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US Senate Debates Cloning Legislation - 2002-05-05

It's now up to the U.S. Senate to decide whether to ban human cloning in the United States. A decision on a proposed law could come before the end of the month. The anticipated debate could pit forces opposed to human cloning against those supporting continued genetic research.

The legislation before Senate lawmakers would make it illegal to clone, or genetically copy, a human being. A similar bill was approved overwhelmingly last summer by the U.S. House of Representatives.

Pro-life conservative Utah Senator Orrin Hatch surprised colleagues by announcing his support for so-called therapeutic or research cloning. "There's no question we have a universal vote in the Senate and in the House to ban cloning of human babies. That's the least we should do," he declared. "But we should not deter true science from finding true ways of curing and treating people who are suffering from these terrible maladies. I believe God gives us these scientific abilities. And if it's science then maybe you have a real chance of solving some of these problems." Senator Hatch made his comments on the ABC television interview program, This Week.

Senator Arlen Specter, appearing on the CBS television program Face the Nation, agrees on the need to allow scientists to conduct so-called stem cell research. "These stem cells have the potential to cure many, many maladies like Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's [disease and] cancer," Mr. Spector said. "And the bill, which would criminalize this therapeutic cloning or nuclear transplant, would really set science back tremendously."

Like Senator Hatch, Senator Specter thinks human cloning should be outlawed.

Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu is chief co-sponsor of the Senate bill that would ban all forms of human cloning. "All the bills in the Congress attempt to draw a line," she observes. "Ours wants to make that line very clear; that you should not clone a human being for the purposes of its destruction or research." Senator Landrieu made her comments on the CBS television program, Face the Nation.

President Bush has come out strongly against all forms of cloning. Therapeutic cloning supporters include former President Gerald Ford and 40 Nobel laureates.