New York Times, July 25, 2001

House Judiciary Panel Passes a No-Clone Bill


WASHINGTON, July 24 The House of Representatives moved one step closer today to tackling the thorny issue of cloning, when the Judiciary Committee, voting along party lines, approved a bill that would outlaw not only cloning people, but also the use of cloning technology to treat disease.

The vote, 18 Republicans in favor and 11 Democrats against, was expected. When the measure reaches the House floor, opponents are expected to argue that it should be limited to a simple ban on cloning humans. A vote could take place as early as next week.

"As Yogi Berra said, `It ain't over till it's over," said Representative Dave Weldon, a Florida Republican and the bill's author.

The central issue is whether researchers should be permitted to engage in so-called therapeutic cloning, creating embryos that are identical genetic copies of existing people. The intent is not to make babies, but to obtain cells, including embryonic stem cells, that might provide an exact tissue match for patients.

Supporters of Mr. Weldon's bill argue that cloning people is so morally reprehensible and unsafe that all uses of the technology should be banned. And many oppose research on human embryos, which they regard as nascent life.

"Opening the door to human cloning even with good intentions inevitably will lead to experimentation on the child-to-be," Representative F. James Sensenbrenner Jr., a Wisconsin Republican and the Judiciary Committee's chairman, said today.

Mr. Weldon's bill has the backing of the Bush administration; in a statement today, Tommy G. Thompson, the secretary of health and human services, said it "puts Congress on the right track" toward prohibiting human cloning.

But Representative James C. Greenwood, Republican of Pennsylvania, has introduced competing legislation that would prohibit cloning only when it is intended to initiate a pregnancy. The House Energy and Commerce Committee is scheduled on Friday to vote on Mr. Greenwood's bill.

Mr. Greenwood described today's Judiciary Committee vote as "a very dangerous step toward denying Americans the miracle cures of the future."

Therapeutic cloning is legal in Britain, and a Massachussetts company, Advanced Cell Technology, has said it is trying to use therapeutic cloning to derive embryonic stem cells.

Mr. Weldon's bill would make therapeutic cloning a crime and would prohibit the sale of any therapies produced as a result of human cloning, punishable by a fine and up to 10 years in prison.