House votes to ban human cloning
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The House of Representatives voted Tuesday to ban all human cloning after rejecting a plan to allow the procedure for research only.
The comprehensive ban, backed by the Bush administration, passed on a 265-162 vote Tuesday evening. A competing measure -- which would have banned cloning for reproductive purposes, but allowed it for scientific research -- failed Tuesday afternoon on a 249-178 vote.
Rep. Dave Weldon, R-Florida, who sponsored the absolute ban, said his approach is the only way to go. His bill would set penalties of up to 10 years in prison and a $1 million fine for those convicted of human cloning.
"I don't think there's any way that you can prevent the creation of human clones without stopping it from the very beginning," he told CNN. "We're talking about crossing a threshold here. We're no longer talking about using the quote-unquote excess embryo in the freezers for stem cell research. We're now talking about creating embryos for destructive research purposes."
House Majority Whip Tom DeLay, R-Texas, went further: "Human beings should not be cloned to stock a medical junkyard of spare parts," he said.
But Rep. Jim Greenwood, R-Pennsylvania, the sponsor of the competing measure, said the government needs to balance ethical concerns against the promise of scientific breakthroughs -- "cures for diseases, ailments and illness that may be lost should we entirely ban this technology."
The White House, however, came down on the side of a complete federal ban on the controversial procedure.
"The administration unequivocally is opposed to the cloning of human beings either for reproduction or research," said a statement of administration policy released Monday. "The moral and ethical issues posed by human cloning are profound and cannot be ignored in the quest for scientific discovery."
Rep. Peter Deutsch, D-Florida, a co-sponsor of the Greenwood measure, said he agreed with the idea that human cloning should be banned, but said some cloning practices should be allowed for the sake of scientific research. He shunned the use of the term embryonic cloning, using the more arcane "somatic cell nuclear transfer."
"This is not creating life. This is giving life," he said, pointing to potential breakthroughs in the treatment of paralysis and a host of diseases, such as Parkinson's.
The bill banning human cloning now goes to the Senate, where Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-South Dakota, indicated Tuesday that he would support it.
Tuesday's debate could be a dress rehearsal for the coming debate over embryonic stem cell research. President Bush has yet to announce whether he will support federal funding of such research.
The issue of cloning and embryonic stem cell research intersect when it comes to possible uses of cloned tissue as a source of stem cells.
Some researchers have testified before Congress that clones might provide a source of stem cells and compatible DNA for patients in need of stem cell treatment.
Other proponents of stem cell research reject using clones for such purposes, but the potential has led opponents of embryonic stem cell research to warn that federal funding could lead to wider cloning experimentation.
The policy statement said the White House supports "tissue-based therapies based on research involving the use of nuclear transfer or other cloning techniques to produce molecules, DNA, cells other than human embryos, tissues, organs, plants or animals other than humans."
The policy statement said these non-human cloning experiments "have enabled researchers to develop innovative drugs to treat research, such as breast cancer, or aid in treatment techniques for injury, such as cloning skins cells for skin grafts."
CNN White House Correspondent Major Garrett contributed to this report
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