Statement of Senator Dianne Feinstein at a Hearing on Legislation to Ban Human Reproductive Cloning, but Allow Promising Medical Research to Continue Under Strict Oversight
March 19, 2003
"Mr. Chairman, I hope that this hearing will help convince people that it is possible to draw a line between human reproductive cloning and the valuable technique of somatic cell nuclear transplantation. While many of us were disappointed with the House vote on this issue last month, we take comfort from the fact that a majority of senators appears to disagree with the House's position.
I am hopeful that the Senate will pass alternative legislation that we introduced to ban human reproductive cloning, while ensuring that important medical research can go forward - under strict oversight from the federal government.
Simply put, this research offers hope to millions of Americans suffering from paralysis and debilitating diseases including juvenile diabetes, Parkinson's and Alzheimer's. Let's be very clear: human reproductive cloning is immoral and unethical. It must not be allowed under any circumstances. But at the same time, we must not prohibit nuclear transplantation research - it holds too much promise for millions of Americans.
Just this past December, we were told that the Raelians had cloned a human being. This is very likely a hoax. However, it underscores the point: We must ban human reproductive cloning now - before some unethical scientist is successful in creating a human clone. This is a point on which we all agree. Human reproductive cloning is wrong - and it must be banned forever. And our legislation does just that.
But our legislation allows researchers to continue to use what appears to be the most promising technique to cure debilitative diseases - somatic cell nuclear transplantation, a process used to produce embryonic stem cells.
Under our legislation, though, these researchers will not have a free hand. They must conduct this research ethically, under strict guidelines, and with close oversight by the federal government.
Our legislation will place tough regulations on scientists conducting nuclear transplantation research. It would:
Impose a sentence of up 10 years in federal prison for anyone attempting to a clone a human being, and establish a minimum civil penalty of $1 million or three times the gross profits resulting from the violation, whichever is greater;
Mandate that eggs used in this research be unfertilized;
Prohibit the purchase or sale of unfertilized eggs, including eggs that have undergone nuclear transplantation - to prevent "embryo farms" or the possible exploitation of women;
Impose strong ethics rules on scientists mandating informed consent by egg donors; review of any nuclear transplantation research by an ethics board; and safety and privacy protections;
Prohibit any research on an egg cell after 14 dayswhen that cell begins to divide and when cell differentiation begins.
These provisions establish a clear divide between nuclear transplantation research, used only to produce embryonic stem cells - and human reproductive cloning.
Embryonic stem cell research has the potential to save millions of livesand improve the quality of life for millions more.
The promise of embryonic stem cells is that they are easily replicated undifferentiated cells that can be induced into changing into any cell in the body - a heart cell, a liver cell, a spinal cord cell, or a kidney cell. And talented scientists across the country - and indeed the worldare conducting research using embryonic stem cells in the search for new cures and treatments.
In a preliminary study at Washington University, embryonic stem cells, inserted into rats, have led to regeneration of the rat's spinal cord. The once crippled animals have been able to walk and bear their own weight. Imagine what this could mean for the 250,000 Americans paralyzed by spinal cord injuries.
Similarly, preliminary findings at the University of Wisconsin have shown that human embryonic stem cells can differentiate and express the insulin gene. Imagine what this could mean to the 17 million Americans suffering from diabetes.
Much more research and testing needs to be done. But clearly, these findings offer hope to those Americans who suffer from debilitative diseases. Some have suggested that this research can be done without nuclear transplantation. They point to research being done, for example, with adult stem cells.
I certainly support adult stem cell research and other research not involving stem cells. But I agree with leading scientists who argue that embryonic stem cell research offers much more promise than adult stem cell research. The fact remains that adult stem cells are less versatile than embryonic stem cells. They do not have the ability to be potentially grown into any organ or tissue.
In addition, I support using nuclear transplantation to generate embryonic stem cells. Embryonic stem cells generated through means other than nuclear transplantation are simply much less useful. Any new organs or tissues created would not have the same DNA as the patient, forcing him or her to take dangerous immuno-suppressant drugs and increasing the chances the changes of rejection.
In America today, there are more than 128 million Americans who could benefit from embryonic stem cell research. One of these is Emma Arvedon, only 5-years old, who suffers from juvenile diabetes. In a recent letter to me, her father wrote:
"Our family is enormously hopeful...that [nuclear transplantation] research may play a vital role in finding a cure for juvenile diabetes. There already exists empirical evidence that, quite possibly, [this research] could yield the insulin producing pancreatic cells that my daughter's body lacks. If research into this process were to be criminalized, how would I explain to Emma that our government cares more about a cloned cell, smaller than a grain of sand, than they do about her."
We are introducing this legislation for Emmaand the millions like herwith the resounding support of the medical and scientific community. To deprive Emma and her family of a possible cure - to close the door on nuclear transplantation research - would be nothing short of tragic. We can and should ban human reproductive cloning without hurting Emma and her family even further.
That is why we are here today - to offer hope to millions of Americans, and to help turn that hope into reality. I urge my Senate colleagues to approve this legislation."