While far-right extremists are pushing the US Congress to approve legislation banning all types of cloning, the New Jersey legislature is expected to pass a bill in support of the therapeutic cloning needed for stem cell research. Much like a law in California, the New Jersey legislation is largely symbolic but could send a powerful message in the face of federal restrictions, supporters say.
Although stem cell research is legal in the US, President Bush has limited federal funding to six-dozen existing stem cell lines. Scientists have said that these restrictions have severely thwarted research on embryonic stem cells that could hold the key to cures for such degenerative diseases as Parkinson’s, neural injuries and diabetes. Anti-abortion groups and the Catholic Church are pushing for an across-the-board federal ban on all research.
Introduced in September, the New Jersey bill has already passed the state Senate and is expected to pass the state Assembly soon. New Jersey Governor James McGreevey has voiced support for the bill. As is already the case in California, the law would mandate that couples in New Jersey undergoing in-virto fertilization be told that they can donate any unused embryos to research, according to the New York Times.
The law is also expected to draw scientists to New Jersey laboratories. “We saw scientists leave the country,” Michael Manganiello, president of the Coalition for the Advancement of Medical Research told the Times. “Then when California passed the bill, people went there.”
Meanwhile, on the federal level, Senators Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Ted Kennedy (D-MA) could introduce a bill as early as tomorrow that would allow therapeutic cloning research but would outlaw cloning for reproductive purposes. While a ban on both types of cloning passed the House of Representatives last year, a similar bill stalled in the Senate. Senator Sam Brownback (R-KS), who introduced the total ban in last year’s Senate, is reticent to introduce the same legislation in the new Congress. “We’ve pressed hard quickly in the past, but we haven’t gotten the Senate to move,” Brownback told the Wichita Eagle. “What we’re trying to do this time is see if we can get broader consensus.”