The Tech - Online EditionMIT's oldest and largest
newspaper & the first
newspaper published
on the web
Boston Weather: 56.0°F | Overcast

House of Reps. Votes to Outlaw Every Type of Human Cloning

By Matt Porio

Following a bitter ideological debate with far-reaching implications for biomedical research, House members voted Thursday 241-155 to outlaw every type of human cloning -- including “therapeutic cloning,” which many claim could pave the way for treatments of several debilitating diseases.

Rep. James Greenwood, R-Pa., along with a small bipartisan coalition, unsuccessfully pushed an amendment that would have banned reproductive cloning but allowed for therapeutic cloning.

The debate raged around therapeutic cloning, or somatic cell nuclear transfer, which yields durable, versatile stem cells for research through the creation of a human embryo. In arguments similar to the nation’s ongoing abortion debate, opponents of therapeutic cloning say the embryo is a potential life, thus using and destroying embryos for scientific research is immoral.

“Life is not a commodity,” said Rep. Sue Myrick, R-N.C., who then asked how the practice is “any different than Nazi experimentation.”

“We must choose between a sanctity of life ethic and a quality of life ethic,” said Rep. Joseph Pitts, R-Pa., who echoed several other of the bill’s supporters who stressed the value of a potential life.

Members of Congress were unanimous in their contention that any kind of reproductive cloning is immoral and should be illegal. But supporters of the Greenwood Amendment took issue with the assignment of life to an embryo. Those against therapeutic cloning are equating “six cells in a petri dish” to living human beings, said Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., who added that “opponents are imposing their religion” on sick Americans.

Proponents of therapeutic cloning contend the research it yields could help millions suffering from diseases such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and cancer, along with spinal and brain injuries.