Despite President Bush’s support, House passage, and an ever-mounting number of stories in the press indicating that a cloned baby could be born in the not-too-distant future, legislation to ban human cloning has not been scheduled for a vote in the Senate and supporters are not certain of when it will come up for a vote.
The bill has stalled because 14 U.S. senators-including 9 Republicans and 5 Democrats-have not made up their minds on the issue, leaving a complete ban on cloning with only 40 solid Senate supporters.
“It is important for the Senate to vote on a bill that bans all human cloning,” Sen. Sam Brownback (R.-Kan.) told HUMAN EVENTS, when asked when his bill to ban all human cloning will come to the floor. “The House has already passed a bill banning the procedure and the President has asked for passage of a comprehensive ban on all human cloning.”
But Brownback could not say when his bill would be scheduled for a vote. “I am hopeful that the Senate will debate and pass this bill before the end of the 108th Congress,” he said. The 108th Congress will come to an end after the November 2004 federal elections.
On February 27, the House rejected a bill that would have allowed the cloning of human embryos as long as those embryos were not carried to term-i.e., as long as the cloned babies were killed before birth. Supporters of this type of legislation often refer to it as a “reproductive cloning ban.” Opponents call it the “clone-to-kill bill.”
The same day the “clone-to-kill bill” failed, the House passed the Human Cloning Prohibition Act of 2003 (HR 534), which would ban all human cloning, by a vote of 241 to 155 (see roll calls, March 10, 2003, p. 30). Brownback’s proposal (S 245) is essentially the Senate version of this bill. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R.-Utah), on the other hand, is sponsoring a “clone-to-kill bill” (S 303) and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D.-Calif.) is helping him rally support for it.
The day of the House vote, President Bush restated his endorsement for the bills banning all human cloning. “Today’s resounding bipartisan vote in the House demonstrates concern for the profound moral and social issues posed by human cloning,” said Bush. Since the House vote, however, he has not highlighted the issue. Asked last week what the President was doing to ensure passage of a comprehensive cloning ban, White House spokeswoman Maria Tamburri would say only, “The President urges the Senate to act on legislation banning all human cloning.”
A congressional Republican source familiar with the issue said that supporters had 40 solid votes for the comprehensive cloning ban (S 245), while 46 senators were against it and favored Hatch’s reproductive cloning ban instead. That leaves 14 senators on the fence, he said. Sen. Mary Landrieu (La.) is the only Democrat officially co-sponsoring the comprehensive ban.
Calls last week to the offices of all 14 fence-sitters did not yield any commitments. “On the cloning bills, which you referred, that might come up in the future in the Senate, Sen. Lugar has not expressed a view because he is still studying the complex moral, religious, ethical, scientific, health and public policy ramifications,” said Andy Fisher, press secretary for Sen. Dick Lugar (R.-Ind.). Rodell Mollineau, spokesman for Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor (Ark.)-who comes from a conservative, pro-life state-said, “The senator opposes reproductive cloning.” But Pryor will not rule out voting for a total ban: “He will look at each piece of legislation as it comes up,” Mollineau said.
Other spokesmen also made non-committal comments, while others did not respond to queries.
Meanwhile, British newspapers reported that a scientist said October 13 that he would soon implant a cloned baby in a woman’s womb. Other scientists, however, believe human cloning is still years away. Reported the Daily Telegraph, “Claims by the maverick doctor Panayiotis Zavos that he will clone a baby for less than pounds 100,000 have been dismissed as fantasy by some of Europe’s leading fertility experts. . . . Although scientists have cloned a range of animals-including sheep, goats, pigs, cattle, mice, cats and dogs-the success rate is low and leads to many aborted and malformed offspring.”
Confused About Cloning
The following 14 senators have not committed themselves one way or the other on S 245, the comprehensive ban on human cloning endorsed by President Bush. If you would like to help clarify their thinking, you can call these senators through the U.S. Capitol switchboard at 202-224-3121.
John Breaux (D.-La.)
Robert Byrd (D.-W.Va.)
Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R.-Colo.)
Thad Cochran (R.-Miss.)
Susan Collins (R.-Maine)
Bob Graham (D.-Fla.)
Kay Bailey Hutchison (R.-Tex.)
Dick Lugar (R.-Ind.)
John McCain (R.-Ariz.)
Mark Pryor (D.-Ark.)
Gordon Smith (R.-Ore.)
Ted Stevens (R.-Alaska)
John Warner (R.-Va.)