No Ban on Cloning of Humans, for Now Senate Turns Back GOP's Bill over Concern That Medical Research Would Be Curtailed

By Lawrence J. Goodrich, writer of The Christian Science Monitor | The Christian Science Monitor, February 13, 1998 | Go to article overview

No Ban on Cloning of Humans, for Now Senate Turns Back GOP's Bill over Concern That Medical Research Would Be Curtailed


Lawrence J. Goodrich, writer of The Christian Science Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor


There's general agreement on Capitol Hill that cloning human beings should be banned. But doing so is proving to be tougher than it looks.

At issue are questions Americans have pondered for years, although usually in the context of abortion. Now, the familiar queries are arising over cloning: When does human life begin? What constitutes a human embryo?

A bill Senate Republicans hoped to rush to passage stalled on the floor this week over these questions, especially as they pertain to medical research. Sponsored by Senate majority leader Trent Lott of Mississippi and Sens. Bill Frist of Tennessee and Christopher Bond of Missouri, the measure would permanently prohibit human "somatic cell nuclear transfer," or the replacement of an adult cell nucleus with a nucleus from another cell, in order to create a human clone or a cloned human embryo. The nucleus of a cell contains the genetic material, or DNA, that scientists say determines the physical characteristics of an organism. Plant- and animal-cloning research could continue, as could existing cell research using other methods. "While the science surrounding cloning will and should move forward, it is clear that neither the science nor the country is ready for the production of human clones," says Senator Frist, himself a medical doctor. Opponents, led by Sens. Edward Kennedy (D) of Massachusetts and Dianne Feinstein (D) of California, say the GOP bill goes too far. Backed by more than 120 scientific and medical groups, they argue that the bill bans technology they say is needed for medical advances in the fight against many diseases. "I have no doubt that responsible legislation to ban the production of human beings by cloning can ... be passed into law during this session of Congress," Senator Kennedy says. "But {this bill} is not that responsible ban on cloning. It is an attempt to capitalize on public concern to rush through a sweeping and inappropriate ban on critical medical research." Supporters of the Lott-Bond bill say that transplanting a nucleus from one human cell to another creates a human embryo and therefore human life, which must be protected. "Some scientists would like to be able to create human embryos, play with them, and . …

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