One month after the Dolly announcement, on March 4, 1997, President Clinton sent a memorandum to the heads of all executive departments and agencies making it “absolutely clear that no federal funds will be used for human cloning.” This action extended the congressional ban beyond HHS to all federally supported research. Clinton also urged the private sector to adopt a voluntary ban on the cloning of human beings. The NIH Guidelines on Stem Cell Research, published by the Clinton Administration in August 2000, would not have funded research in which: human stem cells are used for reproductive cloning of a human; human stem cells are derived using SCNT; or, human stem cells that were derived using SCNT are utilized in a research project.
Actions During the Current Bush Administration. On August 9, 2001, President Bush announced that for the first time federal funds would be used to support research on human embryonic stem cells, but funding would be limited to “existing stem cell lines.” In the speech, President Bush stated that he strongly opposes human cloning. Although not mentioned specifically in the August 9 speech, a fact sheet on the White House website states that federal funds will not be used for “the cloning of human embryos for any purpose.”30 In his speech, President Bush announced his intention to name a President’s council, chaired by Dr. Leon Kass of the University of Chicago, “to consider all of the medical and ethical ramifications of biomedical innovation.” The President’s Council on Bioethics, was established for a period of up to two years by Executive Order 13237 on November 28, 2001. The White House announced the other 17 members of the council on
January 16, 2002.
The first topic addressed by the Council was human cloning.31
Council members voted in opposition to reproductive cloning, they could not come to an agreement on articulating the precise nature of their objection, whether solely safety concerns or which of the various moral objections were most important. In an informal vote on the issue of therapeutic cloning, about half of the 18 members of the Council voiced their support for the therapeutic use of human cloning. Dr. Kass proposed that the Council’s final report reflect both the arguments supporting cloning for the purpose of medical treatment and those against.
At the June 20, 2002, meeting, nine Council members voted to support cloning for medical research purposes, without a moratorium, provided a regulatory mechanism was established.32 Because one member of the Council had not attended the meetings and was not voting, the vote seemed to be nine to eight in favor of research cloning. However, the draft report sent to Council members on June 28, 2002, indicated that two of the group of nine members had changed their votes in favor of a moratorium. Both made it clear that they have no ethical problem with cloning for biomedical research, but felt that a moratorium would provide time for
30 The White House Fact Sheet on embryonic stem cell research is available at [http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2001/08/20010809-1.html].
31 Transcripts of the Council meetings and papers developed by staff for discussion during the meetings can be found at [http://www.bioethics.gov].
32 S.S. Hall, “President’s Bioethics Council Delivers,” Science, vol. 297, July 19, 2002, pp. 322-324.