Policy and Human Cloning
Does a human cloning ban prohibit in vitro fertilization (IVF) techniques?
No. A ban on human cloning only prohibits the creation of cloned human embryos (through asexual reproduction). In vitro fertilization is sexual reproduction with sperm and egg.
What is the difference between a human embryo created by IVF and a human embryo created by cloning?
Embryos created through IVF techniques are created with sperm and egg (sexual reproduction), and therefore are not affected by a human cloning ban. A ban would only prohibit the asexual reproduction or cloning of human beings. Asexual reproduction involves a donor egg from which the nucleus has been removed. The enucleated egg then receives the nucleus from a cell of the person to be cloned. Upon fusion of the donor egg and the cell nucleus of the person to be cloned, embryonic cells begin to divide and grow, yielding a cloned human embryo. Once created, IVF embryos and cloned embryos are indistinguishable; they are both unique humans at the first stage of development, and both have begun the rapid cell division characteristic of a new human life.
Does a human cloning ban prohibit research on human embryos created through in vitro fertilization?
No. A human cloning ban would not make illegal or impact in any way research on human embryos created through in vitro fertilization. Parents of in vitro embryos will still be able to donate their embryonic children to research or authorize their disposal, and scientists will still be able to dismember in vitro embryos for research purposes. Although such lethal research on IVF embryos is also ethically contentious, a cloning ban cannot logistically address the fate of IVF embryos since these embryos were not created through cloning.
Is there a federal law that prohibits human cloning?
No. There is no federal law that bans or prohibits the cloning of human beings, the birthing of human clones, or experimental research on cloned human embryos. The United States is one of the only industrialized nations that has not enacted a ban on human cloning. In fact, no type of stem cell research (adult, fetal, embryonic, cloned human embryonic) is currently prohibited in the United States. Scientists can legally conduct any type of stem cell research.
The only federal regulation of stem cell research is the Dickey Amendment on the U.S. Appropriations bill. The Dickey Amendment is a provision in the federal budget that prohibits taxpayer dollars from funding research that destroys a human life. The Dickey Amendment has been in place since 1995 and was recognized as appropriate federal policy by both President Clinton and President Bush.
What are other states doing to address human cloning?
Currently, five states1 have comprehensive bans on human cloning, and four states have a partial ban on human cloning.2 Dozens of other states are pursuing legislation to address human cloning.
What is President Bush’s policy on stem cell research and cloning?
- President Bush’s policy addresses ONLY the use of taxpayer dollars for embryonic stem cell research. Specifically, his policy prohibits the federal government from using taxpayer funds to finance scientific research involving the destruction of human embryos. (Stem cells extracted from human embryos prior to 2001 when Bush’s policy was enacted are exempt and can be funded by the federal government).
- President Bush’s policy does not ban any type of stem cell research. Any private investor can legally fund embryonic stem cell research, and any scientist can legally participate in such research. Research on human embryos is legal in The United States.
- According to the National Institute of Health, a scientist who engages in privately funded research on human embryos can still receive government funding for projects unrelated to the destruction of human embryos as long as the funds are properly allocated and not comingled with embryonic stem cell research funds. Thus, a university or research organization will not lose federal funding if they participate in embryonic stem cell research.
In the 2005 79th Texas legislative session, what legislation will be introduced to compete with the Human Cloning Prohibition Act, a state ban on human cloning?
HB 1929 (Woolley; R-Houston), HB 2948 (Swinford; R-Dumas), SB 128 (Shapleigh; (D-El Paso), and SB 1164 (Zaffirini; D-El Paso). These bills resemble an amendment that Representatives Homer, Guillen, Menendez, Eiland, and Eissler offered during the 78th Legislative Session in an attempt to weaken a ban on the state funding of human cloning.3 The amendment banned the birth of a human clone, yet allowed for research on pre-born human clones up to 14 days (at which point the law would mandate that Texas dispose of the human clones).
While such a proposal appears to be a compromise, the US Department of Justice confirmed that a partial ban is unenforceable and arbitrary.4 Consider the following:
- Which is the more humane option for the cloned human embryo?
(a) allowing the human clone to live and be born
(b) mandating that the pre-born human clone be killed after 14 days?
- What “miraculous” event in the life of the human embryo occurs at 14 days that would cause research on that cloned embryo to be more ethically disturbing and worthy of prohibitions?
(a) Is the clone more human at 14 days than at 13 days?
(b) What about 15, or 20, or even 33 days?
(c) Is the value of life based on a continuum?
- How would Texas guarantee that no researcher would keep a human clone past 14 days? Would there be cloning police stationed in each laboratory?
- How will legislators find a principled reason not to extend the 14-day limit to 20 days, or 30, or 100 if researchers and scientists demand that such an extension is necessary to fulfill the “promise” of finding cures for diseases?
1. Arkansas , Michigan , North Dakota , South Dakota , and Iowa .
2. California , New Jersey , Rhode Island , and Virginia .
3. Texas State House of Representatives Journal from 78 th Legislative Session. Pg. 4017.
4. Bryant, Daniel. Department of Justice statement before the Subcommittee on Criminal Justice, Drug Policy and Human Resources. United States House of Representatives. May 15, 2002 .