WASHINGTON (Reuters Health) Jul 24 - All forms of human cloning, whether intended to produce a pregnancy or not, would be banned, with violators subject to up to 10 years in prison and fines up to $1 million, under legislation approved by the House Judiciary Committee Tuesday.
In voting 18 to 11 to send the bill to the House floor, the committee brushed aside complaints of Democrats and researchers that the measure is so broad that it would bar potentially breakthrough biomedical research.
"The bill before us is so sweeping...it would stop ongoing studies designed to help people suffering from Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease, stroke, and spinal cord injuries right in its tracks," said John Conyers, of Michigan, the committee's ranking Democrat.
And by barring the importation of therapies developed using cloning techniques, Conyers added that "if someone from overseas comes up with a cure for cancer, that treatment would be illegal here."
Research groups and others who have studied the issue, and who support efforts to ban cloning intended to reproduce complete humans, urged the committee to reconsider the ban that would also halt cloning techniques intended to reproduce tissues or organs.
Banning that research "would represent an unparalleled loss to biomedical research, and for no good reason," Bioethicist Ronald Green, of Dartmouth College, wrote to Judiciary Chairman James Sensenbrenner, R-Wisc. "It is possible to prohibit reproductive cloning — the attempt to initiate a pregnancy — while allowing nuclear transfer research that aims only at producing immunologically compatible cells for tissue replacement and repair or for other valid medical purposes," Green wrote.
But backers of the bill said that a total ban is the only way to prevent someone from trying to use cloning to produce a pregnancy. "Once cloned embryos are available in laboratories, it will be impossible to control what is done to them," said Lamar Smith, R-Texas.
Other groups and committee members said that any type of cloning that involves creating an embryo is tantamount to creating a person and should be outlawed. "In reality, all cloning is reproductive because cloning for any purpose results in the creation of a new living human being," said Family Research Council President Ken Connor. "So-called 'therapeutic cloning' cannot be that since it results in the death of the cloned human being."
"If we respect human life," said Henry Hyde, R-Ill., "we should reject cloning in all its manifestations."
The committee rejected several Democratic attempts to amend the bill, including a substitute that would have outlawed cloning intended to produce a pregnancy, but allowed other types of research to continue. The committee also rejected amendments to carve out exceptions for embryonic stem cell research (which backers of the measure say the bill does NOT ban), and in vitro fertilization.
The House could vote on the bill
as early as next week.
Copyright © 2001 Reuters Ltd
Copyright © 2001 Reuters Ltd