Hatch supports some cloning research
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- After what he termed "countless hours of study, reflection and prayer," Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, Tuesday joined a bi-partisan group of senators in sponsoring a bill that would ban most human cloning but allow an exception for research purposes.
"I come to this issue 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," said Hatch, who was also one of a handful of senators opposed to abortion who supported federal funding for stem cell research.
A competing bill, backed by President Bush, would ban all cloning.
Hatch said he decided to co-sponsor the measure because he believes cloning for research has promise in finding cures to disease. Other sponsors of the measure include Sens. Ted Kennedy, D-Massachusetts, Dianne Feinstein, D-California, Arlen Specter, R-Pennsylvania and Zell Miller, D-Georgia.
The bill would make human cloning a federal crime, with penalties up to $1 million dollars and 10 years in prison. But it would allow research cloning, or what scientists refer to as "regenerative cloning."
"Regenerative medicine is pro-life and pro-family. It enhances, it does not diminish human life." said Hatch "If encouraged to flourish, it can improve the life of millions of Americans and could lead to new scientific frontiers not now in sight. So I urge my colleagues in the Senate and the American public to support this bill that opposes human cloning but promotes regenerative medicine using nuclear transplantation."
The bill banning all cloning is sponsored by Sens. Sam Brownback, R-Kansas, and Mary Landrieu, D-Louisiana, who argue there is a "slippery slope" between cloning for research and creating human beings.
"This will inevitably lead to the creation of human embryo farms, where embryos will be grown to specification and then harvested for body parts," Brownback said.
The Senate could debate this contentious and emotional issue in May, and many senators are still undecided.
Two Republicans who sided with Hatch in backing federal funding for stem cell research, Sens. Ted Stevens of Alaska and Strom Thurmond of South Carolina, are among the undecided. Sen. Bill Frist, R-Tennessee, a physician whose opinion on biomedical issues is given serious weight by his colleagues, said last month he supports a total ban on cloning.
A key question, especially for anti-abortion senators, is when life begins. Hatch said he believes that because the human egg used in the research process is not fertilized, it is not an embryo and thus not human life.
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