Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Orrin Harch (R-UT) launched Senate debate last week on a bill he introduced to support stem cell research, a stance that breaks away from his typically far-right ideology. The Human Cloning Ban and Stem Cell Research Protection Act (S 303) would outlaw cloning for reproductive purposes but would allow 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.
A bill that would ban all types of cloning also has been introduced in the Senate by Senators Brownback (R-KS) and Mary Landrieu (D-LA). Late last month, the House passed a complete ban on reproductive and therapeutic cloning. If the Senate passes a similar ban, President Bush has said that he will sign it. 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.
The Feminist Majority, along with other healthcare advocates, believes that cloning research is critical to finding future treatments and cures for diseases. A survey released last week shows that the majority of Americans also support stem cell research; 67 percent said they favored Congress allowing research with therapeutic cloning to continue, according to United Press International.