Apr 30, 2002
Backers of a bill before the U.S. Senate that would ban "reproductive" cloning but not "therapeutic" cloning to create stem cells for research won a key endorsement Tuesday. Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said he would vote for their bill rather than a competing measure that would ban all forms of cloning.
Hatch said the new bill, which combines measures previously introduced by Sens. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, and Arlen Specter, R-Pa., and by Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., would "promise to help the 100 million Americans who are struggling with the day-to-day challenges of currently incurable diseases."
Hatch, a longtime abortion foe who last year broke with President Bush to support broad federal funding of embryonic stem cell research, has been heavily lobbied by both sides in the cloning debate. But he said his current position is consistent with his principles, even if it pits him against some of his former allies. "I strongly believe that a critical part of being pro-life is to support measures that help the living," he said.
Hatch said he only agreed to support the measure because of the safeguards included to regulate the research. Those safeguards include applying the "common rule" that applies to federally-funded research to private studies, including informed consent provisions, protections against pressuring donors, and review of protocols by institutional review boards.
The bill would ban cloning intended for reproduction, with violators liable for fines of up to $1 million and 10 years in prison. "Using cloning to reproduce a child is improper and immoral," said Kennedy. "But our opponents have created a fog of confusion and myths to try to convince the Congress that we must ban legitimate and ethical medical research in the name of outlawing human cloning."
Sens. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., and Mary Landrieu, D-La., sponsor of the broader ban bill, said the new bill does not in fact ban any cloning. "The latest bill offered by those in the Senate who support human cloning would ratify and endorse the mass production of human embryos as research material," said the senators in a statement. "This will inevitably lead to the creation of human embryo farms where embryos will be grown to specification and then harvested for body parts."
The Senate is expected to debate both bills before the end of May.
© 2002 Reuters Ltd