March 10, 2003
House again votes ban on all cloning; fate awaits in Senate
___By Robert Marus
___ABP Washington Bureau
___WASHINGTON (ABP)--For the second time, the House of Representatives has voted overwhelmingly to ban all forms of human cloning, including those some scientists believe could produce life-saving cures.
___But such a comprehensive cloning ban once again faces an uphill battle in the Senate, which has been much more closely divided on whether so-called "therapeutic" cloning should be banned along with reproductive cloning.
___On Feb. 27, the House voted 241-155 to pass the Human Cloning Prohibition Act of 2003, sponsored by Rep. Dave Weldon, R-Fla., and co-sponsored by 140 other congressmen, including several Democrats. The bill would make any form of cloning a federal crime and also would ban the importation of any medical procedures or products that had been developed with the use of human embryos cloned in other countries.
___Although virtually all members of Congress agree that cloning for reproductive purposes should be illegal, there is intense disagreement on cloning done as part of medical research. Supporters say stem cells produced by cloned embryos could produce cures for certain types of medical conditions. Cures produced by cloned embryos could have advantages over cures produced from the stem cells of non-cloned embryos by reducing the likelihood that the patient's body would reject the tissue or organ that was produced.
___However, opponents of such therapeutic-cloning research adhere to at least one of two arguments: That allowing some kinds of cloning would create a loophole that would tempt renegade scientists to clone embryos for reproductive rather than therapeutic purposes, and that killing cloned embryos (which must be done to harvest stem cells) would be immoral.
___"Like most Americans, I believe human cloning is deeply troubling, and I strongly support efforts by Congress to ban all human cloning," President Bush said in congratulating the House on the vote. "We must advance the promise and cause of medical science, including through ethical stem cell research, yet we must do so in ways that respect human dignity and help build a culture of life."
___But bill opponent Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., said banning therapeutic cloning is as immoral as allowing reproductive cloning.
___"It is precisely because we abhor the suffering that would result from using cloning techniques for human reproduction that it is clearly immoral to criminalize using so-called 'therapeutic cloning,'" Nadler said in floor debate on the bill before its passage.
___"So what is this bill really all about? It would write into our criminal law a narrow religious view that a few cells in a petri dish are morally equivalent to a fully developed human being, and that no benefit to those suffering and dying from terrible diseases would justify such research."
___The House passed a similar bill in 2001, but leaders in the then-Democratically-controlled Senate blocked it from being considered while supporters of two competing bills battled in that chamber.
___Even though Republicans are now in control of the Senate, the question may remain unresolved under Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn. While Frist, a physician, has expressed support for a comprehensive human-cloning ban in the past, he also has publicly supported allowing stem-cell research on non-cloned embryos.
___The bill passed by the House and sent to the Senate is H.R. 534.
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