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President Bush Urges Senate to Ban Human Embryo Cloning

Apr 14, 2002 | Killing Embryos

In Historic Speech, President Bush Urges U.S. Senate to Ban Human Embryo Cloning, But Democratic Leader Backs Embryo Farms

WASHINGTON (April 14, 2002) – In a historic speech, President George W. Bush has called on the U.S. Senate to approve a total ban on the cloning of human embryos.

If the Senate fails to pass the pending Brownback-Landrieu bill, America faces the prospect of human “embryo farms” and widespread “destruction of nascent human life,” the President said.

The President’s speech was delivered on April 10 in the White House East Room to an audience of about 175 representatives of various organizations supporting the ban, including National Right to Life.

“As we seek to improve human life, we must always preserve human dignity,” the President said. “And therefore, we must prevent human cloning by stopping it before it starts.”

The speech occurred in the same week as press reports quoting claims by researchers affiliated with two overseas groups that they have already impregnated women with cloned human embryos. The researchers have refused to provide details or proof, and the claims have not been confirmed.

The speech set the stage for a dramatic showdown in the Senate, which no later than May 24 will choose between two radically different legislative proposals. One is the Brownback-Landrieu ban endorsed by the President (S. 1899). The other, competing measure – dubbed the “clone and kill bill” by pro-life opponents – would permit unrestricted creation of human embryos by cloning while imposing a legal requirement that each such embryo must die in experimentation.

The leader of the Senate’s Democrats, Sen. Tom Daschle (D-SD), rejected the President’s position and made it clear that he would do his best to defeat the ban on cloning human embryos. The Democrats currently control the Senate by a single vote.

“The president wants to ban it all and I think he’s wrong and I think the American people are on our side on this issue,” Daschle said.

The outcome of the battle is very much in doubt.

“There are still at least 15 uncommitted senators, and neither side can yet reliably predict which side will end up with a majority,” said NRLC Legislative Director Douglas Johnson.

Please click here to read the Action Alert to learn what you can do to affect the outcome of this crucial battle.

The House of Representatives already passed the complete ban sought by the President, on July 31, 2001, 265-162. But the bill has been stalled in the Senate by fierce resistance from the biotechnology industry lobby and its allies, including Daschle and Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-Ca.), Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.), and Tom Harkin (D-Iowa).

Bush: Life Is Not A Commodity

In his speech, President Bush said: “Human cloning is deeply troubling to me, and to most Americans. Life is a creation, not a commodity. Our children are gifts to be loved and protected, not products to be designed and manufactured. Allowing cloning would be taking a significant step toward a society in which human beings are grown for spare body parts, and children are engineered to custom specifications, and that’s not acceptable.”

The President expressed his strong support for research into degenerative diseases, including types of stem cell research that do not depend on killing human embryos. But, he warned, “Advances in biomedical technology must never come at the expense of human conscience. As we seek what is possible, we must always ask what is right, and we must not forget that even the most noble ends do not justify any means.”

Allowing cloning of human embryos for research “would contradict the most fundamental principle of medical ethics: that no human life should be exploited or extinguished for the benefit of another,” the President said.

Mr. Bush strongly urged the U.S. Senate to pass the bill sponsored by Senators Sam Brownback (R-Ks.) and Mary Landrieu (D-La.) to ban all forms of human cloning – both so-called “reproductive cloning,” in which cloned human embryos would be implanted in wombs and carried to birth, and so-called “therapeutic cloning,” in which the cloned human embryos would be created and then killed in experimentation.

[See “What is Cloning?”]

“I believe all human cloning is wrong, and both forms of cloning ought to be banned,” the President said, adding, “It would be a mistake for the United States Senate to allow any kind of human cloning to come out of that chamber.”

President Bush noted that the Brownback-Landrieu bill “has wide support across the political spectrum, liberals and conservatives support it, religious people and nonreligious people support it. Those who are pro-choice and those who are pro-life support the bill. This is a diverse coalition, united by a commitment to prevent the cloning and exploitation of human beings.”

Among those invited and present for the speech were NRLC President Wanda Franz; Board Chairman Geline Williams; Executive Director David N. O’Steen; Associate Executive Director Darla St. Martin; Legislative Director Douglas Johnson; congressional liaison Patricia Coll; Rose Mimms, executive director, Arkansas Right to Life; Kay Grillot, federal legislative representative, Illinois Federation for the Right to Life; Sharon Rodi, NRLC board representative from Louisiana; Steve Ertelt, executive director, Montana Right to Life; Stacey Pfliiger, executive director, North Dakota Right to Life; Gayle Atteberry, executive director, Oregon Right to Life; Lori Hougens, acting executive director, New York State Right to Life; Mary Beliveau, legislative director, Pennsylvania Pro-Life Federation; Dona LaBoeuf, executive director, Rhode Island Right to Life; Holly Gatling, executive director, South Carolina Citizens for Life (SCCL); Wayne Cockfield, NRLC and SCCL board member; Brian Harris, president, Tennessee Right to Life; Mary Boyert, Respect Life Director, Archdiocese of Atlanta and former executive director of Georgia Right to Life; and Joe Kral, legislative representative, Texas Right to Life.

[To see the complete text of the President’s speech, click here.]

Daschle Defiant

Late last year, Daschle publicly promised that the Senate would take up the Brownback bill in February or March, but he has repeatedly postponed that debate. On April 10, Daschle said that the vote would occur before the start of the next congressional recess on May 24.

Daschle told reporters that he is opposed to “cloning for creation of human beings,” referring to allowing cloned babies to be born, but made clear his belief that no ban should prevent the cloning of human embryos for research and therapies. He cited a letter signed by 40 winners of the Nobel Prize in various fields, who claimed that the Brownback bill “would have a chilling effect on all scientific research in the United States.”

Opponents of the Brownback-Landrieu bill, including groups representing persons with certain diseases, generally claim that it would have a crippling effect on “medical research.” Senator Feinstein said that banning all human cloning was “like throwing the baby out with the bathwater.”

In reality, the Brownback-Landrieu bill places no restrictions on any types of research that do not involve human cloning, and explicitly allows even the use of cloning methods to produce cells (including stem cells), tissues, or organs, so long as no human embryos are created.

Currently, the Brownback-Landrieu bill has 29 cosponsors. Landrieu currently is the only Democrat among them, but at least a few other Democrats intend to support the legislation. A small number of Republican senators strongly oppose it.

A national poll conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates for the Pew Forum in early March asked, “Do you favor or oppose scientific experimentation on the cloning of human beings,” found 77% opposed and only 17% in favor.

Clone and Kill Bills

The biotech industry and allied senators are pushing alternative legislation which, they claim, would “ban the cloning of human beings” but have “an exception for research on stem cells.” In reality, however, the biotech-backed bills would permit the cloning of human embryos for any purpose and without any restrictions — but would make it a federal crime to implant any such human embryo in a womb.

Such “clone and kill” bills have been introduced by Senators Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) (S. 1893) and by Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-Ca.) and Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) (S. 1758). At NRL News deadline on April 14, opponents of the Brownback-Landrieu bill were working behind the scenes to produce a single unified “clone and kill” bill.

“The biotech industry and the pro-cloning senators will try to sell as a ‘compromise’ their scheme to ban implantation of embryos, but in reality such legislation would simply establish a protective umbrella for human embryo farms to open for business,” said NRLC’s Douglas Johnson. “Any senator who votes against the Brownback-Landrieu bill is voting in favor of establishing an industry based on creation and destruction of human embryos.”

Johnson said that the biotech-backed bills are “worse than no legislation at all, because they would establish a legal duty to kill a class of members of the species homo sapiens – all human embryos created by cloning. The biotech-promoted bills would make it a federal felony to allow a cloned human embryo to live. These bills would protect human embryo hatcheries, but punish with a ten-year prison sentence anyone who seeks to preserve the life of a cloned human embryo.”

Patenting Human Embryos

According to an article in the March 2 edition of National Journal, some biotech firms hope to make great profits by patenting specific cloned human embryos, then mass producing embryos of the patented type and selling them to be used in many types of experimentation, including – but not limited to – harvesting their stem cells.

“If the Brownback-Landrieu bill is not enacted, we can expect to see cloned human embryos being patented and sold as the new lab rats for many types of drug testing and other medical research, by no means limited to stem cell research,” commented NRLC’s Johnson.

The National Journal article notes, “Already, some researchers, including Michael West, the head of ACT [Advanced Cell Technology, a biotech firm actively seeking to clone human embryos], argue that a cloned embryo of less than 14 days, or perhaps one that hasn’t developed a brain, is not human but is merely cellular life that can be owned and patented.”

Lobbying Battle Intensifies

The President’s speech occurred as both sides stepped up their intense lobbying battle on the cloning issue.

The Brownback-Landrieu bill is strongly supported not only by NRLC and other prolife groups, but also by organizations that support legal abortion (such as the United Methodist Church) and by various groups that oppose tampering with the human genetic code, such as the International Center for Technology Assessment. Scores of prominent liberal and left-wing figures have endorsed a complete ban on the cloning of human embryos.

Many of the groups supporting the ban cooperate under a loose-knit coalition called “Americans to Ban Cloning,” which maintains an informative website, www.cloninginformation.org. [Many NRLC-produced documents on cloning issues are posted on that website, and also on NRLC’s own site at www.nrlc.org/Killing_Embryos/Index.html ]

On April 10, numerous groups supporting the Brownback-Landrieu bill, including NRLC, sponsored a “lobby day” on Capitol Hill. The day included a briefing for Congressional staffers, journalists, and anti-cloning activists by a number of persons with various disabilities, researchers, celebrities, and activists.

Among the speakers were Joni Eareckson Tada, former director of the Christian Council on Persons with Disabilities; Carl Anderson, Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus; William Kristol, editor of the Weekly Standard and chairman of Stop Human Cloning; Dr. David Stevens, executive director of the Christian Medical Association; Chuck Colson, chairman of the Wilberforce Forum; Dr. Richard Land, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention; Jim Kelly, a prominent patient advocate for spinal cord injury research from Texas; and actresses Margaret Colin and Patricia Heaton, who are affiliated with Feminists for Life.

In early April, NRLC stepped up its own campaign in support of the bill with new radio ads in South Dakota and North Dakota, highlighting the upcoming debate over “human embryo farms.” Other ads will appear in additional states during the weeks ahead.

One NRLC ad running in North Dakota warns, “Some biotechnology corporations are working on a nightmare project. Using cloning techniques already used on animals, they plan to clone human embryos, then kill them in experimentation. These wealthy corporations plan to start human embryo farms, for profit.”

[The ads can be read or listened to at the NRLC website at www.nrlc.org/Killing_Embryos/Index.html ]

BIO Official Resigns

The leading force in opposition to the Brownback-Landrieu bill is the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO), which lobbies on behalf of more than 1,000 biotech corporations. BIO reportedly plans to fly hundreds of executives and researchers from biotech firms to Washington to lobby in late April.

However, there is dissension in BIO’s own ranks over the organization’s pro-cloning activism. Among those speaking in support of the Brownback-Landrieu bill at the April 10 Capitol Hill briefing was Dr. Thomas Dooley, who heads a biotech firm in Alabama, IntegriDerm. Dr. Dooley was co-founder and former president of the Biotechnology Association of Alabama, but he resigned in protest of BIO’s support for human cloning.

“I resigned as president of this organization in March 2002 solely as a result of my opposition to policy statements by the Biotechnology Industry Organization that favor unrestricted use of human cloning research methods for the production of early-stage human embryos intended for destruction,” Dr. Dooley told those gathered. “Human cloning for any reason is unnecessary and immoral. There is no scientific, medical, or moral imperative to clone human beings or to produce human embryonic stem cells via embryo destruction.”

Also lobbying against the Brownback-Landrieu bill is a coalition of organizations that advocate for research on various specific diseases. Many of these groups are coordinating their activities through an umbrella group called the Coalition for the Advancement of Medical Research (CAMR). This coalition includes the American Medical Association, Christopher Reeve Paralysis Foundation, Parkinson’s Action Network, Project A.L.S., Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation International, American Pediatric Society, and other groups. [See www.stemcellfunding.org]

Dr. Frist Endorses Ban

The day before the President’s speech, Brownback-Landrieu supporters got a big boost when Senator Bill Frist (R-Tn.), the Senate’s only physician, endorsed a ban on all forms of human cloning.

“At this point in the evolution of this new science, I believe there is no justification for the purposeful creation and destruction of human embryos in order to experiment with them, especially when the promise and success of stem cell research does not depend on the experimental research cloning technique,” Frist said, noting, “Regardless of our religious background, most of us are extremely uncomfortable with the idea of creating cloned human embryos, doing an experiment on them, and destroying the human embryo.”

Categories: Killing Embryos