26 Sep Cloning ban comes before Wisconsin Senate on Tuesday
Madison, Wis. — A proposed ban on all human embryonic cloning in the state will be voted on in the state Senate Tuesday, a proposal opposed by many in the medical research community.
The proposed ban, known as AB 499, would outlaw not only cloning for reproductive purposes but also what proponents call therapeutic or research cloning, in which an embryo is created with identical DNA as an original subject for the purposes of harvesting stem cells after the first several days of development. The embryo is destroyed in the process.
Penalties for violating the bill if it were to become law would go up to 10 years in prison and $1 million in fines.
The measure previously passed the Assembly on a 59-38 vote, short of the two-thirds supermajority required to override a veto by Gov. Jim Doyle, who has pledged to do just that, citing the potential loss of business in what is an emerging field of science.
“We have the potential in this state to find cures for illnesses long thought incurable,” Doyle said, calling the bill “ill advised” and “extreme.”
“The amount of research that’s going on in the world as it would relate to stem cells is multiplying rapidly,” said state Sen. Ted Kanavas, R-Brookfield, a co-sponsor of the bill. “The need for destroying embryos in order to harvest stem cells is being reduced as we speak, as you see research happening in the areas of everything from skin cells being used to create stem cells, to all the work being done with adult stem cells.
Kanavas said research should take place within ethical constraints, and also that money should not be sought out for the purpose of ethically questionable endeavors. “I think it’s very important for us to realize we can’t lose our humanity in the process of doing research.”
James Thomson, a researcher at UW-Madison and key figure in the university’s advances in stem-cell research, said that while no current research in cloning is being conducted, the bill would nevertheless impede scientific work in the state by causing researchers and capital to seek out other states where the work is less regulated, such as California, Connecticut and New Jersey.
“There must be a perception that Wisconsin is a state that supports this science,” Thomson said.
The sentiment was further expounded upon by Jim Leonhart, executive vice president of the Wisconsin Biotechnology and Medical Devices Association. The association has supported an amendment to differentiate between reproductive human cloning — which would result in the creation of a fully formed, live human being — and therapeutic cloning that would stop at the early blastocyst stage for the purpose of harvesting stem cells.
The amendment was offered unsuccessfully in the Assembly by state Rep. Gregg Underheim, R-Oshkosh.
“You have to wonder why California and Illinois and other states are putting state money into this mix to support it, and other countries around the world are going after it pell-mell,” Leonhart said. “There’s a reason for this; they see some hope.”
On the other end, however, remain pro-life forces dead set against what they view as abuse of human life.
“We feel that investments should be in research that is moral,” said Barbara Lyons, executive director of Wisconsin Right to Life, arguing that embryonic cell research is an unethical exploitation of human life. “For example, we could become the adult stem cell capital of the world should the University and other entities in Wisconsin decide to invest their money in research that doesn’t depend on killing another human to achieve its goals.”
Click here for a previous WTN article on the cloning ban proposal.