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House of Representatives Rejects Bill to Allow “Human Embryo Farms,” and Approves Weldon-Stupak Bill to Ban the Cloning of Human Embryos, 241-155

Feb 27, 2003 | 2003 Press Releases

WASHINGTON (Feb. 27, 2003) – By a decisive, bipartisan vote, the U.S. House of Representatives today approved legislation to prohibit the creation of human embryos by cloning.  The House approved the Weldon-Stupak Human Cloning Prohibition Act (H.R. 534), 241-155.  The House first rejected, 174-231, the Greenwood Substitute — a competing measure that the White House had condemned as allowing “human embryo farms.”

“We applaud the lawmakers who heeded President Bush’s call to ban the creation of human embryos by cloning,” said Douglas Johnson, legislative director for the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC).  “Polls show the public is overwhelmingly opposed to the cloning of human embryos, but some senators are threatening to filibuster the bill in order to allow biotech firms to open up cloned human embryo farms.”

In his January 28 State of the Union address, President Bush repeated his past calls for Congress to approve legislation to ban all human cloning.  On February 26, the White House issued a statement strongly condemning the substitute proposal, saying:  “The Administration unequivocally is opposed to the cloning of human beings either for reproduction or for research. . . . The Administration is strongly opposed to any legislation that would prohibit human cloning for reproductive purposes but permit the creation of cloned embryos or development of human embryo farms for research, which would require the destruction of nascent human life.”   The White House statement is posted here: www.nrlc.org/uploads/killingembryos/HR534HumanCloningProhibitionActSAP.pdf

Many press reports in recent weeks have misunderstood how the competing bills really differ.  In reality, neither side’s bill would restrict research on human ova (“eggs”), and both allow the use of cloning methods to produce human DNA, cells, or tissues.  The real difference is this:  The Weldon-Stupak bill (and its Senate companion, the Brownback-Landrieu bill, S. 245) would ban the creation of human embryos by cloning, while the Greenwood Amendment and the similar Hatch-Feinstein bill (S. 303) would allow human embryos to be created by cloning and then killed for biomedical research (including but not limited to “stem cell research”).  On February 21, NRLC sent a letter to most members of the House, explaining how the Greenwood Substitute would be a step in the wrong direction.  The letter is posted at http://nrlc.org///federal/killingembryos

The President’s Council on Bioethics, although divided on policy recommendations on human cloning, was in agreement that somatic cell nuclear transfer (cloning), when successfully performed using human genetic material, will produce a human embryo.  President Clinton’s bioethics panel, NIH, and leading cloning researchers have also acknowledged this to be true.  Dr. John Gearhart of Johns Hopkins University, the co-discoverer of embryonic stem cells, also this week told reporters that the product of so-called “therapeutic cloning” is indeed an “embryo” and no longer an “egg.”  See www.nrlc.org/uploads/killingembryos/factsheetembryo.pdf
and www.nrlc.org/federal/killingembryos/gearheart022603

NRLC has released a factsheet that explains in more detail what the competing bills would allow and what they would forbid:  http://nrlc.org///federal/killingembryos/cloningbackrounder021003