Congressional Human Cloning Ban Will Spark Stem Cell Research Battle

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Feb 10, 2005   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Congressional Human Cloning Ban Will Spark Stem Cell Research Battle

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by Steven Ertelt Editor
February 10, 2005

Washington, DC ( — Pro-life lawmakers in Congress have been trying to get legislators to agree to ban all forms of human cloning, and the November election results may pave the way for more success than in previous years.

With the support of President Bush and a handful of new pro-life members of the Senate, prospects are better than ever for the human cloning ban proposed by Kansas Senator Sam Brownback and Florida Representative Dave Weldon.

The biotech lobby hopes the two Republicans will back down from banning both reproductive as well as research-based cloning, but the pair will likely reintroduce the same or a very similar bill that has already passed the House of Representatives before, according to Aaron Groote, a spokesman for Brownback.

Scientists who favor using human cloning to create human embryos solely for the purpose of destroying them for stem cells oppose the Brownback-Weldon ban.

They are also worried that the ban would cause problems for the numerous states that are looking at spending billions on the controversial research.

"I think what we have here is a real civil war over stem cells, and if the president has his way with this policy and we see the Brownback bill passes, it’s going to undercut every single state funding initiative for stem-cell research," Bernie Siegel, director of the Genetics Policy Institute, told Wired News.

Douglas Johnson, legislative director of the National Right to Life Committee says the additional pro-life votes in the Senate produced by November’s election results will make it easier for a total human cloning ban to pass.

"The group of newly elected pro-life senators will increase the level of Senate support for this legislation," Johnson said.

If pro-life lawmakers can’t pass the bill outright, R. Alta Charo, professor of law and bioethics at the University of Wisconsin law and medical schools, says she worries the ban will be added on to an unrelated bill — making it more difficult to oppose.

"The real risk is having the substance of the Brownback bill tacked on as a non-germane amendment to some other Senate legislation," she told Wired News.

However they try to get the ban to the president, they enjoy his support for it.

President Bush has made previous calls for a comprehensive human cloning ban and he reiterated his plea for legislation to be sent to his desk in last month’s State of the Union.

"We should all be able to agree on some clear standards," Bush said during his address. "I will work with Congress to ensure that human embryos are not created for experimentation or grown for body parts, and that human life is never bought and sold as a commodity."

Nigel Cameron, president of the Institute on Biotechnology and the Human Future at the Chicago-Kent College of Law says the president’s comments go further than the human cloning ban — indicating he supports limiting all research involving human embryos.

"What’s interesting about the president’s statement is that he goes further than Brownback in seeking a ban on all embryo creation for research, whether through (somatic cell nuclear transfer) or in vitro techniques, and states his intention to work with Congress to get this into law."

In August 2001, President Bush put in place a policy preventing federal funding of any new embryonic stem cell research. Instead, the Bush administration has funded the use of adult stem cells to the tune of $190 million.

Adult stem cells, which come from more ethical sources such as bone marrow and umbilical cord blood, have already produced 140 treatments for diseases and ailments. Research conducted with embryonic stem cells has yet to produce a cure for any patient.