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Republicans clash over ban on human cloning

WASHINGTON (BP)–Congressional Republicans have resumed their debate over human cloning in the wake of President Bush’s call for a comprehensive ban on the experimental effort.

In a hearing Jan. 29, Republicans faced off over the nature of a cloning ban only a day after the president made his plea to Congress in the State of the Union Address. In that speech, Bush told Congress, “[B]ecause no human life should be started or ended as the object of an experiment, I ask you to set a high standard for humanity and pass a law against all human cloning.”

At a hearing he chaired the next day, Sen. Sam Brownback, R.-Kan., defended the need for his proposed prohibition of cloning for both reproductive and research purposes. He did so against the assertions of Sens. Arlen Specter, R.-Pa., and Orrin Hatch, R.-Utah, that cloning to gather stem cells for experimentation should be allowed. Supporters of such research contend the use of such primitive cells could provide cures for such diseases as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and diabetes. The procurement of those cells results in the destruction of the embryo, however.

Specter and others are expected to introduce legislation soon to permit “therapeutic cloning,” according to The Washington Post. Specter and other proponents of such research cloning say they are opposed to cloning that would result in the birth of a child.

Hatch, an abortion opponent, said at the hearing, “If, on the other hand, nuclear transplantation can lead to another source of stem cells, I think we should take advantage of this technology, as long as we develop adequate ethical standards,” CNSNews.com reported.

Brownback and Rep. Dave Weldon, R.-Fla., chief sponsor of the House of Representatives version of the comprehensive ban, countered those arguments at the meeting of a subcommittee of the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee.

“To describe the process of destructive human cloning as ‘therapeutic,’ when the intent is to create a new human life that is destined for virtually immediate destruction, is misleading,” Brownback said, according to The Post. “However one would like to describe the process of destructive human cloning, it is certainly not therapeutic for the clone who has been created and then disemboweled for the purported benefit of the adult twin.”

Weldon said, according to CNS, “All human cloning begins with the production of a cloned embryo. We do not allow drug companies to go out there and start experimenting on human subjects with their drugs until they have first demonstrated success in animal models. Why some would want to skip this process and go directly to human cloning is beyond me.”

Weldon’s comprehensive ban on cloning easily passed the House in the last session, but Brownback’s version failed to gain a vote, as did other cloning bills in the Senate.

The Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission asked the leaders of both houses of Congress to make a complete ban on human cloning a priority in the new session. In a Jan. 7 letter, ERLC President Richard Land made the appeal to new Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist and Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert after Clonaid announced the birth of a clone.

“Even if this particular story is a hoax, the next one might not be. It is critical that Congress move immediately to enact a complete ban on all human cloning. We will work tirelessly to see that the bill is passed and signed into law” by President Bush, Land said.

While there is widespread skepticism that Clonaid, which is affiliated with the Raelian UFO sect, has produced a successful clone, other organizations are working toward the same goal. Clonaid says two other clones have been born. Clonaid says the first clone is living in Israel but has yet to provide evidence of its assertions.

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