Washington President Bush pressed the Senate on Wednesday to ban cloning of human embryos for research, saying science must not rush ahead "without an ethical compass." Senators promised a fight, seeing great promise in cloning for cures of terrible afflictions.
Bush called medical researchers, ethicists, lawmakers, ministers and people with disabilities to the White House to explain why he objects to human cloning and to embrace a ban proposed by Sens. Sam Brownback and Mary Landrieu.
"We can pursue medical research with a clear sense of moral purpose, or we can travel without an ethical compass into a world we could live to regret," Bush said. "How we answer the question of human cloning will place us on one path or the other."
"Life is a creation, not a commodity," he added.
The president was looking to tamp down an evolving Senate compromise, crafted by Sens. Arlen Specter, Edward Kennedy, Tom Harkin and Dianne Feinstein, that would outlaw cloning for reproductive purposes but allow it for research on illnesses such as cancer, Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.
Specter, R-Pa., said the ban Bush advocates would criminalize legitimate research and cause "an enormous brain drain out of the United States to Europe."
"To tie the hands of medical science in the 21st century, in my opinion, is just not the right thing to do," Specter said. "There's going to be a real fight on the Senate floor. I believe we will find enough Republican votes ... to make a majority."
Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., urged lawmakers to heed a call from 40 Nobel laureates who support research cloning, and he said it is possible to bar ethically repugnant uses of cloned tissue without blocking the research.
"The president wants to ban it all, and I think he's wrong," Daschle said. "And I think the American people are on our side on this issue."
The House passed a ban on all human cloning last July but the Senate has not acted on it. Many senators object to the idea of cloning humans, but are not averse to embryo research that could cure disease.
Brownback, R-Kan., told an anti-cloning rally Wednesday on Capitol Hill that the ban was "clearly a winnable issue." Standing before a stack of petitions with 400,000 signatures, he said, "Cloning is wrong, period. Creating human life to destroy it is wrong."