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NRLC Update on Human Cloning and Fetus Farms

Sep 21, 2005 | Killing Embryos

This is an update from the Federal Legislation Department at National Right to Life in Washington, D.C., 202-626-8820, Legfederal@aol.com, issued on September 21, 2005. 
 
    It now appears that consideration of various bills dealing with embryonic stem cell research, human cloning, and related issues in the U.S. Senate will be delayed, at least until October 2005 and perhaps longer, due in part to preoccupation with legislation related to Hurricane Katrina, and the two Supreme Court vacancies.  The issue also continues to percolate in a number of state legislatures.  This update provides you with several new resources on these issues, as follows:
 
    1.  In the past, we have pointed out how the research use of so-called “leftover” human embryos, created by in vitro fertilization, is only a brief stepping stone towards the use of cloning to create human embryos for the sole purpose of using them in research and therapies (so-called “therapeutic cloning”).  While advocates of “therapeutic cloning” initially claimed that they would grow human embryos “only” to 14 days of development, we asserted that this limitation, too, was merely a temporary political expedient and would quickly be abandoned. 
    In July, the on-line magazine Slate published a five-part series, written by its national correspondent, William Saletan, titled “The Organ Factory:  The case for harvesting older human embryos,” which is available here in Microsoft Word format. (The series can also be read at the Slate website here.)
    Mr. Saletan presents evidence that growing human embryos to the eight-week point will become technically feasible in the not-distant future, and would provide tissues of more medical value than cells obtained from 14-day-old embryos.  Why not do it then?, Mr. Saletan asks.
 
    2.  What Mr. Saletan describes is what we have referred to as “fetus farming,” although he does not use that term.  Cloning researchers are rapidly progressing down the road towards fetus farms.  In the June 2005 issue of “Cloning and Stem Cells,” a technical journal, Dr. Robert Lanza and other researchers at Advanced Cell Technology (Worcester, MA) reported that they created cloned cow fetuses, grew them in utero in adult cows to four months (which is equivalent to four months in a human pregnancy), aborted the fetal cows, obtained the liver tissue cells that they desired, and transplanted those cells into adult cows. The authors reported this exercise as an advance in “therapeutic cloning” (the first two words in their summary).  Although the authors claimed a degree of success, they observed, “Improvement in engraftment may be anticipated if the number of stem cells transplanted were to be increased, either by utilizing older fetuses . . .” (See Long-Term Bovine Hematopoietic Engraftment with Clone-Derived Stem Cells,” Cloning and Stem Cells, June 2005.) 
    We suggest that ACT is not spending money on this research in the hope of developing a treatment for liver disease in cows.

3.  On July 27, 2005, Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Ca.) and others introduced S. 1520, a new version of “clone-and-kill” legislation.  Unlike the previous versions, S. 1520 does not contain the 14-day “deadline” for killing the cloned human embryos.
    NRLC’s on-line factsheet, “Human Cloning Legislation in Congress:  Misconceptions and Realities,” contains the most up-to-date information on cloning-related legislation in Congress, including the evolution of the “clone-and-kill” bills.  Most of the information in the factsheet is also readily applicable to cloning-related debates in state legislatures.
 
    4.  In order to make large-scale human “fetus farming” feasible, some sort of “artificial womb” would be necessary.  In this field, too, researchers seem to be advancing rapidly.  A new NRLC factsheet, “Artificial Wombs:  From Embryo Farms to Fetus Farms,” contains an eye-opening collection of excerpts from different sources on this subject.
 
    5.  Following the disappointing July 29 announcement by Sen. Bill Frist (R-Tn.) that he will support the bill (H.R. 810) to provide federal funds for certain research that requires the killing of human embryos, medical journalist Michael Fumento wrote a worthwhile column titled “On Embryonic Stem Cells, Frist Backs A Loser,” which you can read here.
 
    6.  A wealth of additional information on these topics can be accessed in the “Human Embryos” section of the NRLC website, here.
Categories: Killing Embryos