Congressman’s Human Cloning Ban Would Actually Ban Human Cloning

Bioethics   Rebecca Taylor   May 31, 2013   |   2:04PM    Washington, DC

Congressman Andy Harris (R-MD) has reintroduced a true ban on human cloning to the U.S. Congress. H.R. 2164, Human Cloning Prohibition Act of 2012, would ban human cloning all over the U.S. This is actually a remarkable bill. Why? Because most other “bans on human cloning” do nothing of the sort.

I have always told my readers to beware of bans on human cloning. A lot of legislation that claims to ban human cloning does not actually ban human cloning. These laws just redefine cloning so that the cloning of human embryos for research can continue.

Somatic cell nuclear transfer or SCNT is the scientific name for cloning. With SCNT, scientists create cloned embryos using a cell like a skin cell and an egg. SCNT was the process used to create Dolly the sheep, the first mammal cloned using an adult mammary cell.

SCNT is cloning, but if you read the fine print of many a law that says it “bans human cloning” often SCNT in humans is NOT banned. Instead these phony bans allow researchers to continue using SCNT to clone as many embryos as they want. The phony “ban on human cloning” then just prohibits the transfer of those cloned embryos to a woman. The cloning of human embryos is still allowed; it is the attempt at pregnancy that is banned. These phony cloning bans are especially insidious because they require the destruction of the human embryos created with SCNT.

This cloning slight-of-hand works. Back in 2006, Missouri voted on and passed Amendment 2 that said it “banned human cloning.” It did not. It only banned the transfer of cloned embryos to a womb. The propaganda before the vote was so duplicitous that a group of scientists wrote an open letter to the people of Missouri to try and cut through the confusion. They concluded:

…the people of Missouri should know what they are actually voting on. Amendment 2 creates a constitutional right for researchers to engage in human cloning. Efforts to deny this are misleading and deceptive.

The legislation proposed to the U.S. Congress by Rep. Harris is a TRUE ban on human cloning. It bans all SCNT in humans. H.R. 2164 states:

(1) some individuals have announced that they will attempt to clone human beings using the technique known as somatic cell nuclear transfer already used with limited success in sheep and other animals;…

(8) in order to be effective, a ban on human cloning must stop the cloning process at the beginning because–

(A) cloning would take place within the privacy of a doctor-patient relationship;

(B) the transfer of embryos to begin a pregnancy is a simple procedure; and

(C) any government effort to prevent the transfer of an existing embryo, or to prevent birth once the transfer has occurred, would raise substantial moral, legal, and practical issues, so that it will be nearly impossible to prevent attempts at ‘reproductive cloning’ once cloned human embryos are available in the laboratory;…

The bill goes on to define human cloning properly, as the creation of human embryos through asexual means, regardless of whether those embryos would be transferred to a woman or destroyed for research:

(1) HUMAN CLONING- The term ‘human cloning’ means human asexual reproduction, accomplished by introducing the nuclear material of a human somatic cell into a fertilized or unfertilized oocyte whose nucleus has been removed or inactivated to produce a living organism (at any stage of development) with a human or predominantly human genetic constitution.

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(a) In General- It shall be unlawful for any person or entity, public or private, in or affecting interstate commerce–

‘(1) to perform or attempt to perform human cloning;

‘(2) to participate in an attempt to perform human cloning; or

‘(3) to ship or receive the product of human cloning for any purpose.

With the announcement last week that Oregon scientists were finally successful in creating human embryos with SCNT that developed sufficiently enough for researchers to extract stem cells, now is the time for a federal ban on cloning. A real one. H.R. 2164 is a real ban on human cloning. Please call your congressional representatives and tell them you want H.R. 2164 to become law across the U.S.