- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 1, 2002

Supporters of cloning research gained an important ally yesterday when pro-life Sen. Orrin G. Hatch announced his support for legislation that would allow such research but outlaw efforts to create the first cloned infant.
The Senate bill unites similar bills in an effort to compete against a House-passed measure introduced in the Senate by Sen. Sam Brownback, Kansas Republican, and supported by President Bush, that would outlaw the cloning of human embryos for any purpose, including medical research.
"We must craft a law to make sure that human beings are not cloned," Mr. Hatch, Utah Republican, said at a press conference about the bill. "At the same time, we must not stand in the way of scientific advances that hold the promise of treatments and cures."
Mr. Hatch said he comes to the debate "with a strong pro-life, pro-family record. But I also strongly believe that a critical part of being pro-life is to support measures that help the living."
The Senate is expected to debate the issue before the Memorial Day recess at the end of May.
Mr. Hatch joined Sens. Dianne Feinstein, California Democrat; Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat; Arlen Specter, Pennsylvania Republican; and Tom Harkin, Iowa Democrat, in introducing the bill. It would prohibit people from implanting or attempting to implant the product of nuclear transplantation in a uterus or the equivalent of a uterus, to conduct human cloning.
"Nuclear transplantation," or somatic-cell nuclear transfer, is the cloning procedure. It consists of removing the nucleus from a donated egg and inserting in its place the nucleus of a body cell, such as a skin cell.
In so-called reproductive cloning, which the bill would outlaw, the early stage embryo that results from the nuclear transfer is nurtured to the point that it can be implanted in the womb of a surrogate mother to develop. There is broad support to outlaw this procedure.
But in medical-research cloning or therapeutic cloning, which the bill would permit, the development of the resulting primitive embryo, or blastula, is halted as soon as a cluster of stem cells develops. The stem cells are then harvested for research purposes.
The Brownback bill would ban both types of cloning.
Proponents of medical-research cloning say it is not human cloning because it does not produce an infant. "Nuclear transplantation research has nothing to do with cloning humans," Mrs. Feinstein said.
Some also argue that the cloning procedure does not produce a human embryo because it does not involve sperm. Most importantly, they say, it could hold the key to curing a host of ailments because stem cells derived through human cloning theoretically could be used to produce tissues that would match the patient's DNA and thus would not be rejected by the body.
"We must not let the misplaced fears of today deny patients the cures of tomorrow," Mr. Kennedy said at the press conference.
Mr. Hatch agreed that banning the research would be a "tragic mistake" that would force Americans overseas for the latest treatments.
But supporters of the Brownback bill say the facts prove that the cloning procedure does produce a human embryo and that it should not be destroyed in the name of science.
"Cloning is cloning is cloning," Mr. Brownback said. "Whether the use of the cloning procedure is employed for the purposes of bringing a clone to live birth or for the purposes of destroying it during research it is still wrong."
"This bill does not prohibit the creation of cloned humans; it allows human cloning but then requires the death of each cloned human embryo," said Douglas Johnson, legislative director of the National Right to Life Committee, in response to the bill.
Mr. Hatch said a key part of his decision to support the bill was his belief that human life "requires and begins in a mother's nurturing womb," not a petri dish.
Ken Connor, president of the pro-life Family Research Council, called that view "nonsensical."
"The cloned human embryo Hatch wants to tinker with and destroy for research has all the genetic components that a human embryo inside a mother's womb has. No scientist would argue with that," Mr. Connor said.
Mr. Hatch also noted that there are "safeguards" in the bill to guide the research. The research would be subject to federal ethics guidelines. But he said these safeguards might need clarification.
Mr. Johnson predicted the bill would not become law because the House and Mr. Bush have rejected that approach.

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