WASHINGTON, Jan. 8 (UPI) — Rep. Dave Weldon, R-Fla., Wednesday introduced legislation in the House to impose a ban on all types of human cloning in the United States, while Kansas Republican Sen. Sam Brownback said he plans to introduce similar legislation in the Senate soon.
Although the House approved a total cloning ban last year, the Senate failed to follow suit and so the legislative process must be restarted during the new session of Congress.
The announcement concerns the biomedical community, which fears a backlash over the claim last month by the Raelian sect that they had cloned two babies. The effort to ban all cloning stalled in Congress last year because some senators supported allowing therapeutic cloning, which uses the procedure to produce cells that could lead to treatments for disease.
“It would be tragic if this bill passes,” said Robert Lanza, vice president of medical and scientific development at Advanced Cell Technology in Worcester, Mass., which is developing therapeutic cloning technology as a medical treatment.
“If Congress overreacts and passes this bill, it could be a death sentence for many patients,” Lanza told United Press International. “There are over 3,000 Americans who die every die from diseases that could be treated in the future with these new technologies. The medical and scientific community is unanimous in banning reproductive cloning but at the same time the medical and scientific community is also unanimous in its support of therapeutic cloning,” Lanza said.
Brownback applauded Weldon’s bill, the Human Cloning Prohibition Act of 2003.
“There is no need for this technology to ever be used with humans — whether for reproductive purposes or for destructive research purposes,” Brownback, who introduced a similar bill into the Senate last year, said in a written statement.
Brownback’s bill, which could be introduced before the end of the month, probably would impose criminal penalties of up to 10 years prison time and at least $1 million in fines for anyone who creates a human clone, an aide to Brownback told UPI.
The aide said the Raelians did not factor in Brownback’s decision to introduce the bill.
“Brownback would’ve been pushing this legislation aggressively whether it had been for the Raelians or not,” the aide said. “The Raelians just made people more aware of the need to ban cloning.”
“Scientists are extremely concerned about the backlash” to the Raelians’ claim, Lanza said. “The sad thing is that in the end there’s no evidence. No baby, no DNA tests and there shouldn’t have been a story,” he said, referring to the fact the Raelians have not yet offered any proof the babies are legitimate clones.
A U.S. ban on cloning will do little to stop people in other countries from using the technology, Lanza added. “This research is going to proceed overseas in other countries regardless of what we do here in the U.S.,” he said. “In all likelihood these groups are going to operate overseas anyway.”
Copyright 2003 by United Press International. All rights reserved.