- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 10, 2002

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. President Bush today will press Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle to honor his pledge to take up a cloning-ban bill that the South Dakota Democrat shelved in the Senate.
In a White House event with 175 in attendance including members of Congress, religious leaders and scientists Mr. Bush will urge immediate passage of the bipartisan bill sponsored by Sen. Sam Brownback, Kansas Republican; Sen. Mary L. Landrieu, Louisana Democrat; and 27 other senators.
The bill, which carries a 10-year jail term and $1 million fine for violators, would bar any attempt to clone a human embryo for any purpose.
"The president will urge the Senate to pass a comprehensive ban on all human cloning. He will say we should not create life to destroy life," said a White House official who asked not to be named.
"The president believes we can realize the promise of biomedical research through more ethical means," the official told The Washington Times.
The president, in the middle of a weeklong tour to highlight Senate inaction on issues such as his national energy policy and faith-based initiative, is likely to note the body's slow pace on cornerstones of his agenda, as he did yesterday.
"Nothing seems to be moving in the Senate these days," Mr. Bush said at a fund-raiser in Connecticut.
Two Democrats, Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts and Dianne Feinstein of California, have introduced a separate measure banning cloning for reproductive purposes but allowing biomedical research with cloned embryos.
Mr. Daschle pledged last year to take up the legislation in February or March. His spokeswoman said yesterday that the senator plans to bring up the bill before the Memorial Day break begins May 24.
As the ethical issue moves to the front burner, Sen. Bill Frist, Tennessee Republican and a surgeon, delivered a speech on the floor supporting the Brownback bill.
"I conclude that a comprehensive ban on all human cloning is the right policy at this time. I intend to support legislation consistent with this policy, and I will encourage my colleagues to do so as well," he said yesterday.
The bill has taken on new urgency as researchers continue to work toward cloning human beings. In November, Advanced Cell Technology of Worcester said it had created the first cloned human embryo by inserting adult DNA into a donated, hollowed-out egg.
Yesterday, Italian gynecologist Severino Antinori announced that he had produced a cloned human embryo of 20 cells somewhere in Asia. He would not say whether he had implanted the clone in a woman's womb.
Medical researchers contend that cloning is the only way by which they can harvest embryonic stem cells to produce healthy tissue to treat a variety of medical conditions, such as Parkinson's disease and juvenile diabetes.
Opponents argue that cloning, in which an embryo is created and then destroyed for research, is not only ethically unsound, but medically unproven. For example, 97 percent of the simplest cloned animal embryos die before birth. The most famous, the sheep Dolly, was the sole success in an experiment involving 277 sheep embryos.
The issue has resulted in a strange coalition. "There are conservatives and moderates supporting this bill, as well as liberals and progressive leaders," said Erik Hotmire, spokesman for Mr. Brownback.
Leaders of several environmental groups, including Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace and the Sierra Club, signed a letter earlier this year backing a moratorium on research cloning. Other signers included the president of the American Association of People with Disabilities, the executive director of Physicians for Human Rights, and the leaders of both the National Latina Health Organization and the California Black Women's Health Project.
In addition, a cloning ban has broad, if shaky, public support. A Pew poll released yesterday showed that although nearly eight in 10 Americans oppose human cloning, half believe that embryo stem-cell research should receive government funding in hopes of finding medical cures.
Forty-seven percent of the representative poll of 2,002 adults said the research was "more important" than "not destroying human embryos," against 39 percent who said protecting human embryos was more important.
Mrs. Landrieu, who supports stem-cell research, is trying to persuade other Democrats to support the bill to ban human cloning.
"She thinks it's immoral, unethical and wrong and needs to be outlawed," said her spokesman, Rich Masters.
The U.S. Senate has been slow to react to the issue. After Advanced Cell Technology cloned an embryo, Mr. Brownback called for immediate action on his ban. Mr. Daschle did not bring up the bill then.
The identical legislation in the House sponsored by Rep. Dave Weldon, Florida Republican, and co-sponsored by Rep. Bart Stupak, Michigan Democrat passed 265-162 in August. In the vote, 63 Democrats and two independents joined 200 Republicans, 18 of whom opposed the bill.
Larry Witham and Amy Fagan contributed to this report from Washington.

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