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Supporters of total cloning ban seek Senate votes during delay

WASHINGTON (BP)–Advocates of a comprehensive ban on human cloning continue to work for votes after another deadline passed without action in the U.S. Senate.

Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., had said the Senate would vote on cloning legislation before the Memorial Day recess. No vote occurred, however, and senators will not meet again until June 3. It remains uncertain how soon floor action will take place.

Last fall, Daschle had promised a vote on cloning legislation in February or March. Daschle favors a ban only on reproductive cloning.

Supporters of a bill prohibiting cloning for both reproductive and research purposes hope to gain votes in the time preceding eventual action.

“We’re disappointed with the delay, but we are encouraging believers to use it to our advantage,” said Shannon Royce, director of government relations for the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.

“Members are home in their states this week and hearing from their constituents. Even if there are inklings on how they lean, if they have not made a commitment we are encouraging people to contact them.”

In a recent e-mail to state leaders, the ERLC listed the following senators as uncommitted on the Human Cloning Prohibition Act, S. 1899, the only bill that would bar both reproductive and research cloning:

Sens. Max Baucus of Montana; Evan Bayh and Richard Lugar, both of Indiana; Jeff Bingaman and Pete Domenici, both of New Mexico; Robert Byrd of West Virginia; Ben Campbell of Colorado; Jean Carnahan of Missouri; Max Cleland of Georgia; Thad Cochran of Mississippi; Kent Conrad of North Dakota; Michael Crapo of Idaho; Ernest Hollings of South Carolina; Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas; Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas; Fred Thompson of Tennessee, and John Warner of Virginia.

Four alternatives to the comprehensive ban, which is sponsored by Sens. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., and Mary Landrieu, D-La., would bar only reproductive cloning. Those bills would permit the cloning of embryos in order to obtain stem cells for research into finding cures for a variety of diseases. Procurement of cells from embryos destroys the tiny human beings, however.

The House of Representatives adopted a comprehensive ban last year by more than 100 votes. The Senate’s comprehensive measure has 30 cosponsors, in addition to Brownback. Landrieu is the only Democratic cosponsor.

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

While Senate action is delayed, developments on the issue of cloning continue to unfold:

— The University of California-San Francisco acknowledged it has attempted to clone human embryos, making it the first United States public institution to carry out such experiments. The research was conducted in early 1999 and 2001 but was halted because of problems with keeping federal funds separated from the experiments and the departure of lead researcher Roger Pedersen to Cambridge University in England, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

— A year-old patent that can be interpreted to apply to cloned human beings recently was discovered. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office granted a patent on human reproductive cloning and its “products” in April 2001, according to the public-interest group Patent Watch. The University of Missouri received the patent, but financial interest in the patent is shared by Biotransplant Inc., a Massachusetts biotechnology firm, according to Patent Watch. The university denied it intended to assert ownership of human beings or clones, according to The Washington Post. A spokeswoman told The Post the patent office has not changed its policy that human beings cannot be patented.

— More than 60 percent of Americans oppose cloning human embryos to use in medical research, according to an early May survey by The Gallup Organization. The poll showed 61 percent oppose such cloning, while 34 percent favor it. On reproductive cloning, 90 percent are opposed, while 8 percent are in favor, according to Gallup.

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 disease, Alzheimer’s disease, heart disease and diabetes. Research on embryonic stem cells already is being conducted without the use of cloned embryos.

Critics of experimentation using embryonic stem cells say it is not only unethical but highly speculative. It also is unnecessary, they say, because research using stem cells from adult sources already has proven successful. Such experimentation is not harmful to the source of the stem cells.

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

Contacts with senators in Washington can be made by calling the Capitol switchboard at (202) 224-3121 or by e-mailing through www.erlc.com/capitolhill.