Minnesota Now Paying Scientists to Engage in Human Cloning

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jul 21, 2011   |   1:50PM   |   St. Paul, MN

The state of Minnesota is now paying scientists to engage in the grisly practice of human cloning. After the state legislature failed to re-authorize a ban on state funded human cloning during the special session, it is now legal to use taxpayer dollars to create cloned human embryos.

The ban on the use of state taxpayer money had been in place since 2009 and encompassed all forms of human cloning, known also as somatic cell nuclear transfer, whether intended for reproductive or so-called therapeutic purposes. The University of Minnesota Stem Cell Institute repeatedly testified during the legislative session against a permanent ban on state funding of human cloning, saying it wanted to leave open its option to clone human life with state funds.

“In these hard economic times when so many Minnesotans are hurting, it is a tragedy that our taxpayer dollars can now be wasted to create and kill the tiniest human beings,” responded Leo LaLonde, the president of Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life, a statewide pro-life organization.

During the regular 2011 legislative session, state legislators passed a total ban on all forms of human cloning, in addition to passing a continuation of the ban on taxpayer funding of human cloning. Governor Mark Dayton, a Democrat, vetoed the pro-life legislation. Then, in a legislative deal struck by pro-abortion Gov. Dayton, Senate Majority Leader Koch, and Speaker of the House Zellers going into the special session, no pro-life provisions were allowed to be considered, MCCL indicates.

“Many states and countries and the United Nations have called for an all-out ban on all forms of human cloning, but here in Minnesota we will now actually make state funds available to create a human clone,” stated LaLonde. “This is despite the fact that polling consistently shows that the American people are overwhelmingly opposed to human cloning.”

Scientists who create cloned human embryos typically dissect and kill the human clones within days after they are alive. It is not known how many human clones will be created and killed by various institutions in Minnesota, including the University of Minnesota, or which ones will be state funded, as there are no reporting requirements to disclose the number of deaths, LaLonde said.

Sen. Michelle Fischbach, R-Paynesville, and Rep. Bob Dettmer, R-Forest Lake, sponsored the legislation to ban human cloning and lawmakers ultimately included it in the Health and Human Services omnibus bill. The language of the bill banned human cloning for any purpose.

Opponents of the ban, primarily the University of Minnesota, claimed that producing a human organism by cloning and then destroying it after five to 10 days, is not cloning. However, the National Institutes of Health defines cloning as the process of combining an enucleated egg (oocyte) with a somatic (i.e. body) cell nucleus to make an embryo. Whether the cloned embryo is destroyed or allowed to live does not change the definition of cloning.

Minnesota’s 1973 Human Conceptus statute (MN Statute 145.422) prohibits “the use of a living human conceptus for any type of scientific, laboratory research or other experimentation.” Dr. John Wagner, director of the U of M’s Stem Cell Institute, admitted in testimony on March 17 that cloning creates a human conceptus: “Once you insert a nucleus into that oocyte you get an embryo.” A cloned embryo cannot be destroyed or used for experiments without violation of the statute.

The Legislature passed a similar ban in 2009 after learning that the U of M was considering conducting human cloning experiments with state funds (the 2009 ban must be reauthorized every two years). The human cloning funding ban would permanently prevent state taxpayer funds from being used to clone human beings.

A 2005 International Communications Research poll showed 75% of Americans strongly oppose the use of human cloning for any reason. For years, poll after poll has shown overwhelming opposition to human cloning in the United States. North and South Dakota, Michigan and Iowa are among the states that have banned human cloning.

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.

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.