4/10/2002 4:00 PM
By Kathy A. Gambrell
White House reporter
From the Washington Politics & Policy Desk
WASHINGTON, April 10 (UPI) -- President George W. Bush Wednesday urged the U.S. Senate to ban all forms of human cloning and called the new technology aimed at reproducing cells for the treatment of disease an unethical practice that would be virtually impossible to regulate.
"It would be a mistake for the U.S. Senate to allow any kind of human cloning to come out of that chamber," Bush told an audience filled with lawmakers, clergy and scientists.
The president, speaking from the White House East Room, heralded the accomplishments of modern genetic science, but decried the use of cloning to create what he called "designer" tissue to treat diseases.
"Our age may be known to history as the age of genetic medicine, a time when many of the most feared illnesses were overcome. Our age must also be defined by the care and restraint and responsibility with which we take up these new scientific powers," Bush said.
Bush wants the Senate to approve legislation sponsored by Sens. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., and Mary L. Landrieu. D-La., that would implement a broad ban on cloning. The U.S. House of Representatives last summer passed similar legislation.
Cloning, reproduction of embryonic cells that are genetic duplicates of the donor, has been hotly debated in scientific and political circles for at least six years, ever since British scientists announced in 1996 they had cloned a sheep, which they named "Dolly."
Opponents call the practice a first step toward the creation of genetically duplicated humans who likely would have serious birth defects. Proponents, however, say cloning cells could lead to a new wave of treatments for debilitating and incurable ailments such as Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease or multiple sclerosis.
Bush's stance comes amid a week of speeches aimed at prodding the Senate to act on stalled bills now that lawmakers have returned from spring recess. So far, the president's call for a cloning ban has been his most impassioned plea, an issue he called "deeply troubling" for him and most Americans.
A poll released by the Pew Research Center for People and the Press showed Americans are drawing distinctions between the types of genetic research. It showed 77 percent of Americans surveyed opposed human cloning and 17 percent favored the practice. It also showed 47 percent of Americans support stem cell research, while 39 percent opposed the practice.
Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., said cloning and stem cell legislation would be on the "short list" of items for the chamber to act on.
The president voiced his concern that research into cloning would contradict the most fundamental principle of medical ethics -- that no human life should be exploited or extinguished for the benefit of another. He said advances in biomedical technology must never come at the "expense of human conscience."
Bush also warned anything other than a total ban on human cloning would be virtually impossible to enforce, and even with tight regulations and strict policing, authorities would not be able to prevent or detect the birth of cloned babies.
The president called the benefits of research cloning "highly speculative" as evidence based on animals showed that cells from cloned embryos may be rejected. Even if such practices were medically effective, it would create a "massive national market" for eggs and egg donors leading to the exploitation of women's bodies that "we cannot and must not allow," he said.
"Life is a creation, not a commodity. Our children are gifts to be loved and protected, not products to be designed and manufactured," Bush said. "Allowing cloning would be taking a significant step toward a society in which human beings are grown for spare body parts and children are engineered to custom specifications. And that's not acceptable."
Physician and Sen. Bill Frist, R-Tenn., told CBS's "Early Morning" program that no form of cloning was acceptable, but said he was a proponent of embryonic and adult stem-cell research.
"You have to create a purposeful creation of an embryo to experiment on and then destroy. So that creation and ultimate destruction is what morally bothers people and why it should be banned," Frist said.
The furious debate over cloning was re-ignited internationally on Tuesday in the wake of the controversy over an Italian fertility expert's claim he has assisted a woman who now is eight weeks pregnant with a cloned embryo.
Severino Antinori, a Rome-based fertility expert, was said to have told
a reporter at a fertility conference in the United Arab Emirates last week
that an Arab patient was pregnant with the world's first cloned human.
Antinori first made headlines eight years ago when he helped a 62-year-old
woman conceive a child. Antinori since has declined to confirm or deny
the report. The announcement prompted a move by Italian lawmakers to ban
the technology used for cloning.
Copyright © 2002 United Press International