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Location: St. Louis, Missouri, United States

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Clone College

This from the Evans-Novak Report:

Stem-Cell Vote: Next week, the Senate will take up three bills on bioethics, each requiring 60 votes to pass. The first is the Castle-DeGette bill funding embryonic stem-cell research on frozen embryos. This will pass the Senate with roughly 68 to 70 votes, unless President Bush prevails upon Republicans to take one for the team, so he can avoid making this his first veto. Given Bush's track record -- he has apparently never swayed a single member's vote -- we doubt that this will happen. Bush will be forced to veto the bill, and the House will sustain his veto.

The second bill will fund research into alternative methods of obtaining pluripotent stem-cells without killing human embryos, sponsored by Pennsylvania Senators Rick Santorum (R) and Arlen Specter (R). This will probably pass as well, but many conservatives find it problematic because it leaves the definition of "embryo" up to the language in each year's Health and Human Services appropriations bill. If Democrats retake either house of Congress this year -- still a strong possibility -- then this bill could be viewed in retrospect as a mistake. It will probably pass as well, because it will fund adult stem-cell research.

The third bill represents something not often attempted by pro-lifers -- forward thinking legislation. It would ban the farming of human fetuses for their cells and parts, and it is expected to pass overwhelmingly. At this point, the biotech industry has not reached the point where fetus-farming is possible, and so its well-moneyed lobby is unlikely to put up a fight. But in the future, fetus-farming will probably be attempted.

By banning it now, Congress can at least force proponents of an amoral view of science to pass their own repeal bill in 20 or 30 years. To put this into perspective: If Congress had banned human cloning in 1980, it would have sailed through without controversy, and it would probably still be illegal today, for lack of the 60 votes needed for repeal of the ban.

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