Tags: Lawmakers | Spar | Over | Human | Cloning

Lawmakers Spar Over Human Cloning

Wednesday, 06 February 2002 12:00 AM

At a Senate judiciary committee hearing, all sides agreed that human reproductive cloning should be outlawed, but the sticking point was over whether to ban human cloning for research.

"While reproductive cloning at this time is a danger to children, non-reproductive cloning could save their lives," said R. Alta Charo, professor of law and medical ethics for the University of Wisconsin Law School.

Charo and other scientists believe that human cloning in the lab may lead to breakthroughs in stem cell research that will produce cures for all sorts of human diseases and injuries, from diabetes to cancer to spinal cord injuries.

In an effort to sooth the concerns of many cloning foes, she argued that "therapeutic cloning does not design or engineer the embryo. And precisely because it is not about making babies, it neither designs nor engineers our children."

A ban on all human cloning, Charo added, would be inconsistent with the legal and common practice of in vitro fertilization (IVF), a fertility treatment which results in thousands of unused embryos every year.

"Since almost no one thinks IVF could be outlawed, criminalizing a technique that might involve an exceedingly small number of embryos represents at best a symbolic effort at embryo protection," she argued.

Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., and Rep. Dave Weldon, R-Fla., sponsors of competing bills, had earlier locked horns on this very issue, with Weldon arguing that IVF was morally acceptable, primarily because the purpose and intent of IVF was to produce a baby, not destroy embryos for research.

"You're comparing apples and oranges," Weldon told Durbin.

So-called therapeutic cloning, which may some day yield medical breakthroughs, would mean "creating human embryos specifically to be used for research and then destroyed," Weldon warned.

If you place the product of nuclear transplantation (the cloning procedure) into a woman's womb, it could grow into a human baby, he said. "It is an embryo regardless of what name it is given."

Opponents of all forms of human cloning are working against the legislative clock this year to pass a federal human cloning ban. The House passed a bill, 265 to 162, last July that would ban all human cloning. The Senate has the remainder of the 2002 legislative year to do the same in order to avoid beginning the entire legislative process anew next year with a newly-elected Congress.

While none of the cloning bills are scheduled for a vote in the Senate, plurality leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., has said he opposes cloning "under virtually any circumstances."

Daschle told reporters last year that he believes there are limits to "what we can do morally with embryonic stem cell research, and this is a good illustration."

Calling the House vote a "strong ethical statement which I commend," President Bush has indicated he supports a total ban and would sign such a bill should it reach his desk.

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At a Senate judiciary committee hearing, all sides agreed that human reproductive cloning should be outlawed, but the sticking point was over whether to ban human cloning for research. While reproductive cloning at this time is a danger to children, non-reproductive...
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2002-00-06
Wednesday, 06 February 2002 12:00 AM
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