storage at temperatures less that zero degrees centigrade. S. 876 and H.R. 1822 stipulate that a human egg may not be used in SCNT research unless the egg is donated voluntarily with the informed consent of the woman donating the egg. Both bills also specify that human eggs or unfertilized blastocysts may not be acquired, received or otherwise transferred for valuable consideration if the transfer affects interstate commerce. In addition, SCNT may not be conducted in a laboratory in which human eggs are subject to assisted reproductive technology treatments or procedures, such as in vitro fertilization for the treatment of infertility. Violation of these provisions in S. 876 and H.R. 1822 regarding ethical requirements would result in a civil penalty of not more than $250,000. S. 876 has been referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee. H.R. 1822 has been referred to the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
Supporters of a ban on human cloning, such as that contained in H.R. 1357, argue that a partial ban on human cloning, like the one contained in S. 876, would be impossible to enforce. Critics of the ban on human cloning argue that SCNT creates a “clump of cells” rather than an embryo, and that the ban would curtail medical research and prevent Americans from receiving life-saving treatments created overseas.
Ethical and Social Issues
The possibility of using cloning technology not just for therapeutic purposes but also for reproducing human beings raises profound moral and ethical questions. As previously mentioned, the Bush Administration and the National Academies have made their positions clear. In July 2002, the President’s Council on Bioethics issued its report, Human Cloning and Human Dignity, which contained two opinions and sets of recommendations: one of the 10-7 majority, and one of the minority.49 The majority and minority both opposed reproductive cloning. It was on the topic of therapeutic cloning, which the majority opposed and the minority favored, that the Council was split.
49 At the June 20, 2002, meeting, 9 of 17 Council members voted to support cloning for medical research purposes, without a moratorium, provided a regulatory mechanism was established. 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, draft versions of the Council 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 additional discussion. The changed vote took many Council members by surprise, and some on the Council believe that the moratorium option, as opposed to a ban, was thrown in at the last minute and did not receive adequate discussion. In addition, some on the Council believe that the widely reported final vote of 10 to 7 in favor of a moratorium does not accurately reflect the fact “that the majority of the council has no problem with the ethics of biomedical cloning.” (Transcripts of the Council meetings and papers developed by staff for discussion during Council meetings can be found at [http://www.bioethics.gov]; S.S. Hall, “President’s Bioethics Council Delivers,” Science, vol. 297, July 19, 2002, pp. 322-324.) “Wise Words from Across the Pond?” BioNews, no. 252, Mar. 29, 2004.