- The Washington Times - Friday, July 12, 2002

The President's Council on Bioethics yesterday recommended a ban on human cloning to produce infants and a four-year moratorium on human cloning for medical research.

Ten members of the panel, led by cloning opponent Leon Kass, endorsed the four-year moratorium on human cloning for research while seven members issued a dissenting report, insisting this research should proceed right away under federal guidelines.

"The council, reflecting the differences of opinion in American society, is divided regarding the ethics of research involving cloned embryos," the report said.

All panel members agreed that human cloning intended to produce a cloned infant should be banned.

Sen. Sam Brownback, Kansas Republican and opponent of cloning, said that he thought the proposal was helpful, although it does not mirror his bill to ban human cloning outright.

"I am heartened that the council has endorsed a temporary ban on all human cloning," Mr. Brownback said. "If approved by Congress, I believe a temporary ban would give the country an important opportunity to further debate the issue of human cloning along with its ultimate impact upon humanity."

Others saw it differently.

"It's significant that even the president's hand-picked panel of advisers rejected an outright ban on this promising medical research," said Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat and supporter of a competing bill that would allow the cloning of human embryos for research.

"I'm optimistic that Congress will reject a moratorium as well," Mr. Kennedy said. "This groundbreaking research offers great hope for patients with cancer, diabetes, Parkinson's disease and many other serious illnesses, and it deserves to go forward."

The House already has passed a cloning ban identical to Mr. Brownback's bill, and President Bush has strongly endorsed this approach.

The administration said the report would not change the president's view on cloning for research.

"His position is based on principle," said White House spokesman Scott McClellan. "Any attempt to clone a human being is morally wrong."

In an effort to get enough votes in the Senate, Mr. Brownback also has circulated a scaled-back proposal that would institute a two-year moratorium on human embryo cloning.

Mr. Kennedy favors a bill sponsored by Sens. Dianne Feinstein, California Democrat, and Arlen Specter, Pennsylvania Republican, which would ban the implantation of a cloned human embryo into a uterus but would allow human embryos to be cloned to extract their stem cells for medical research.

Some supporters of this approach insist that the process does not produce a human embryo because it does not involve sperm. But the bioethics panel report disagreed, saying the human cloning process does produce a human embryo.

Meanwhile, medical-research advocates condemned the council's report.

"The council's recommendation is a blow to the millions of Americans fighting life-threatening medical conditions, because a moratorium has the same effect as a ban on life-saving research," said Michael Manganiello, president of the Coalition for the Advancement of Medical Research.

Mr. Brownback took issue with the panel's attempt to draw a distinction based on the intended purpose of the cloned human embryo.

"Any attempt to draw a distinction based on whether or not the researchers purposely kill the embryo for scientific experimentation or try to implant the embryo in a woman's uterus for live birth is nothing more than an attempt to legitimate human cloning under certain predefined circumstances," Mr. Brownback said.

The human cloning issue has reached a stalemate in the Senate, because neither side of the debate appears to have the 60 votes needed to avoid a filibuster and pass a bill.

But a spokesman for Mr. Brownback said he hopes the panel's report will give the issue some momentum. He said he was not worried that the report would damage efforts to secure a cloning ban.

"The president has already said what his position is on this which is that he fully supports our bill and that he will sign it into law when it hits his desk," said Erik Hotmire, the spokesman.

The Senate will turn to a debate next week on prescription drugs, and Mr. Hotmire said "it is a possibility" that his boss could offer cloning-related amendments during the debate.


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