Bill would ban the manufacturing, manipulation of human life
ST. PAUL — Human cloning would be banned in Minnesota under a bill introduced last week at the Capitol. Backed by Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life (MCCL), the state’s oldest and largest pro-life organization, the ban has been sought ever since the University of Minnesota’s attempts to clone human beings came to light several years ago.
“Human life must be treated with dignity, not as mere raw material for experimentation,” said MCCL Legislative Associate Jordan Marie Bauer. “This bill will ensure that living members of our species are not created for the purpose of dissecting and destroying them.”
The ban on human cloning, H.F. 998, is authored by Rep. Bob Dettmer, R-Forest Lake. The Senate version of the bill was introduced, March 10, with Senate President Michelle Fischbach, R-Paynesville, as lead author.
The measure passed a House committee this morning on a voice vote and is expected to pass a Senate committee this evening.
Previous attempts to ban human cloning gained traction among lawmakers and citizens, but fell short of the votes needed to become law. The Legislature passed a ban on taxpayer funding of human cloning in 2009, which was signed into law by prolife Gov. Pawlenty. That ban needs to be re-authorized in 2011, unless cloning is banned outright.
Human cloning is a technique that combines an enucleated egg (nucleus removed) and the nucleus of a somatic cell (e.g. skin cell) to make a human being in the embryonic stage of development, according to the National Institutes of Health. Somatic cell nuclear transfer, or SCNT, is the scientific term for cloning. SCNT can be used for “therapeutic” or “reproductive” purposes, but the initial process that combines an enucleated egg and a somatic cell’s nucleus is identical. Human cloning could in theory provide a means of large-scale production of human embryos for experiments, conjuring up disturbing images of embryo farming to manufacture and supply laboratories with raw human material.
Many eminent stem cell researchers are turning away from human cloning in favor of alternatives that offer greater therapeutic promise. Rudolf Jaenisch of the Whitehead Institute conducted embryonic stem cell research on mice for years before abandoning it. “With nuclear transfer you never get normal embryos,” Jaenisch told The Scientist magazine. He said SCNT is “of no practical relevance” and that he would never use it in dealing with human embryos.
Prof. Ian Wilmut, who cloned Dolly the sheep, has decided to give up his efforts to clone human life. A group of eight scientists published an article in Mayo Clinic Proceedings calling for a rejection of human cloning, describing it as “an abuse of scientific freedom, not its realization.”
“No amount of supposed benefit can ever justify human cloning’s utilitarian treatment of life,” Bauer said. “MCCL applauds this move by legislators to protect human life from replication, manipulation and destruction.”