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.
A February 2004 issue of Science magazine published a report of the first verified case of human cloning that occurred in Seoul, South Korea. Thirty human embryos were created and developed to the blastocyst stage (5-7 days). In attempting to establish embryonic stem cell lines, inner cell masses were harvested from 20 of the blastocyst stage human embryos. Only one stem cell line was established. The prospect of research cloning producing any therapeutic benefits is speculative. Experts warn it could take years for this research to produce actual therapies. By contrast, adult stem cell research, which is ethically acceptable, is already producing effective therapies for the very diseases being touted as future beneficiaries of research cloning.
Again in May 2005 South Korean researchers announced further work on human cloning, this time reporting that 11 embryonic stem lines had been created through the technique (Wall Street Journal, May 20, 2005).
Commentators warn that the cloning techniques used to create human embryos for research (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.
Senate: On March 17, 2005, Sens. Sam Brownback (R-KS) and Mary Landrieu (D-LA) introduced the Human Cloning Prohibition Act (S. 658). Thirty-one other Senators have added their names as cosponsors. The measure was referred to the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions. 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. On introduction Sen. Brownback stated, “Let there be no doubt. Science affirms that the young human, at his or her earliest moments of life, is a human. It is wrong to treat another person as a piece of property that can be bought and sold, created and destroyed, all at the will of those in power. . . . The essential question is whether or not we will allow human beings to be produced, to preordained specifications, for their eventual implantation or destruction, depending upon the intentions of the technicians who created them.” (Congressional Record, March 17, 2005, S3011)
On July 11, 2005, Sen. Brownback also introduced the Human Chimera Prohibition Act (S. 1373; also see earlier S. 659). The bill has four cosponsors and has been referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee. In general, a human chimera is a being containing both human and non-human components. S. 1373 prohibits 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.
On April 21, 2005, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) introduced an opposition bill, the Human Cloning Ban and Research Protection Act (S. 876). The bill has 12 cosponsors and was referred to the Judiciary Committee. This legislation is similar to a bill introduced in the previous Congress.
In its definitions, S. 876 employs abstract circumlocutions defining the reality created through cloning as something other than a living human embryo. Human cloning is defined as "implanting or attempting to implant the product of nuclear transplantation into a uterus or the functional equivalent of a uterus.” A new term "unfertilized blastocyst" was crafted, referring to "an intact cellular structure that is the product of nuclear transplantation.”
In S. 876, the ban on human cloning refers only to implanting "the product of nuclear transplantation" into a uterus and not to creating human clones for experimentation and death. Under the heading, "Protection of Research,” the text provides: "Nothing in this section shall be construed to restrict practices not expressly prohibited in this section." That is, cloning-for-biomedical-research is permitted.
Under "Ethical Requirements for Nuclear Transplantation Research,” S. 876 sets forth what it calls 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."
Floor: In early 2006 human cloning bills may be taken up in the Senate as part of a larger package of stem cell research bills. In this package Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) wants to include the Brownback/Landrieu Human Cloning Prohibition Act (S. 658) and the Brownback Human Chimera Prohibition Act (S. 1373).
House: On March 17, 2005, Reps. Dave Weldon (R-FL) and Bart Stupak (D-MI) introduced the Human Cloning Prohibition Act (H.R. 1357). The bill has 122 other cosponsors and was referred to the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security of the House Judiciary Committee. H.R. 1357 is similar to S. 658; it does not require a study on the law’s implementation.
On April 26, 2005, Rep. Mary Bono (R-CA) introduced an opposition bill, the Human Cloning Ban and Research Protection Act (H.R. 1822). This bill is the House version of S. 876 and has five cosponsors. It was referred to the Health Subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
Committee: On June 16, 2005, during markup of the Fiscal Year 2006 Labor/Health and Human Services Appropriations Bill (H.R. 3010), Rep. Dave Weldon (R-FL) offered an amendment to deny National Institutes of Health funds to any entity involved in human cloning. The Weldon Amendment failed, 29-yes, 36-no, 1-not voting.
United Nations: On March 8, 2005, the United Nations General Assembly voted 84 in favor, 34 against, 37 abstaining to approve a nonbinding declaration banning all forms of human cloning. Six absent nations stated that if present they would have voted in favor. That declaration held in part that "Member States are called upon to prohibit all forms of human cloning inasmuch as they are incompatible with human dignity and the protection of human life." Member States were also urged to adopt "without delay" legislation implementing the declaration. See: www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=13576&Cr=cloning&Cr1=cloning&Kw2=&Kw3=. Applauding the historic UN action, President Bush stated: "I look forward to working with Members of Congress to enact legislation to ban all human cloning in the United States." The United States was one of the countries taking the lead in securing adoption of the Declaration on Human Cloning.
· Alternatives to stem cell research that destroys human embryos: www.stemcellresearch.org
· Background from Americans to Ban Cloning: www.cloninginformation.org