Topeka Legislators were urged Wednesday to outlaw human embryonic cloning, branded by an opponent as "unsafe, unethical and unnecessary."
David Prentice, professor of life sciences at Indiana State University, testified before the House Federal and State Affairs Committee in support of a bill by Rep. Mary Pilcher Cook, R-Shawnee, an ardent abortion opponent.
The bill would ban the cloning of human embryos in public and private research centers, including those at Kansas University. Violators would subject to felony charges and fines of at least $1 million.
No one at the hearing said they knew of any cloning now being done in Kansas. There was no testimony against the bill; the panel took no action.
Prentice said all cloning should be classified as reproductive. The notion of therapeutic cloning is a misnomer and the only difference is what happens next to the embryo, he said implantation or harvesting of cells.
"A ban only on implantation of the embryos is completely unenforceable. Once cloned embryos are available, it is almost inevitable that some will be implanted," said Prentice, who was joined by Wesley Smith, a Los Angeles lawyer and author who writes on bioethical issues.
At issue is the use of stem cells, which are blank cells that have not begun to perform a task such as becoming bone or organ tissue.
Prentice said researchers hold out promise that if stem cells are harvested and given a genetic signal, they can be used to cure diseases and repair injuries.
He said similar research could be conducted using adult stem cells without the destruction of human embryos.
"Creating human life solely to destroy it for the potential benefit of others is unethical," Prentice said. "It turns human life into a commodity."
Also testifying for the bill was Mike Farmer of the Kansas Catholic Conference, who said the media have not told the entire story about cloning and stem cell research.
"Man's inhumanity to man once again surfaces, and its ugliness makes some just look away and pretend it isn't there instead of facing it head on and doing something about it," Farmer said.