Delaware Human Cloning Bill Gets Hearing, But No Vote

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jan 20, 2004   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Delaware Human Cloning Bill Gets Hearing, But No Vote

by Maria Gallagher Staff Writer
January 20, 2004

Dover, DE ( — A bill which would encourage human cloning for questionable scientific research has received a rocky reception in the Delaware House.

At issue is SB55, a controversial plan which pro-life activists say could lead to human cloning by the powerful biotechnology industry.

Backers of the bill claim that it provides restrictions on human cloning by banning cloning for reproductive purposes. However, the measure clears the way for cloning technologies to be used for agricultural or animal products.

The bill’s critics argue that the legislation will permit unlimited cloning of human beings through somatic cell nuclear transfer. As a result, huge embryo farms could be created for the harvesting of fetal stem cells.

At a hearing last week, bioethics expert Richard Doerflinger said that, while banning human cloning is a worthwhile legislative goal, the Delaware bill is neither morally acceptable nor legally workable.

Doerflinger, who was speaking at the request of the Catholic Diocese of Wilmington, said a cloning ban should go farther in defining the beginning of life.

However, bill sponsor Sen. George Bunting, Jr. (D-Bethany Beach) said the legislation restricts stem cell research and technology.

“Our state has taken a lead as a prime location for companies working in the field of biotechnology,” Bunting told the Cape Gazette newspaper. “Unfortunately, there is presently no legal restriction on the use of biotechnology here in Delaware including that of the controversial human reproductive cloning.” 

But Doerflinger sharply disagrees. “The bill treats human beings as objects of research and even as commodities instead of as members of the human family with inherent dignity,” he said.

Bunting responded, “This bill passed with only three ‘no’ votes in the Senate because it doesn’t come down to Catholic or Protestant or anything else.

“It is important to keep in mind there are currently no restrictions. I have always had a strong respect for all life and I am proud to be one of the few pro-life Democrats in the General Assembly. I would naturally be supportive of greater necessary restrictions on this technology,” Bunting added.

The bill has the backing of some scientific researchers and doctors, who claim that embryonic stem cell research could hold the key to curing a number of diseases.

"Using stem cell research has a tremendous potential to reduce human suffering. This research is going to occur whether we are involved or not. The more we are involved the more we can police it," Dr. David Weir, director of the University of Delaware Biotechnology Institute, said.

However, there has been no solid evidence indicating that fetal stem cell research works. In fact, early experiments have been disastrous. In contrast, research using adult stem cells — which involve no wanton destruction of human life — shows great promise. 

Because of a lack of a quorum, the House Health and Human Development Committee, chaired by Rep. Pam Maier (R-Drummond Hill) was unable to vote on the measure. Discussion of the bill continues this week.