28 Sep Amendment on cloning ban rejected; vote on bill set for Wednesday
Madison, Wis. — The Wisconsin Senate voted 17-16 Tuesday night to reject an amendment to the proposed human cloning ban, setting the bill on course for a likely veto by Gov. Jim Doyle.
The Senate will take up the proposed ban, known as AB 499, on Wednesday. It 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.
The measure previously passed the Assembly on a 59-38 vote, short of the two-thirds supermajority required to override an expected veto by Doyle, who has cited the potential loss of business in what is an emerging field of science.
The amendment, offered by state Sen. Alberta Darling, R-River Hills, would have prohibited cloning for the purposes of human reproduction while still allowing for research cloning, creating what Darling said would have been a bill that could pass with widespread support and be signed into law by the governor.
The vote was largely party-line, with all Democrats voting for the amendment with only Darling and Mike Ellis, R-Neenah, defecting from the Republican side.
Darling later indicated she still intends to vote for the bill in its current form, and she expects its margin of victory to be significantly higher.
“I don’t want to take away the options for them [medical researchers] when it comes to being at the top of the line for finding the solutions to human tragedies,” Darling said during the debate, noting the importance of finding new treatments for people suffering from various diseases, including her own brother who has multiple sclerosis.
One senator to strongly oppose the amendment, Joe Leibham, R-Sheboygan, called the distinction between the two types of cloning meaningless. “Human cloning in any form creates a human embryo.”
Leibham also said he did not believe the ban would adversely affect current research in the state. He also added that more research money should be put towards work in harvesting stem cells from adults and sources such as umbilical cord blood, rather than from human embryos. “All those areas are where the true promise is, and I believe there’s a reason for thatÑthat there’s a natural order in this world.”
Other legislators, however, objected to the conflation of the two kinds of cloning.
“To confuse therapeutic cloning with reproductive cloning, it does science a great disservice and it does the Legislature a great disservice,” said Senate Minority Leader Judy Robson, D-Beloit.
Additionally, Sen. Dave Hansen, D-Green Bay, noted a potential chilling effect on all medical research, which he called an especially perilous course to follow in light of support for cloning research in other states.
“It’s Illinois’s turn, it’s already California’s turn, and we are giving it up by telling it to go everywhere but here.”
Sen. Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, however, said it was important to control for all kinds of cloning rather than leave it up to a combination of public and private sector actors across the state. “The only place to really gain control of this is in the Wisconsin statutes.”
Click here for a previous article on AB 499