(h/t to Wesley Smith for the title of this post – I couldn’t think of a better description)
Though President Obama has overturned the Bush stem cell policy and the NIH has made 13 more stem cell lines available for federal funding, there remains in place legislative restrictions on using appropriated funds for the creation of human embryos for research or for research in which human embryos are destroyed. This is the Dicky Amendment, which has been included in spending bills in every fiscal year since 1996:
SEC. 509. (a) None of the funds made available in this Act may be used for–
(1) the creation of a human embryo or embryos for research purposes; or
(2) research in which a human embryo or embryos are destroyed, discarded, or knowingly subjected to risk of injury or death greater than that allowed for research on fetuses in utero under 45 CFR 46.208(a)(2) and Section 498(b) of the Public Health Service Act (42 U.S.C. 289g(b)) (Title 42, Section 289g(b), United States Code).
(b) For purposes of this section, the term “human embryo or embryos” includes any organism, not protected as a human subject under 45 CFR 46 (the Human Subject Protection regulations) . . . that is derived by fertilization, parthenogenesis, cloning, or any other means from one or more human gametes (sperm or egg) or human diploid cells (cells that have two sets of chromosomes, such as somatic cells).
Congress yet again passed the amendment last March, but it may only be a matter of time before we see Congress voting to approve the use of federal funds for cloning research, currently restricted by Dickey.
While all the focus has been on health care reform this year an equally, if not more, dangerous bill was quietly introduced and referred to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. H.R.4808, or the Stem Cell Research Advancement Act of 2009, introduced by Reps. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) and Mike Castle (R-Del.), among other things, claims to ban the federal Government from funding human cloning, however it also redefines cloning, effectively allowing the government to fund the creation and use of cloned human embryos for scientific research:
‘SEC. 498F. PROHIBITION AGAINST FUNDING FOR HUMAN CLONING.
‘(a) Prohibition- The Secretary shall not use any funds for the conduct or support of human cloning.
‘(b) Guidelines- The Secretary shall update the guidelines maintained under section 498E for consistency with subsection (a).
‘(c) Definitions- In this section, the term ‘human cloning’ means the implantation of the product of transferring the nuclear material of a human somatic cell into an egg cell from which the nuclear material has been removed or rendered inert into a uterus or the functional equivalent of a uterus.’.
This is junk science. Cloning is the process of somatic cell nuclear transfer itself, not the implantation of the product of SCNT (a human embryo). Some still like to differentiate between two different “types” of cloning: therapeutic cloning (for ESC research) and reproductive cloning (to implant and give birth to a clone – like Dolly the sheep). But here’s the thing: ALL cloning is reproductive. Once an embryo has been created through SCNT a new, living organism comes into being. After this the act of cloning is complete, there is just a question of what to do with the cloned embryo – use it for scientific research or allow it to further develop by implanting it into a woman’s uterus. (Yes, it gets old explaining all of this over and over…and over again. But it’s vitally important as this debate becomes increasingly unscientific.)
Call me skeptical, but I don’t see how this bill doesn’t pass Congress – unless they decide that it’s too controversial of a topic to vote on in an election year. But, then, this Congress hasn’t seemed too worried about passing controversial legislation this year. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t still try to fight it if it should come to a vote, of course – especially since:
a.) we now have a President in the White House who would actually sign it into law if it passed
b.) we know that scientists right here in the U.S. have successfully cloned human embryos (along with human-rabbit/mouse/bovine embryos) – we’re not talking hypotheticals anymore!!
Related: UK Scientists Clone 3-Parent Embryos