- The Washington Times - Monday, August 12, 2002

The nation's largest lawyers' group will decide this week whether to endorse human cloning for some purposes, while condemning a government ban on the practice.
A proposal before the American Bar Association would put the 408,000-lawyer organization on record for the first time about cloning and at odds with the Bush administration.
The ABA's governing body is to vote today or tomorrow on so-called therapeutic cloning, or the creation of human embryos in order to harvest their stem cells for medical purposes.
Some scientists say stem cells might develop into replacement tissue and organs for patients with incurable diseases. Cloning one's own cells could overcome the body's tendency to reject transplanted tissue, researchers hope.
The practice, not yet tried in humans, assumes that the created embryo will be killed an assumption which has caused the idea to come under fire from conservative and pro-life groups.
President Bush wants a ban on cloning for any purpose, and the House took the same position last year.
Cloning bills are stalled in the Senate, where Sen. Sam Brownback, Kansas Republican, proposed a permanent ban and criminal penalties for scientists who violate it. Lacking votes for that position, he proposed a two-year moratorium on cloning research.
The ABA has long advocated academic and scientific freedom, and for legal and ethical reasons should not stand by if the government tries to wall off scientific inquiry, said Robyn Shapiro, an author of the proposed policy and director of the Center for the Study of Bioethics at the University of Wisconsin in Milwaukee.
"The course upon which the law embarks regarding this field of research will be critical to helping either protect or diminish the freedom of scientific inquiry in the future," wrote lawyers who drafted the proposed policy.
The backers say the ABA would not give unqualified support to any cloning. It does endorse cloning research intended to improve human health, so long as the research is conducted ethically and safely, lawyers said.
Lawyers predicted the question will provoke strong opposition among some ABA members, and the proposed position could be amended or defeated by the policy-making House of Delegates.
Mr. Bush and other opponents of human cloning believe the practice of creating a life in order to destroy it and use it for spare parts is immoral for religious and ethical reasons.
The recommended ABA policy was born of fear that the Brownback bill might become law, Miss Shapiro said. Coming out in favor of therapeutic cloning now would allow the ABA to lobby Congress, testify on Capitol Hill or publish its position if the legislation is revived when Congress returns from a summer break, lawyers said.
Mr. Brownback's spokesman, Erik Hotmire, declined comment on the proposed ABA position.
Cloning advocates welcomed an alliance with the ABA, which has an annual lobbying budget of $1.5 million.
"An organization with the weight of ABA could be very influential with senators on the fence," said Michael Manganiello, president of the Coalition for the Advancement of Medical Research.
As a practical matter, the best that cloning advocates may be able to hope for is a continued stalemate in Congress. Mr. Bush would presumably veto any legislation that endorsed cloning for medical purposes, but for now there is no law against it.

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