Human cloning would be banned in Minnesota under a bill introduced today at the state capitol and supported by Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life, the statewide pro-life organization.
Minnesota pro-life advocates have sought the ban ever since the University of Minnesota’s attempts to clone human beings came to light several years ago. Laboratories around the world are in competition to be the first to successfully clone a human being and the University of Minnesota’s Stem Cell Institute is believed to be pursuing human cloning as well.
“Human life must be treated with dignity, not as mere raw material for experimentation,” said MCCL Legislative Associate Jordan Marie Bauer. “This bill will ensure that living members of our species are not created for the purpose of dissecting and destroying them.”
The ban on human cloning, H.F. 998, is authored by Rep. Bob Dettmer, a Republican from Forest Lake while the Senate version of the bill is expected to be introduced today in the Senate by with Senate President Michelle Fischbach, a Republican from Paynesville, as its lead author.
Previous attempts to ban human cloning gained traction among lawmakers and citizens, but fell short of the votes needed to become law. The state legislature passed a ban on taxpayer funding of human cloning in 2009, which pro-life Gov. Tim Pawlenty signed into law. That ban needs to be re-authorized in 2011, unless cloning is banned outright, MCCL officials said.
Human cloning is a technique that combines an enucleated egg (nucleus removed) and the nucleus of a somatic cell (e.g. skin cell) to make a human being in the embryonic stage of development, according to the National Institutes of Health. Somatic cell nuclear transfer, or SCNT, is the scientific term for cloning. SCNT can be used for “therapeutic” or “reproductive” purposes, but the initial process that combines an enucleated egg and a somatic cell’s nucleus is identical. Human cloning could in theory provide a means of large-scale production of human embryos for experiments, conjuring up disturbing images of embryo farming to manufacture and supply laboratories with raw human material.
Many eminent stem cell researchers are turning away from human cloning in favor of alternatives that offer greater therapeutic promise. Rudolf Jaenisch of the Whitehead Institute conducted embryonic stem cell research on mice for years before abandoning it.
“With nuclear transfer you never get normal embryos,” Jaenisch told The Scientist magazine. He said SCNT is “of no practical relevance” and that he would never use it in dealing with human embryos.
Prof. Ian Wilmut, who cloned Dolly the sheep, has decided to give up his efforts to clone human life. A group of eight scientists published an article in Mayo Clinic Proceedings calling for a rejection of human cloning, describing it as “an abuse of scientific freedom, not its realization.”
“No amount of supposed benefit can ever justify human cloning’s utilitarian treatment of life,” Bauer said. “MCCL applauds this move by legislators to protect human life from replication, manipulation and destruction.” [related]
MCCL worries that human cloning “promises a means of large-scale production of human embryos for experiments, conjuring up gruesome images of embryo farming to manufacture and supply laboratories with raw human material.”
Pawlenty also, in 2008, vetoed the Kahn-Cohen Cloning Bill, which would have legalized human cloning and forced taxpayers to pay for the destruction of human life. Pro-life advocates strongly opposed the legislation, SF 100, because it funds human cloning and the killing of human embryos at the University of Minnesota.
“Significant and promising progress continues to be made on the use of adult stem cells. This creates ample opportunity to work toward lifesaving cures,” Pawlenty said. “We should encourage this science.”