28 Sep Wisconsin Senate votes to outlaw cloning; measure still faces veto
Madison, Wis. — The state Senate voted 21-12 on Wednesday, short of a veto-proof majority, to ban all forms of cloning in Wisconsin, though it is likely that Gov. Jim Doyle will veto the bill.
The bill was supported by all Republicans and two Democrats: Sen. Jeff Plale, D-South Milwaukee, and Sen. Roger Breske, D-Eland.
The bill, 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.
The measure earlier 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.
“Everyone is against human cloning,” Doyle said in an official statement, “but the real purpose of this bill is to restrict stem cell research, which holds enormous potential for our state as well as the promise of curing juvenile diabetes, spinal cord injuries, and Parkinson’s disease.”
UW-Madison Chancellor John Wiley said the vote does not bode well for the state.
“The failure of the Wisconsin State Senate to amend Assembly Bill 499, which effectively criminalizes a promising area of biomedical research, sends a frightening message to Wisconsin’s research community,” Wiley said. “Scientists in many fields view this with alarm. It is a message that special interests can close off legitimate avenues of scientific inquiry. As we work to attract the best scientific talent and build industries capable of providing the high-end jobs Wisconsin needs, a negative perception of the state’s climate for cutting-edge research will do nothing but harm those efforts.”
The Senate had previously rejected an amendment offered by Sen. Alberta Darling, R-River Hills, to differentiate between the two methods of cloning and to allow for therapeutic cloning after passing regulatory barriers and a one-year waiting period for the Legislature to review the science.
Wiley praised legislators who took a stand against the legislation.
“Several legislators, notably Alberta Darling, Robert Cowles, Michael Ellis and Jeff Plale, took a courageous stand to amend this faulty legislation,” Wiley said. “The amendment would have banned reproductive cloning but kept open an area of research that is not only scientifically promising, but holds out hope for many people with serious and sometimes fatal diseases. We applaud those senators for their willingness to stand up to those who would set back science and medical research that may one day provide effective new treatments for Wisconsin citizens with terrible diseases.”
Supporters of the ban stood firm.
“There is no difference between so-called `reproductive cloning’ and `therapeutic cloning,'” said Peggy Hamill, Pro-Life Wisconsin’s state director, speaking through a press release. “Both involve the reproduction of a fully human life. The immediate product of somatic cell nuclear transfer – the cloning process – is a human person, whether the intent is to bring that person to birth or to destroy that person for research.”
Others however, have argued that forbidding certain research methods will have a chilling effect on medical research in Wisconsin as a whole, sending capital to other states.
“By outlawing a type of scientific research before it is even conducted here, Republicans are sending a message that we are anti-science,” said Senate Minority Leader Judy Robson, D-Beloit, in a news release.
Penalties for violating the bill if it were to become law would go up to ten years in prison and a $1 million in fines. It is widely expected to be vetoed by Governor Jim Doyle, who has pledged to veto restrictions on stem-cell research.
Click here for a previous article on AB 499