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House turns back ‘phony’ cloning ban

WASHINGTON (BP)–The House of Representatives turned back June 6 a bill that would have banned bringing a human clone to birth but would have permitted cloning for research purposes.

The House voted 213-204 against the Human Cloning Prohibition Act, H.R. 2560, which was opposed by pro-life organizations.

Supporters of the bill contended it would serve as a ban on reproductive cloning.

Foes, however, said the bill would not prohibit reproductive cloning because it would permit the creation of embryonic clones while banning their implantation into a uterus. The creation of cloned embryos is reproductive cloning, they argued. That makes it a “clone-and-kill” bill, since it would require the embryos to be destroyed instead of being allowed to develop toward birth, opponents said.

Backers of the proposal fell short not only of a majority but more than 70 votes below the two-thirds majority needed to pass the measure under the rules in effect.

Thirty-one Democrats joined 182 Republicans in voting against the legislation. Supporting the bill were 190 Democrats and 14 GOP members.

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Diana DeGette, D.-Colo., said during floor debate the law is needed because there is no ban on cloning an embryo for reproductive purposes. “I can’t believe that the opponents of this bill would actually vote against a ban on reproductive cloning,” she said.

Rep. Joseph Pitts, R.-Pa., led opposition to the bill during the debate, describing the measure as “a ruse. It is not a ban on cloning. It is a permission to clone.”

Rep. Chris Smith, R.-N.J., called on the House to “pass a real ban on human cloning, not this phony ban.”

The White House released a policy statement the same day as the vote announcing that President Bush would be advised to veto the bill if it reaches his desk. “The Administration is strongly opposed to any legislation that would prohibit human cloning for reproductive purposes but permit the creation of cloned embryos or development of human embryo farms for research, which would require the destruction of nascent human life,” the statement said.

It has been argued that widespread human cloning will be needed in order to create enough embryos from which to derive stem cells for research into treatments for a variety of diseases. Extracting stem cells from embryos destroys the tiny human beings. Most pro-lifers oppose embryonic stem cell research as a result, while supporting non-embryonic research, which is not destructive.

In both 2001 and 2003, the House defeated similar measures that allowed cloning while prohibiting implantation. On both occasions, representatives passed comprehensive bans that outlawed the cloning of embryos. The Senate still has not voted on such a prohibition.

More than 20 countries have banned the creation of cloned embryos, including Canada, France and Germany.
Compiled by Tom Strode.

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