Human Cloning Ban

 

Background: Cloning is a way of producing a genetic twin of an organism without sexual reproduction. The nuclear material from a cell of an organism's body is introduced into a female reproductive cell (an oocyte) whose nuclear material has been removed or inactivated. When stimulated, the development of a new embryo begins. The cloning techniques used to create human embryos for experimentation and destruction could also be used to create human embryos for transfer to the womb and subsequent live birth. In either case, cloning is wrong and should be banned. In 2001 and again in 2003, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Human Cloning Prohibition Act, a genuine ban on human cloning. The Senate did not act. In addition to bills banning human cloning, opposition bills allowing the creation of human clones for purposes of research and destruction also have been introduced.

In February 2004 Science magazine reported what seemed to be the first ever verified case of deriving a stable human embryonic stem cell line from a human embryo generated by cloning. The research in question was carried out by Dr. Hwang Woo Suk and associates in Seoul, South Korea. In May 2005 Science magazine further reported that the same researchers had created 11 human embryonic stem cell lines from 185 human embryos generated by cloning. However, subsequently a South Korean academic panel discredited both these reports as fabrications. See the January 10, 2006 Summary of Final Report in news reports on the University of Seoul website: www.useoul.edu. No embryonic stem cell lines were produced from human clones.

A May 19-23, 2006 International Communications Research poll showed overwhelming opposition to human cloning, whether to provide children for infertile couples (83% against) or to produce embryos that would be destroyed in medical research (81% against).

Today the debate on human cloning is linked to the question of deriving embryonic stem cells from cloned embryos. For additional discussion, see section on “Stem Cell Research.”

Senate: The following  major bills were introduced.

(1) Genuine Ban on Human Cloning: On March 17, 2005, Sens. Sam Brownback (R-KS) and Mary Landrieu (D-LA) introduced the Human Cloning Prohibition Act (S. 658), a genuine ban on human cloning. Thirty-one other Senators added their names as cosponsors. However, on February 10, 2006, Sen. Jim Talent (R-MO) withdrew his name. The measure was referred to the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions. No further action was taken. The bill prohibits any person or entity, public or private, to perform or attempt to perform human cloning, to participate in an attempt to perform human cloning, to ship or receive an embryo produced by human cloning or any product derived from such an embryo, or to import an embryo produced by human cloning. Not later than four years after enactment, the Government Accountability Office shall send to Congress a study assessing the need for amendment to the human cloning prohibition.

(2) False Ban on Human Cloning: On April 21, 2005, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) introduced an opposition bill, the Human Cloning Ban and Stem Cell Research Protection Act (S. 876). This measure allowed the creation of human clones for experimentation, requiring the destruction of the cloned embryos after 14 days. The bill had 12 cosponsors and was referred to the Judiciary Committee. No further action was taken. This legislation was similar to a bill introduced in the previous Congress.

In its legal definitions, S. 876 employed abstract circumlocutions defining the reality created through cloning as something other than a living human embryo. A human clone is not a clone unless it is implanted in a uterus. “The term ‘human cloning’ means implanting or attempting to implant the product of nuclear transplantation into a uterus or the functional equivalent of a uterus.” Thus the prohibition on human cloning only referred to the implantation of the human clone in a uterus. A new term was devised to describe the human clone who has not been implanted in a uterus, namely, "unfertilized blastocyst.” “The term ‘unfertilized blastocyst’ means an intact cellular structure that is the product of nuclear transplantation.”

The “ban” on human cloning referred only to implanting "the product of nuclear transplantation" into a uterus. S. 876 did not ban creating human clones for experimentation and subsequent death. The bill explicitly provided: "Nothing in this section shall be construed to restrict practices not expressly prohibited in this section." That is, cloning-for-biomedical-research was permitted.

S. 876 had a section requiring oversight reports on enforcement of human cloning bans (federal, state, international). The bill also had a title on ethical requirements. According to what in this title was called the "Fourteen-Day Rule,” cloned humans must be killed after 14 days. "An unfertilized blastocyst shall not be maintained after more than 14 days from its first cell division, not counting any time during which it is stored at temperatures less than zero degrees centigrade."

(3) False Ban on Human Cloning: On July 27, 2005, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) introduced the Human Cloning Ban Act (S. 1520), a measure similar to S. 856 except that it dropped the section related to oversight reports on enforcement actions, as well as the title related to ethical requirements. S. 1520 had 29 cosponsors and was referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee. No further action was taken.

(4) Human Chimera Ban: On July 11, 2005, Sen. Brownback also introduced the Human Chimera Prohibition Act (S. 1373; also see earlier S. 659). The bill had four cosponsors and was referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee. No further action was taken. In general, a human chimera is a being containing both human and non-human components. S. 1373 prohibited creating human chimeras, transferring a human embryo into a non-human womb or transferring a non-human embryo into a human womb, or transporting a human chimera for any purpose.

House: The following major bills were introduced.

(1) Genuine Ban on Human Cloning: On March 17, 2005, Reps. Dave Weldon (R-FL) and Bart Stupak (D-MI) introduced the Human Cloning Prohibition Act (H.R. 1357), a genuine ban on human cloning. The bill had 148 other cosponsors and was referred to the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security of the House Judiciary Committee. No further action was taken. H.R. 1357 was similar to S. 658; however, it did not require a study on the law’s implementation.

(2) False Ban on Human Cloning: On April 26, 2005, Rep. Mary Bono (R-CA) introduced an opposition bill, the Human Cloning Ban and Stem Cell Research Protection Act (H.R. 1822), a measure that allowed the creation of human clones for experimentation and then destruction. This bill was the House version of S. 876 and had five cosponsors. It was referred to the Health Subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. No further action was taken.

(3) False Ban on Human Cloning: On September 28, 2005, Rep. Mary Bono (R-CA) introduced the Human Cloning Ban Act (H.R. 3932), a measure that also allowed for the creation of human clones for experimentation and then destruction. H.R. 3932 was the companion bill to S. 1520. H.R. 3932 had three cosponsors and was referred to the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security of the House Judiciary Committee. No further action was taken.

Hearing: On March 7, 2006, Rep. Mark Souder (R-IN), Chairman of the Subcommittee on Criminal Justice, Drug Policy and Human Resources of the House Government Reform Committee, chaired a hearing, “Human Cloning and Embryonic Stem Cell Research after Seoul: Examining Exploitation, Fraud and Ethical Problems in the Research.” In his testimony, Richard Doerflinger, Deputy Director of the Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, examined the scientific, political, and moral lessons from the fraudulent human cloning research conducted by Dr. Hwang Woo Suk and associates.

Helpful Websites:

·                      Alternatives to stem cell research that destroys human embryos: www.stemcellresearch.org

·                      Background from Americans to Ban Cloning: www.cloninginformation.org