Human Cloning/Embryonic Stem Cell Research

 

In the May 15, 2013 issue of Cell, researchers in Oregon announced that they had succeeded in producing cloned human embryos by “somatic cell nuclear transfer” (SCNT) and destroying the embryos for their stem cells. Past announcements of this kind by other researchers had been misleading or fraudulent. Meanwhile, adult stem cells as well as “induced pluripotent stem cells” created by reprogramming ordinary adult body cells show great promise in producing stem cells for research and treatment.

The news from Oregon has sparked renewed activity on Capitol Hill by those who oppose and those who support destructive human embryo research.   

On May 23, 2013, Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD) reintroduced the Human Cloning Prohibition Act (H.R. 2164), a bill to ban the use of the SCNT cloning procedure to create human embryos for any purpose. Similar legislation was approved by the House of Representatives in 2001 and 2003, but has never been approved by the Senate.  By contrast, on June 19, 2013, Reps. Diana DeGette (D-CO) and Charlie Dent (R-PA) introduced the Stem Cell Research Advancement Act (H.R. 2433)  The bill is presented as a codification of the guidelines of the Obama administration, which allow federally funded research only on embryonic stem cells derived from “spare” embryos created by IVF. However, the bill requires HHS to review the guidelines at least every three years and “update” them “as scientifically warranted.” This opens the door to funding research using cloned embryos in the future. H.R. 2433’s only clear prohibition is a ban on funding the “implantation” of a cloned human embryo into “a uterus or the functional equivalent of a uterus.”

“Creating new human lives in the laboratory solely to destroy them is an abuse denounced even by many who do not share the Catholic Church's convictions on human life,” commented Cardinal Seán O’Malley, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities.  Cloning human embryos, either for research or for efforts to produce cloned children as “copies” of other people, “is inconsistent with our moral responsibility to treat each member of the human family as a unique gift of God, as a person with his or her own inherent dignity.” For full text see: www.usccb.org/news/2013/13-094.cfm.