A new report from the President's Council on Bioethics calls for a ban on reproductive cloning—or "attempts to conceive a child by any means other than the union of egg and sperm." The report does not—as a July 2002 report did—recommend a moratorium on somatic cell nuclear transfer, also known as "therapeutic cloning" or "cloning for biomedical research." It would allow research on human embryos until somewhere "between 10 and 14 days after fertilization."
Released April 1, the report—"Reproduction and Responsibility: The Regulation of New Biotechnologies"—also calls for a ban on "chimeras." These are attempts to create embryos that combine human and animal DNA. It also bans buying and selling embryos. The document recommends federally funded studies of assisted reproductive technology (ART), such as in vitro fertilization. The council says this is "relatively unmonitored and unregulated in the U.S." and may cause "health and safety risks for women and children."
In a personal statement attached to the report, some council members insisted that the group still supports a "four-year moratorium on all cloning-for-biomedical-research." Some pro-life groups, however, expressed concern that the new report undermines efforts to ban human cloning.
"We are completely disappointed," said Pia de Solenni, director of life and women's issues for the Family Research Council (FRC). "[Council President Leon] Kass said in 2001 that you have to have a complete and comprehensive ban on cloning—that you can't outlaw only so-called reproductive cloning. And now we have this report which suggests you can separate the two."
Kass, however, insists that the council still recommends a four-year moratorium on cloning human beings for research. In an interview with William Saunders, director of FRC's Center for Human Life and Bioethics, Kass said the report provides "for protections for nascent human life where none now exist." He said the aim was to suggest regulations for ART. Kass denied that the new report allows cloning for research.
"This report's silence on cloning-for-biomedical-research means only that the Council's previous recommendation on that subject still stands: a federal moratorium on cloning-for-biomedical-research," he told Saunders. "And it is surely mischievous to try to use the Council and its reports to undermine efforts in the various states to ban all forms of human cloning."
A bill to ban human cloning has passed in the U.S. House several times but has stalled in the Senate. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, nine states have laws banning reproductive human cloning.
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More Christianity Today articles on cloning from our Life Ethics page includes:
A Law That Shouldn't Be Cloned | New Jersey legalizes human cloning for research (Feb. 10, 2004)
Limited Cloning Ban Disappoints Prolife Groups | President's Council on Bioethics recommends a four-year moratorium on research cloning. (Aug. 19, 2002)
Defender of Dignity | Leon Kass, head of the President's Council on Bioethics, hopes to thwart the business-biomedical agenda. (June 07, 2002)
Goodbye, Dolly | We need nothing less than a total ban on human cloning. (May 15, 2002)
New Coalition Rallies Against Human Cloning | After Advanced Cell Technology announcement, sharp criticism comes from all sides. (Dec. 20, 2001)
Opinion Roundup: 'Only Cellular Life'? | Christians, leaders, and bioethics watchdogs react to the announcement that human embryos have been cloned. (Nov. 29, 2001)
Times Fifty | Can a clone be an individual? A short story. (Oct. 02, 2001)
Britain Debates Cloning of Human Embryos | Scientists want steady stream of stem cells for "therapeutic" purposes. (Nov. 22, 2000)
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