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US Lawmakers Re-Introduce Anti-Cloning Legislation - 2003-01-08

Lawmakers in Congress are re-introducing legislation to ban human cloning. The move gained new momentum amid the controversy over claims by the group, Clonaid, that it had cloned a human baby born last month.

Last year, the House of Representatives approved legislation, by a vote of 263 to 162, banning human cloning. However, the Senate failed to act.

In the new 108th Congress, Florida Congressman Dave Weldon is again leading the effort to get a bill banning human cloning in the United States, to President Bush for signature.

At a Capitol Hill news conference, Mr. Weldon referred to claims by Clonaid, which has so far failed to offer proof, or say when DNA testing might occur. He says these claims, and work by others, makes it imperative that Congress act. "There are other individuals such as [Italian embryologist] Severino Antinori in Italy, as well as other researchers in the United States, claiming that they are attempting to move forward on human cloning, in an attempt to produce a cloned human being," said Dave Weldon. "Therefore my colleagues and I feel very, very strongly that we need to move forward again in an attempt to make this illegal in the United States."

Calling cloning unethical and unnecessary, Congressman Weldon is also critical of therapeutic cloning, about which, until recently, there has been as much controversy. "Using embryo stem cells has never been shown to be possible and successful, not only in humans, but there isn't even a good animal model of this," he said. "Therefore, I find it deceptive and misleading for people to try to claim that we need to allow embryo cloning to move forward because of this promise of therapeutic cloning."

Among the 80 or so lawmakers co-sponsoring Mr. Weldon's legislation is Michigan Democrat Bart Stupak. "If we allow this research to go forward unchecked, what will be next," he asked. "Unchecked research what does it mean? That once human cloning is considered safe we will then allow parents to choose the color of the hair of their child, or the eyes the child may have? Would we allow science to manufacture children, children with greater intelligence, in pursuit of the perfected human being or the human race?"

Although many lawmakers supporting a cloning ban are so-called "social conservatives" and pro-life (opposing abortion), Congressmen Stupak and Weldon point out that many "pro-choice" (supporting right of women to choose) lawmakers also oppose cloning.

Mr. Weldon also says his legislation will not, as opponents of a ban have said, "stifle" research and scientific progress. He notes that his bill allows animal, tissue and DNA cloning, and stem cell research on existing human embryos.

When it comes to human cloning, however, he says scientists cannot have a "free pass" to research when so little is known about the consequences of cloning on animals.