WASHINGTON (BP)–Presidential candidate John Kerry signed on July 13 as a co-sponsor of legislation that would permit embryos to be cloned but require they be destroyed early in their development.
Kerry, the presumptive Democratic nominee, officially became a co-sponsor of the Human Cloning Ban and Stem Cell Research Protection Act, S. 303. The bill, though labeled a “cloning ban,” actually allows the cloning of an embryo but prohibits a clone from developing 14 days beyond its first cell division, thereby barring the clone’s further growth and birth.
The Massachusetts senator’s position on cloning did not come as a surprise, but his timing is interesting. The announcement of his co-sponsorship of the bill came less than two weeks before the Democratic National Convention and long after the bill was introduced and since any other senator had endorsed it. Sen. Orrin Hatch, R.-Utah, introduced the measure in February 2003. Sen. James Jeffords, an independent from Vermont, was the most recent senator to co-sponsor, doing so in May of last year.
Pro-lifers have condemned the legislation, with some labeling it a “clone-and-kill” bill.
“This bill doesn’t really ban any human cloning – it bans human clone survival, which is a radically different thing,” Douglas Johnson, legislative director of the National Right to Life Committee, has said. “This bill would give a green light to the establishment of what President Bush has called human embryo farms. It is incorrect to say that we think it does not go far enough — rather, it is a step in the wrong direction.”
Bush has endorsed another measure, the Human Cloning Prohibition Act, S. 245. That bill, sponsored by Sen. Sam Brownback, R.-Kan., has 28 co-sponsors. Brownback’s bill would ban cloning to produce an embryo, whether it is for research or birth.
Neither Senate bill has made progress in this Congress. The House of Representatives, however, easily approved a comprehensive cloning ban in 2003.
The Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission and other pro-life organizations have endorsed Brownback’s ban.
Backers of a total ban argue embryonic stem cells have yet to be proven effective, while such cells from adult sources already have provided cures.
Hatch, normally a pro-lifer, and others contend embryo cloning should be legalized in order to seek cures for debilitating diseases. They argue stem cells procured for experimentation from embryos may provide healing for such diseases as diabetes and Parkinson’s. The procurement of embryonic stem cells, the body’s primitive cells that can produce cells and tissues, results in the embryo’s destruction.