Cloning Legislation May Not Be Heard This Year

Article excerpt

Lawmakers may not get the opportunity to go on record on the cloning controversy this year.
House Bill 2142 was pulled from the Thursday morning agenda of the Senate Human Resources Committee by its author, Sen. Bernest Cain, D-OKC.
The bill would outlaw human cloning for both therapeutic and reproductive purposes. It would allow the use of somatic cell nuclear transfer technology for the cloning of DNA, molecules, and animals.
The measure makes noncompliance a felony punishable by a possible $1 million fine.
Thursday was the deadline for hearing bills in opposite- house committee, which means the cloning issue may not be addressed in legislation again until next year.
"I believed the bill was too restrictive." Cain said. "It is an issue that needs to be addressed, and it will be addressed, just not this year. Because it is such a controversial issue, it will probably be referred to an interim study for more research."
Before its death, the bill had been moving smoothly through the Legislature. Last week, it sailed through the House on a vote of 96-0, and its support was so widespread that Rep. Opio Toure, D-OKC, its House author, felt confident he could have it passed and signed into law within the year.
Its demise came abruptly, with the Senate author's realization that the bill was much more restrictive than he had intended.
Many conservative interest groups, however, would like to have seen House Bill 2142 passed in its original form.
Tony Lauinger, state chairman of Oklahomans for Life, believes the Toure/ Cain bill would have put a halt to the "harvesting of embryos for research purposes."
The issue of human cloning is a touchy one, and like many new technologies, it has met with a wave of public apprehension. While some hail the wealth of new information cloning could provide, others imagine the ethical and moral nightmares it could produce.
This year the Legislature attempted to address many citizens' concerns.
Initially, lawmakers filed four pieces of cloning legislation, more than any other state in the nation - including the Toure/Cain measure.
But does the bill go far enough? Or has it already overstepped reasonable bounds?
Critics argue that passage of House Bill 2142 would make the Oklahoma Legislature appear unsympathetic to the scientific community. This could make the state an unappealing location for research laboratories, and potentially impede the growth of Oklahoma's biotechnology field.
Before the bill stalled in the Senate committee, Toure said he felt that the Legislature recognized and intended to address these concerns.
"I think that most of us here are very interested in making sure that we have scientific and medical advancement," he said. "But at the same time, we have to strike a balance between an ethical, moral, and religious viewpoint."
He also pointed out that the bill allows for therapeutic cloning, and said its intention is not to hamper research.
"It's a real technical area; which may mean that we need a legislative task force to study the issue more," he said. "We need to make sure that we're not creating legal problems in how we define things that would run other folks out of business, folks that are not even doing cloning related to reproduction. …