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New cloning bill proposed, criticized as ‘subterfuge’

WASHINGTON (BP)–U.S. Senate supporters of cloning for research purposes proposed another bill April 30 in their effort to thwart a comprehensive ban on cloning and, in the process, gained the endorsement of a Republican who has a reputation for being pro-life.

Sen. Orrin Hatch, R.-Utah, joined pro-choice Sens. Dianne Feinstein, D.-Calif., Edward Kennedy, D.-Mass., and Arlen Specter, R.-Pa., in the announcement of a new measure that would prohibit reproductive cloning but would permit cloning in order to harvest embryonic stem cells for experimentation. Such research cloning results in the destruction of the young embryo.

While other Senate bills already exist that ban reproductive cloning and allow research cloning, the sponsors of the latest legislation provided enough new language — including the requirement of an ethics board review — to sway Hatch, who has cast numerous pro-life votes during his five terms in office.

The National Right to Life Committee, however, described the new bill as a “dressed-up version of the existing ‘clone and kill’ bills.”

“This is not a compromise; it’s a complete surrender,” said Shannon Royce, director of government relations for the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. “It’s a subterfuge.

“They’re saying in this bill that you cannot create an embryo for the purpose of reproducing a baby. What they are doing is mandating the destruction of these tiny people, because all they are outlawing is the implantation of these tiny cloned embryos. How is this good or right?”

The sponsors of a Senate bill that would prohibit both types of cloning rejected the arguments of Feinstein and others that the new bill is needed to protect important medical research.

To say the comprehensive cloning ban “is anti-research is false,” said Sen. Mary Landrieu, D.-La., “We simply recognize that the creation of cloned human embryos is not a necessary part of the equation. It’s unnecessary, and it’s unacceptable.”

Sen. Sam Brownback, R.-Kan., said the latest bill “would ratify and endorse the mass production of human embryos as research material. This will inevitably lead to the creation of human embryo farms where embryos will be grown to specification and then harvested for body parts.”

Brownback and Landrieu are sponsors of the Human Cloning Prohibition Act, S. 1899. It has 30 cosponsors, with Landrieu the only Democrat. The House of Representatives adopted a comprehensive ban last year by more than 100 votes.

It appears the Senate finally will deal with the cloning issue in May. The fate of the Brownback-Landrieu bill is uncertain. Members are nearly evenly divided on the comprehensive ban, with some still uncommitted. The biotechnology lobby has been actively pressing senators to oppose the Brownback-Landrieu legislation.

President Bush endorsed the Brownback-Landrieu proposal in April and called on the Senate to approve it.

Proponents of research cloning say it must be protected in order to permit experiments on embryonic stem cells, the body’s primitive cells that have shown the ability to develop into cells and tissues to use as replacements in treating a variety of conditions, including Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases, heart disease and diabetes. Research on embryonic stem cells already is being conducted without the use of cloned embryos.

Adult stem cells also have shown such capability and have been used already as successful treatments. Procuring stem cells from adult sources does not harm or destroy a human being. Critics of research cloning charge the hope embryonic stem cells supposedly provide is only speculative.

Other senators, including Tom Harkin, D.-Iowa, Byron Dorgan, D.-N.D., and Feinstein, have introduced bills that would bar cloning for reproduction but allow cloning for research.

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

Contacts with senators may be made by calling the Capitol switchboard at (202) 224-3121 or by emailing through www.erlc.com/capitolhill.