STATEMENTS ON INTRODUCED BILLS AND JOINT RESOLUTIONS -- (Senate - March 08, 2007)
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Mrs. FEINSTEIN. Mr. President, today Senators Hatch, Kennedy, Specter, Harkin and I are introducing legislation to ban human reproductive cloning, while ensuring that important medical research goes forward under strict oversight by the federal government.
The Human Cloning Ban and Stem Cell Research Protection Act of 2007 would create a straightforward ban on human reproductive cloning. Despite disagreements over various types of biomedical research, there is near unanimous agreement that scientists should not create human clones.
At the same time, this legislation will enable research to be conducted that provides hope to millions of Americans suffering from paralysis and debilitating diseases including juvenile diabetes, Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, cancer and heart disease.
The concerns with human reproductive cloning are many, and are both scientific and ethical in nature. The National Academy of Sciences explains that using cloning, or nuclear transfer to create a child could require hundreds of pregnancies and result in many abnormal late-term fetuses. Some scientists question whether a human clone could ever be created without significant abnormalities.
These concerns led the National Academy of Sciences to conclude that there is an ``ethical and scientific consensus that nuclear transfer for reproductive purposes has no place in legitimate research.'
That's why this legislation will make it a crime to clone a human being, or attempt to clone a human being by implanting cells that result from nuclear transplantation into the uterus (there are no exceptions); prohibit the shipment of the product of nuclear transplantation in international or interstate commerce for the purposes of human cloning; prohibit the export of an unfertilized blastocyst, a form of an embryo 5 to 7 days after conception, to any foreign country that does not ban human cloning.
These prohibitions ensure that valuable research undertaken in the United States will not be shipped abroad and used to create a human clone in a country without restrictions.
These prohibitions are supported by strict penalties, including: A maximum ten-year prison term for cloning, or attempting to clone a human being; a fine of either $1 million, or three times any profits made for any human cloning attempt. A violator is subject to whichever fine is greater, and these financial penalties are in addition to prison time.
Any real or personal property used to commit a violation of this ban, or derived from violation of this ban, will be subject to forfeiture.
The time to pass a legal framework for addressing reproductive cloning is now, before any rogue scientist successfully creates a human clone.
At the same time, this legislation does not prohibit scientists from working with embryonic stem cells in the hopes of discovering cures and treatments for dozens of catastrophic diseases.
This legislation draws a bright line between human reproductive cloning and promising medical research using somatic cell nuclear transplantation for the sole purpose of deriving embryonic stem cells.
Somatic cell nuclear transplantation is the process by which scientists derive embryonic stem cells that are an exact genetic match as the patient. Those embryonic stem cells will one day be used to correct defective cells such as non-insulin producing cells or cancerous cells. Then those patients will not be forced to take immuno-suppressive drugs and risk the chances of rejection since the new cells will contain their own DNA.
It is truly astonishing that somatic cell nuclear transplantation research may one day be used to regrow tissue or organs that could lead to treatments and cures for diseases that afflict up to 100 million Americans. What we are talking about here is research that does not even involve sperm and an egg.
I believe it is essential that this research be conducted with federal government oversight and under strict ethical requirements.
That is why the legislation mandates that eggs used in this research be unfertilized and--prohibits the purchase or sale of unfertilized eggs to prevent ``embryo farms' or the possible exploitation of women by coercing them into egg sales.
Imposes strong ethics rules on scientists, mandating informed consent by egg donors, and include safety and privacy protections;
Prohibits any research on an unfertilized blastocyst after 14 days--After 14 days, an unfertilized blastocyst begins differentiating into a specific type of cell such as a heart or brain cell and is no longer useful for the purposes of embryonic stem cell research;
Requires that all egg donations be voluntary, and that there is no financial or other incentive for egg donations;
Requires that nuclear transplantation occur in labs completely separate from labs that engage in in vitro fertilization.
And for those who violate or attempt to violate the ethical requirements of the legislation, they will be subject to civil penalties of up to $250,000 per violation.
To be clear, this is research that involves an unfertilized blastocyst. No sperm are involved. It is conducted in a petri dish and cannot occur beyond 14 days. It is also prohibited from ever being implanted into a woman to create a child.
For those who believe that the clump of cells in a petri dish that we are talking about is a human life, that is a moral decision each person must make for himself, but to impose that view on the more than 100 million of our parents, children and friends who suffer from Parkinson's, diabetes, Alzheimer's and cancer is immoral.
The voters of Missouri affirmed this approach in 2006, approving a State ballot initiative banning reproductive cloning, while protecting important and potentially lifesaving medical research. In the absence of Federal guidance, many other states are taking action, sometimes contradictory.
Sixteen States have passed laws pertaining to human cloning.
Thirteen of these States prohibit reproductive cloning--Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, North Dakota, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Virginia.
Five States prohibit biomedical research like somatic nuclear transfer, Arkansas, Indiana, Michigan, North Dakota, South Dakota.
Six States explicitly permit it, New Jersey, California, Missouri, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Iowa.
It is time to standardize these policies, under a common set of ethical guidelines. This patchwork of laws will result only in confusion, forbidding some researchers from conducting lifesaving research, while their colleagues in a neighboring state receive state funding to do the same work.
Just like we have observed with the President's prohibition on embryonic stem cell research, this uncertainty is forcing our best and brightest researchers overseas, to countries that fully embrace the promise of embryonic stem cell research.
They have a number of overseas options: The United Kingdom is providing at least $80 million to fund ongoing research, including somatic cell nuclear transfer research. This is helping to attract scientific talent from all over the world, including the United States.
Roger Pedersen, a renowned scientist, left the University of California San Francisco in 2001, citing the unfriendly research climate in the United States. He is now conducting human stem cell research at Cambridge University in the United Kingdom.
He and his UK team are exploring the biology behind pluripotent, or multipurpose stem cells, and looking for ways to use them for treatments.
The Australian Parliament lifted a ban on therapeutic cloning research in December 2006.
It will allow Australian scientists to fully pursue important cures, and now provides an attractive alternative for American scientists who do not want to wait any longer for Federal guidance.
It is time to provide some certainty and sanity in our national policy. We must stop unethical human reproductive cloning, while unleashing our scientists to develop cures for catastrophic diseases that impact millions.
I urge the Senate to take up and pass this bill and help turn the hopes of millions of Americans into reality.