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First Democrat senator joins supporters of total cloning ban

WASHINGTON (BP)–Supporters of a comprehensive ban on human cloning received a major boost to their efforts recently when a Democrat woman in the U.S. Senate joined their ranks.

Sen. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana became the first Senate Democrat to cosponsor the Human Cloning Prohibition Act, S. 1899. The bill would ban cloning for both reproductive and research purposes.

While there is widespread backing for outlawing reproductive cloning, the debate over the cloning of embryos for research purposes has been a divisive one. Experimentation on cloned embryos results in their destruction.

“Anything short of a complete ban creates a loophole that would allow researchers, seeking to make money or headlines, the power to decide this issue for the American people,” Landrieu said in a Feb. 5 written statement announcing her support for such a ban. “The risks of human cloning outweigh the potential benefits.

“There are other technologies available that allow the same medical advances to move forward, without bearing these risks,” she said.

Seventeen Republican senators had signed on with Sen. Sam Brownback, R.-Kan., chief sponsor, as cosponsors of S. 1899, but the announcement of Landrieu’s backing gave the bill an impetus no other member’s support had. The previous cosponsors were Republican men who generally are considered pro-life.

“I think it’s significant that this is a pro-choice woman who is providing leadership in a new arena of human dignity,” said Shannon Royce, government relations director for the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. “This is a different kind of debate, and this pro-choice Democrat senator demonstrates the truth of that.”

Family Research Council President Ken Connor said Landrieu’s support demonstrates “cloning is an issue in which neither pro-life nor pro-abortion, neither Republican nor Democrat matters. The only thing that matters is a common commitment to ensure that scientific research respect[s] the dignity of human life.”

The Senate version is the same as one adopted in July by the House of Representatives with a 265-162 vote. The Senate failed to act on the ban, but Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D.-S.D., promised Brownback a vote on the proposal in either February or March of this year.

There is opposition in both parties to prohibiting research cloning. Sens. Diane Feinstein, D.-Calif., and Tom Harkin, D.-Iowa, have both introduced cloning bans that would permit cloning embryos in order to do research. Sen. Arlen Specter, R.-Pa., is a cosponsor of Harkin’s bill.

At its annual meeting in June, the Southern Baptist Convention passed without opposition a resolution condemning both research and reproductive cloning.