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.
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.”
In a November 17, 2007 story, “Dolly creator Prof Ian Wilmut shuns cloning,” the London Telegraph reported that Prof. Ian Wilmut, the scientist who cloned Dolly the Sheep (born in 1996), announced that he was abandoning his efforts to clone a human embryo and that in the future he would pursue the more promising method of reprogramming adult cells. The story indicated that Wilmut announcement “could mark the beginning of the end for therapeutic cloning.” Noting that in theory the reprogrammed cells could be converted into any of the 200 other type in the body, the story quoted Prof. Wilmut as saying it was “extremely exciting and astonishing.” For more information on this scientific breakthrough, see “Stem Cell Research” under Authorization Bills.
House Floor: In a Dear Colleague letter circulated June 5, 2007, Reps. Diana DeGette (D-CO) and Chris Murphy (D-CT) announced that on June 6, the U.S. House of Representatives would consider a human cloning bill that they had just introduced, the Human Cloning Prohibition Act of 2007 (H.R. 2560). The measure employed legal semantics. Even though called the Human Cloning Prohibition Act, the bill placed no limits on human cloning. What the bill prohibited was the implantation of a human clone into a woman’s uterus or its functional equivalent. “Researchers are absolutely free, are given the green light, to clone human life to their heart’s content, so long as they kill and destroy the cloned human embryo at some point, perhaps weeks, after its creation,” declared Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) during the debate. Rep. Dave Weldon (R- FL) asked, “Are we really trying to say to the American people we want to make the human embryo the lab rat of the 21st century?” See, Congressional Record, 6/6/07, H6039, 6040.
Just prior to the House vote, Cardinal Justin Rigali, Chairman of the Bishops’ Committee for Pro-Life Activities, sent a letter to the House, urging Members to vote against H.R. 2560.
The DeGette bill was promoted as a ban on human cloning but it was just the opposite. The bill “allows unlimited cloning of human embryos for research – and then makes it a crime to transfer the embryo to a womb to allow the new human being to survive.” The bill prohibited the act of becoming pregnant, “a kind of law chiefly seen until now in the People’s Republic of China, where women can be punished for carrying an unauthorized child.”
On June 6, 2007, the U.S. House of Representatives soundly defeated H.R. 2560, 204-yes, 213-no, 15-not voting (Roll Call 439). The measure was presented to the House under Suspension of the Rules, according to which no amendments are allowed, debate is limited to 20 minutes on either side, and a two-thirds vote is required for passage. H.R. 2560 fell 74 votes short of the two-thirds mark, failing to receive even a majority.
On June 5, 2007, Rep. Weldon, along with Rep. Bart Stupak (D-MI) and 49 other cosponsors had reintroduced the Human Cloning Prohibition Act of 2007 (H.R. 2564). In 2001 and again in 2003, the House by large margins passed the Weldon/Stupak ban and handily rejected substitute false bans similar to the one offered by Reps. DeGette and Murphy.
Alternatives to stem cell research that destroys human embryos: www.stemcellresearch.org.
Background from Americans to Ban Cloning: www.cloninginformation.org.