- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 11, 2002

President Bush yesterday urged the Senate to enact a "total ban" on cloning, setting up a fierce fight with Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, who said that creating and destroying human embryos could help cure the world's worst diseases.
In an East Room event attended by 200 scientists, religious leaders and members of Congress, the president said there is no middle ground on the issue.
"Advances in biomedical technology must never come at the expense of human conscience. As we seek what is possible, we must always ask what is right, and we must not forget that even the most noble ends do not justify any means," Mr. Bush said.
"It would be a mistake for the United States Senate to allow any kind of human cloning to come out of that chamber."
But Mr. Daschle, who earlier this year broke a pledge to bring up a bill to ban human cloning, said he supported the practice "in the need to allow science and research to cure disease, such as cancer, Parkinson's, Alzheimer's and diabetes.
"Whether or not we do depends on whether or not we will have the research and the ability to provide scientists the opportunity to find those cures soon," the South Dakota Democrat said.
Although he agrees with Mr. Bush's opposition to cloning human beings for reproduction, the majority leader says he supports research cloning the creation of identical human embryos that later are destroyed to derive stem cells, the basic building blocks of the body from which organs and other cells develop.
A poll released Tuesday showed that 77 percent of Americans opposed scientific experimentation toward cloning human beings.
Most of the 2,002 persons asked said they thought the practice was morally wrong.
"Fortunately, nearly every American agrees that this practice should be banned," the president said. "Human cloning is deeply troubling to me, and to most Americans. Life is a creation, not a commodity. Our children are gifts to be loved and protected, not products to be designed and manufactured."
Mr. Bush said the ethical costs outweigh potential benefits.
"I believe all human cloning is wrong and both forms of cloning ought to be banned," he said. "We must prevent human cloning by stopping it before it starts."
In August, Mr. Bush limited the harvesting of embryonic stem cells. Yesterday, he argued that creating embryos exclusively for destruction "would be taking a significant step toward a society in which human beings are grown for spare body parts, and children are engineered to custom specifications, and that's not acceptable."
"No human life should be exploited or extinguished for the benefit of another," he said. "As we seek what is possible, we must always ask what is right, and we must not forget that even the most noble ends do not justify any means."
The president also said that "anything other than a total ban on human cloning would be virtually impossible to enforce," and that "the benefits of research cloning are highly speculative."
"Even if research cloning were medically effective, every person who wanted to benefit would need an embryonic clone of his or her own, to provide the designer tissues. This would create a massive national market for eggs and egg donors, and exploitation of women's bodies that we cannot and must not allow," Mr. Bush said.
The president noted that a cloning ban had support from a diverse coalition of conservative and liberal groups.
They support a bipartisan bill sponsored by Sen. Sam Brownback, Kansas Republican, and Sen. Mary L. Landrieu, Louisiana Democrat, that bars any attempt to clone a human embryo for any purpose and carries a 10-year prison term and $1 million fine for violators.
A nearly identical bill passed the House last fall by a more than a 100-vote margin but was bottled up in the Senate by Mr. Daschle, who reneged on a pledge he made last year to bring up the matter by February or March.
The majority leader's office says the bill will be brought up before the May 24 recess.
The battle over cloning also took shape on Capitol Hill yesterday as a broad coalition of scientists, researchers, religious groups and public figures lobbied in favor of Mr. Brownback and Mrs. Landrieu's proposal.
"I do not want research benefiting me at the expense of other human life," said Joni Eareckson Tada, a quadriplegic and director emeritus of the Christian Council on Persons with Disabilities.
Mrs. Tada also was at the White House event, where Mr. Bush praised her and two other injury victims for their courage, wisdom and "extraordinary perseverance and faith."
The president cited viable alternatives such as stem cells from umbilical cord blood, neural tissue and bone marrow.
Mr. Bush said neither embryonic stem cells nor cloned embryos offer the versatility of adult stem-cell research "which do not require the destruction of human embryos and which yield tissues which can be transplanted without rejection [and] are more versatile than originally thought."
At the Capitol Hill news conference, Thomas P. Dooley, a biotechnology scientist who resigned from the Biotechnology Industry Organization over its support for cloning, also cited biotechnology-derived recombinant proteins, pharmaceuticals, and surgical and radiological intervention.
"The good news is that there is promising, ethical research that does not require the systematic manufacture and destruction of humans for science," said Patricia Heaton, honorary chairman of Feminists for Life of America and a star on the TV series "Everybody Loves Raymond."
Amy Fagan contributed to this report.

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