child there is a legal and moral obligation to take action,” Siegel, who undertook the petition as a private citizen, told CNN’s Connie Chung later on Friday.
“As I see it, this child needs a guardian. I didn’t see any action by any governmental agency to protect this child.”
He said that at the arraignment hearing in court on Jan. 22, the parties in the case would be expected to appear before the judge and the alleged parent or legal guardian would have to admit, deny or consent to the petition he filed.
“If they are served and fail to appear that could constitute consent to an adjudication of the child being a dependent child, and could ultimately result in loss of custody,” Siegel told Reuters.
He added however that his intention was not to get the child removed from the mother, but to have a court guardian appointed. Siegel has also acknowledged that the court would probably have no jurisdiction unless the child is in Florida.
Clonaid was set up by the Raelian Movement, a religious sect that claims 55,000 followers around the world and believes aliens landed on Earth 25,000 years ago and started the human race through cloning.
The founder of that movement, Claude Vorilhon, who calls himself “Rael,” told CNN’s Chung that Clonaid and the Raelian movement are “very different” and he could not personally vouch for the accuracy of Clonaid’s claims. “Until there are proofs it’s good to have doubts,” he told Chung.
SECOND CLONED BIRTH IN HOLLAND
The Belgian television channel, VTM, which interviewed Clonaid chief executive Brigitte Boisselier on Friday, said she confirmed to it that the birth of the second cloned baby girl would take place in the Netherlands.
Clonaid has yet to provide DNA samples or any other evidence to back up its assertions that it produced the first cloned human, a girl named Eve born to a still anonymous 31-year-old American woman.
Since Siegel’s court filing, Clonaid has suggested it might delay DNA testing that would prove its claim.
On Thursday, Boisselier said in interviews with France 2 television and BBC Two in Britain that DNA tests on the baby had been put off because the parents were anxious about keeping their identity secret. She said the baby’s parents felt under pressure after the legal petition in Florida.
“I can see why they might want to back off a DNA test,” Siegel said on Friday of the delays. “Either the test will show this child is a clone and therefore has risk of a serious medical future and they inflicted it on her, or if the child is not a clone then they are part of an exploitative scheme.”
Officials of Clonaid in the United States did not reply to a call seeking comment.
Vorilhon of the Raelian movement, who asked that Chung refer to him as “your holiness,” bristled when the veteran newscaster asked him how he could expect anyone to believe he was anything but a “megalomaniac that is the head of some crazy cult.”
“This is pure defamation,” he complained in response.
Siegel asked in the dependency petition for a judge to appoint a legal guardian for the child and, if necessary, place her in state protective custody. Florida law allows anyone to file such a petition for court protection of a child if they have information that the child is in danger.
Siegel filed the petition in Florida because Clonaid chose Broward County to make its announcement a week ago, although there was no indication the child was in the state.
“I am more and more skeptical that there is a child out there,” Siegel said. “But the medical science exists for this to have happened, so if a child exists, and we ignore it we could be abandoning this child to this company.”