Human Cloning Ban
Background: Cloning is a way of producing a genetic twin of an organism without sexual reproduction. The nuclear material from a cell of a body is introduced into a female reproductive cell (an oocyte) whose nuclear material has been removed or inactivated. When stimulated, the development of a new embryo begins.
House: On July 31, 2001, the House approved the Human Cloning Prohibition Act (H.R. 2505), a genuine ban on human cloning. That measure was placed on the Senate calendar.
A day of hearings was recently held on May 15, 2002, in the Criminal Justice, Drug Policy and Human Resources Subcommittee (Chairman Souder, R-IN) of the House Government Reform Committee. The Department of Justice testified that the task of enforcing a general ban on human cloning "does not seem to pose insuperable challenges to law enforcement," but that enforcing a modified ban "would be problematic." The testimony then examined ways that S. 2076 and S. 2439 -- two bills that allow human cloning for experimentation -- exemplify this concern. Also at the hearing, Dr. Panayiotis Zavos, an ardent proponent of "reproductive cloning" (bringing human clones to live birth) urged the committee, "Let's do it here" in America and let us "forge ahead in this brave new world" as leaders.
Senate: Thirty-one senators have signed onto the Brownback/Landrieu Human Cloning Prohibition Act (S. 1899), a measure that genuinely bans human cloning. S. 1899 is identical to H.R. 2505. (S. 1899 supercedes the earlier Senate bill, S. 790.) Four opposition bills with 15 sponsors would allow the creation of human clones for deadly experimentation. On May 1, 2002, the sponsors of two of these bills, S. 1758 and S. 1893, introduced a third common bill, S. 2439. The fourth opposition bill, S. 2076, was introduced April 9. Subsequently, Sen. Mark Dayton (D-MN) withdrew his name as a cosponsor of S. 2076. All these bills were referred to committee.
Five days of hearings were held in the Senate during 2002.
A vote had been promised in the Senate for early in 2002. After returning from the Memorial Day recess, Senate leaders began working on a unanimous consent agreement to bring the debate to the Senate floor. On Tuesday, June 11, it appeared an agreement might be reached. However, the following day negotiations broke down when Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD) insisted on a process that would put the Brownback/Landrieu bill (S. 1899) at a distinct disadvantage. Talking to reporters, Sen. Brownback stated, "I'm not going to agree by UC [unanimous consent] to a stacked situation against me and against a compromise position that most people could agree with" (CQ Daily Monitor, 6/13/02). Earlier it was reported that Sen. Brownback was proposing some modifications to his bill, e.g., replacing the permanent ban on all human cloning with a two-year moratorium.
Sen. Daschle no longer considered himself bound by his pledge to bring the cloning issue to the Senate floor. "It is up to others to decide how to pursue it" (CQ Daily Monitor, 6/13/02). In a June 12 press release, Sen. Brownback stated: "We will seek all possible avenues in our attempt to stop human cloning and get the current leadership to take this issue up fairly."
Efforts to pass the Brownback/Landrieu bill pressed ahead. On June 13, during Senate floor consideration of the terrorism insurance measure (S. 2600), Sen. Brownback and Sen. John Ensign (R-NV) offered amendments to ban patents on human organisms (the Ensign Amendment, virtually identical in wording, was a friendly second degree amendment to the Brownback Amendment). A patent may not be obtained for "(A) an organism of the human species at any stage of development produced by any method. . . . (B) a living organism made by human cloning; or (C) a process of human cloning." (Senate Amendments 3843, 3844).
On June 14, Sen. Daschle filed a cloture motion on S. 2600. Invoking cloture would prevent Sens. Brownback and Ensign from advancing the patenting ban because amendments not germane to the underlying bill may not be considered under cloture. During debate Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-MA) argued that the patenting ban "will eviscerate" important medical research (CR, 6/14/02, S5579). Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) stated that the cloned reality is only an unfertilized egg, no different from a clump of blood cells, and "is not capable of becoming a human being" (CR, 6/14/02, S5580).
On June 17, Sen. Brownback offered a cloture motion on his amendment. If the Daschle cloture motion on the underlying bill failed, a successful cloture motion on the Brownback amendment would open the way for the amendment's consideration. The senator also submitted for the record a letter from the pro-cloning Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO), which stated, "BIO opposes patents on cloned human embryos" (CR, 6/17/02, S5626).
However, on June 18, the Senate successfully invoked cloture on S. 2600, 65-yes, 31-no, 4-not voting (three-fifths vote required for passage) (Roll Call 156). It was reported in the press that some Senators switched from "no" to "yes" when White House lobbyists advised them that family groups would not score the vote. The Family Research Council protested. It had given notice it would score the vote. Cloture being invoked, the Brownback-Ensign Amendment was then set aside during consideration of S. 2600.
In an early September report, Sen. Arlen Specter said he might have 60 votes to pass his bill (S. 2439) and Sen. Tom Daschle (D-SD), the Senate Majority Leader, might schedule his bill for floor consideration. However, no further action was taken.
For background information on the cloning debate, see "Cloning and Embryo Research" at USCCB Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities' web site: www.usccb.org/prolife/issues/bioethic/factsheets.htm.
Executive: On July 10, the President's Council on Bioethics presented to President Bush its report, Human Cloning and Human Dignity: An Ethical Inquiry. For a copy of the report, see: www.bioethics.gov/reports/cloningreport/index.html. A majority of Council members recommended a ban on cloning-to-produce-children with a four-year moratorium on cloning-for-biomedical-research. A minority agreed with the ban on cloning-to-produce-children but favored the use of cloned embryos for research. In response to the report, Richard Doerflinger, Deputy Director of the Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities, USCCB, stated: "A four-year moratorium on all human cloning will offer ample time to discuss all viewpoints on a permanent policy. Without further delay, the U.S. Senate should join President Bush, the House of Representatives, and the President's Council on Bioethics in supporting at least a temporary ban on all human cloning." For the full text of this statement, see: www.usccb.org/comm/archives/2002/02-134.htm.