- The Washington Times - Monday, May 13, 2002

The National Right to Life Committee is campaigning against a Democrat-backed bill in the Senate that they say would leave the door open to human cloning.
The bill, introduced by Sen. Byron L. Dorgan, North Dakota Democrat, would ban the cloning of human beings so-called "reproductive cloning" but remains silent on the issue of therapeutic cloning, which is dividing the Senate.
The measure has been billed as a common-ground approach as the Senate prepares to vote on cloning, with action expected by the end of the month.
"We see it as a way to act upon what everyone agrees needs to be acted upon," said Mr. Dorgan's spokesman Barry Piatt. "Everyone believes cloning a human being should be illegal. So let's close that door right now and then let's come to a sensible agreement on the other issues."
Mr. Piatt said the bill's purpose is to prevent the therapeutic procedure from being used to produce the first cloned infant.
But Douglas Johnson, legislative director for the NRLC, said the bill leaves the term "human being" open to interpretation. Because some do not consider a fetus to be a human being, he said, that language could allow a cloned human embryo to be implanted in a uterus and grown into a fetus for experimentation.
The Dorgan bill reads, "It shall be unlawful for any person to engage in a human cloning procedure for the purpose of creating a cloned human being."
"So you've got a bill that has this additional condition, that basically anything is OK unless it's done to produce a human being," Mr. Johnson said.
"If a 'fetus' is not a 'human being,' then the bill would allow a cloned embryo to be implanted in a human or animal womb and grown for months before being killed to obtain tissues or organs," the NRLC said in a press release about the Dorgan bill.
Mr. Dorgan call the NRLC's claim "absurd."
"To say that [the bill] positively permits something to happen is inaccurate," Mr. Piatt said. "This bill does not address the rest of the issues, it addresses what we can agree on: that cloning a human being should be illegal."
However, the International Center for Technology Assessment, a nonpartisan, nonprofit group that analyzes emerging technologies, agrees with the NRLC assessment of the Dorgan bill. An ICTA analysis says the Dorgan bill is "far from the Senate's 'common ground' and is the most permissive piece of human cloning legislation introduced in the Senate."
The ICTA analysis found that unlike the other human cloning bills in the Senate the Dorgan bill would legalize the implantation of a cloned human embryo into a woman's uterus.
But Michael J. Werner, vice president of Bioethics at the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO), said this is unlikely to happen. "I don't think anyone is going to implant a blastocyst into a uterus for research purposes. I don't know if that would be legal first of all, and I don't know who would do it," he said.
Two better-known cloning bills have been proposed in the Senate. One introduced by Sen. Sam Brownback, Kansas Republican, and favored by President Bush would ban the cloning of human embryos for any purpose. The other sponsored by Sens. Arlen Specter, Pennsylvania Republican, Dianne Feinstein, California Democrat, and others is favored by BIO. It would ban the implantation of a cloned human embryo into a uterus but would allow the human cloning procedure to be used to harvest stem cells for research.
Mr. Dorgan's bill is co-sponsored by just two other Democrats Sens. Tim Johnson of South Dakota and Mark Dayton of Minnesota but the NRLC said there is an "active attempt to market this as a consensus measure."


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