Lawmakers push for federal ban on human cloning

The Associated Press
Friday April 27, 2001

WASHINGTON — Members of Congress called for a federal ban on human cloning Thursday. 

“There is no need for this technology to ever be used with humans,” said Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan. 

He supports legislation in the House and Senate that would make it a federal crime to clone a human, participate in human cloning or import human clones to the United States. Violators could get 10 years in prison and a minimum $1 million fine. 

A congressional ban may be seen as redundant since federal regulators have never approved such experiments fearing the research could produce deformed babies. 

Lawmakers want to keep scientists from applying the same technique used to clone Dolly the sheep in 1997 on humans. 

The White House has indicated that if Congress passes a cloning ban bill, President Bush would sign it. 

The Food and Drug Administration says any human cloning experiments in the United States would need its approval, but opponents want a federal law strong enough to back up the regulators’ authority. 

There are human clone bans in Germany and other nations, the lawmakers said. 

Clones are created when the genetic material from a single cell is injected into an egg cell that has had its own genes removed. The resulting baby would be like an identical twin born years later. 

Despite the success of Dolly, cloned cows, mice and pigs, most animal clones die during embryonic development. Others are stillborn with birth defects. Mothers miscarry, and sometimes die, too. 

Most scientists oppose human cloning because of such risks, but some infertility doctors and a religious cult plan to try human cloning within the next year. 

Those plans, aired at a congressional hearing last month, have spurred opponents to action. 

“The scientists who created Dolly had over 200 attempts before Dolly was born,” said Rep. Dave Weldon, R-Fla., a physician. “The prior attempts resulted in malformed, sickly creatures that had to be euthanized. 

“We cannot allow this scenario to play out with humans,” said Weldon, who is co-sponsoring the House bill with Bart Stupak, D-Mich. 

Some Congressional lawmakers tried unsuccessfully to ban cloning a couple of years ago, but lawmakers couldn’t agree on whether a ban should stop disease-fighting research that uses techniques similar to cloning. 

Debate over funding of such research – using embryonic stem cells – has emerged this year. 

During the Clinton administration, the federal government published guidelines that would permit funding of embryonic stem cell research provided the funds were not used to kill the embryo. Private researchers would extract the stem cells from fertility clinic embryos and then pass the cells along to federally funded researchers. 


The Bush administration has placed this federal funding on hold pending a Health and Human Services Department review. HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson told a House committee Thursday that a decision should be made in about a month. 


On the Net: 

House Committee on Energy and Commerce: http://www.house.gov/commerce/