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US Lawmakers Resume Efforts to Ban Human Cloning

Jan 29, 2003
By Julie Rovner
Reuters Health

The battle over whether to ban human cloning, and exactly what that means, picked up Wednesday just where it left off last year in the US Senate.

Backers of a ban on all forms of human cloning re-introduced legislation that passed the House last year but stalled in the Senate, while opponents urged passage of legislation to ban reproductive cloning but to continue to allow cloning of embryos to derive stem cells for research.

Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., who introduced a new version of last year's cloning ban and chaired a Commerce Committee hearing on the subject, said in the end the issue is one of semantics. "All cloning is reproductive. By that I mean all human cloning produces another human life," he said. "So-called therapeutic cloning is the process by which an embryo is specially created for the directly intended purpose of subsequently killing it for its parts or for research purposes," he said.

But Sens. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and Arlen Specter, R-Pa., urged passage of legislation that would ban only cloning intended to produce a live baby. "I do not consider the laboratory-created product of nuclear transplantation to be a person," said Hatch. "A critical feature of being pro-life is helping the living. Helping millions of American families struggling with the challenges of debilitating diseases is exactly what stem cell research with spare embryos from fertility treatment and from nuclear transplantation promises," he said.

But while lawmakers spar over how far a cloning ban should go, the fact that they have not yet banned reproductive cloning is a mistake that needs to be rectified, testified ethicist Leon Kass, chairman of the President's Council on Bioethics.

"Opposition to human cloning to produce children is practically unanimous in America; the vast majority of our fellow citizens, including most scientists, would like to see it banned," he said. "Yet despite this near-unanimity, and despite the fact that bans on all human cloning are being enacted in many nations around the world, we have so far failed to give national public force to the people's strong ethical verdict. The failure of the last Congress to enact a ban on human cloning casts grave doubt on our ability to govern the unethical uses of biotechnology, even when it threatens things we hold dear," he said.

© 2003 Reuters Ltd