Archive for Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Ban on funding human cloning research still stalls budget

May 10, 2006

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— Human cloning is something legislators universally say they oppose. But an attempt to define exactly what it is - and prevent the state from financing it - continued Wednesday to prevent resolution of budget issues.

The House included an anti-cloning provision in its version of a bill needed to complete the state's $12 billion budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1. Senators rejected a similar proposal.

Three senators and three House members negotiating the budget bill were searching for compromise language.

"It's being worked on," said Rep. Melvin Neufeld, R-Ingalls, his chamber's lead negotiator.

The provision at issue prohibits the state from using its tax dollars to finance human cloning or attempts to perform human cloning. It has the backing of abortion opponents, who don't want researchers creating embryos, harvesting the cells and destroying the embryos.

But critics of such attempts to limit or ban cloning worry that they're written broadly enough to limit research that might prove useful in finding disease cures.

Sen. Dwayne Umbarger, his chamber's lead negotiator, said legislators don't know enough about the science and need to study cloning issues more.

"Why would you want to implement a major public policy decision without adequately studying it?" said Umbarger, R-Thayer.

The House's anti-cloning provision is broad enough to cover what's known as somatic cell nuclear transfer.

In that process, researchers replace the nucleus of a human egg with the nucleus of another cell, stimulate growth in a lab dish, harvest the resulting stem cells and destroy what's left.

Supporters of such research argue that it's not cloning because it cannot result in the birth of a baby. Some also contend there's a distinction between using cloning to create a baby and using cloning to create a mass of cells for medical treatments.

Critics of the research argue that the process represents cloning, because an egg with 23 human chromosomes ends up with the full contingent of 46. Normally, the other half is supplied by the sperm.

They also argue that whatever its future, what emerges is an embryo, making it an individual.

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