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House Judiciary Committee approves ban on cloning

WASHINGTON (BP)–A key congressional committee approved a comprehensive ban on human cloning July 24.

The House of Representatives Judiciary Committee voted 18-11 in favor of the Human Cloning Prohibition Act, H.R. 2505. The vote was along party lines, with Republicans in the majority.

The bill, which has Reps. Dave Weldon, R.-Fla., and Bart Stupak, D.-Mich., as its lead sponsors, would prohibit human cloning not only for the purposes of reproducing a child but also for creating an embryo for research. Another version, the Cloning Prohibition Act, H.R. 2172, would ban reproductive cloning only. Rep. Jim Greenwood, R.-Pa., is the sponsor of that legislation.

Southern Baptist ethics agency head Richard Land applauded the committee’s action, adding Americans “should overwhelmingly support” the Weldon-Stupak bill.

“This legislation and only this legislation, as opposed to some compromises camouflaging themselves as anti-cloning bills, will make it illegal for anyone to clone a human being for whatever purpose,” said Land, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. “This is right, good and necessary legislation, and we owe a debt of gratitude to Congressmen Weldon and Stupak for stepping up to the plate and doing what needs to be done.”

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.

An attempt in the Judiciary Committee to substitute a version nearly identical to Greenwood’s bill failed. Committee members voted down the amendment from Rep. Adam Schiff, D.-Calif., banning only cloning intended to produce a pregnancy in a 19-11 vote.

“The Weldon-Stupak bill is the right vehicle to stop the ‘Brave New World’ from invading our borders,” said House Republican Conference chairman J.C. Watts, R.-Okla., in a written statement. “This bill is good policy. Congress is doing the right thing by banning human cloning in all its forms.”

One pro-life leader said other House Democrats will not mimic those on the Judiciary Committee. Democrats on the committee “voted to allow human embryo farms in the United States, but many of their Democratic colleagues will not follow them over that cliff,” said Douglas Johnson, legislative director of the National Right to Life Committee, in a written release.

The committee’s approval follows by a month the Bush administration’s announcement it favors a ban on cloning regardless of the purpose. A White House spokesman told a congressional panel the administration had a “major concern” with Greenwood’s version. The ERLC’s Land and others had asked the president in a June 4 letter to endorse the Weldon-Stupak bill.

Democrats on the committee complained the Weldon-Stupak bill would block research using cells from human embryos, according to CNSNews.com. “It destroys stem cell research, that’s what this bill does,” said Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D.-Calif., CNSNews.com reported.

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, in a process that destroys embryos, and from adult sources.

Bush is considering whether to permit federal funding of research on at least some human embryos. While the administration has signaled unity in its opposition to human cloning, recent news reports have indicated there is division on the issue of stem cell research.

The ERLC and nearly all other pro-life organizations and leaders are opposed to embryonic stem cell experimentation because it requires 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 safer than experiments using embryonic stem cells.