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Comprehensive ban on cloning passes House of Representatives

WASHINGTON (BP)–The House of Representatives voted by a comfortable margin July 31 to ban all human cloning.

The 265-162 tally provided approval for the Human Cloning Prohibition Act, H.R. 2505, which would outlaw cloning not only for the purposes of reproducing a child but also for creating an embryo for research. Sixty-three Democrats joined 200 Republicans and two independents in voting for the bill.

The Senate has yet to act on similar legislation.

Before approving the comprehensive ban, the House defeated a substitute supported by the biotechnology industry. A version offered by Rep. Jim Greenwood, R.-Pa., would have prohibited reproductive cloning but permitted the cloning of embryos for medical research. Embryos are destroyed in such a process. Representatives defeated Greenwood’s substitute in a 249-178 vote.

The House-approved measure also would ban the importation of cloned embryos, as well as any products derived from such embryos.

President Bush, whose administration had expressed support for a comprehensive ban but opposition to a Greenwood-type version, called the House vote “a strong ethical statement, which I commend. We must advance the promise and cause of science, but must do so in a way that honors and respects life.”

Pro-life advocates applauded the House action.

Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, said, “All Americans should be both delighted and relieved that the House of Representatives has voted by such a significant margin to not only ban so-called ‘therapeutic cloning,’ which is a euphemism for cloning and then killing tiny babies for research material, but also to outlaw the sale of treatments developed from such barbaric research conducted overseas.

“Once again, the American people, through their elected representatives in the House, have staked a claim to exercising the highest standards of moral leadership for the rest of the world when it comes to the sanctity of human life,” Land said.

At its annual meeting in June, the Southern Baptist Convention passed without opposition a resolution condemning reproductive cloning, as well as research cloning of human embryos.

Each side in the House passionately defended its position before and after the final vote.

Greenwood called the vote “flat-earth kind of thinking,” according to The New York Times. “It has no basis in science, and it’s not compassionate,” he said.

Rep. Dave Weldon, R.-Fla., a physician, said in a written statement, “Today is a good day for those who are concerned about science traveling down a path unrestrained by ethics and morals. Just because something can be done does not mean it should be done.”

Weldon and Rep. Bart Stupak, D.-Mich., are the lead sponsors of H.R. 2505.

Southern Baptist bioethics specialist Ben Mitchell said the claims made for “experimental cloning have been irresponsible. You would have thought from some of the debate that cloning would rid the world of every possible evil and usher us into a new utopia free of disease and death.”

The House-approved ban does not prohibit such cloning as that of DNA, organs and tissues, which does not require the creation of a cloned embryo.

“No ethically responsible scientist will feel constrained by the measure,” said Mitchell, a consultant to the ERLC and an associate professor of bioethics at the Chicago-area Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. “The biotech industry sees dollar signs in human cloning, and it will be working extraordinarily hard to defeat a comprehensive ban. This issue will not go away until we take decisive steps to make human cloning illegal and unconscionable, at least within our borders. After that, we can focus on global bans.”

Great Britain is the only government in Europe to approve human cloning for research purposes, according to Weldon’s office.

Land urged those who approved of the House action “to contact their senators and express their support for this bill. The fact that 63 Democrats joined their Republican colleagues in voting for this bill testifies to the broad, bipartisan support for this essential legislation.”

Another issue involving human embryos remains unresolved in Washington. The president has yet to announce a decision on whether he will permit federal funding of research using stem cells from embryos. Though he has expressed his opposition to such research, Bush is under tremendous pressure to allow funding of at least some such research.

Stem cells are primitive cells from which a wide variety of cells and tissues in the human body develop. They provide hope of treating a variety of conditions, including Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, heart disease and diabetes. Stem cells may be procured from both embryonic and adult sources, but that process to date has resulted in the destruction of the embryos.

The ERLC and nearly all other pro-life organizations and leaders are opposed to embryonic stem-cell experimentation because of the death of the early human being, but they support research using stem cells from such sources as umbilical cord blood and adult bone marrow. So far, the use of cells from adult sources has proven more effective and safe than experiments using embryonic stem cells.

While many supporters of embryonic stem cell research voted against the House-approved ban on cloning, others voted for a total prohibition.

The ERLC has information on both human cloning and stem cell research at its Internet site, www.erlc.com, and the website of the agency’s radio program, For Faith and Family, www.faithandfamily.com.