With the full support of President Bush, the US House of Representatives passed a ban yesterday on all types of human cloning with a vote of 241 to 155. Sponsored by Rep. David Joseph Weldon (R-FL) and Rep. Bart Stupak (D-MI), the bill imposes a maximum penalty of $1 million and as many as 10 years in jail for reproductive cloning as well as therapeutic cloning— the cloning of human cells to make stem cells, which could hold the key to cures for many degenerative diseases including Parkinson’s, neural injuries and diabetes. The bill also would prohibit the importation of medical therapies created from cloned human embryos.
The Feminist Majority, along with other healthcare advocates, believes that cloning research is critical to finding future treatments and cures for diseases. Another bill, that would have allowed therapeutic cloning but banned reproductive cloning– a form used to create babies that are genetic replicas of adults– failed with a vote of 231-174.
The bill’s chances of passing in the Senate are not good with several Republican senators– including Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA)– expressing their support for therapeutic cloning. Earlier this month, Hatch introduced a bill in the Senate that would allow therapeutic cloning.
Restrictions imposed by the Bush administration on stem cell research have already made it difficult for scientists to study therapeutic cloning, according to several scientists who testified before a Senate committee last year. These restrictions allow only 78 “self-sustaining” cell lines for federally funded research and access to these existing lines is quite arduous.