The Legal Future of Human Cloning

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The Future of Human Cloning in America: A Legal Perspective

On July 6, 1996, a historical bookmark in modern science was placed as scientists successfully cloned Dolly the Sheep. Dolly was the first mammal to ever be cloned, and from her existence grew several very real concerns, most notably the possibility of humans also being cloned in a laboratory. This new possibility brought up the ethical implications of cloning a human being and President Bill Clinton quickly passed an executive memorandum forbidding the use of federal funds for cloning projects and experiments. To this day, cloning is still not a federally funded science and only privately funded organizations such as private universities and private companies can afford to engage in this kind of costly research. However, there is no blanket ban on cloning imposed by the federal government and therefore much of the regulation of cloning is carried out by the states individually. The result is that states will have different rules and regulations on cloning, which will lead to incongruities of interstate policies.

The first thing that needs to be understood when discussing human cloning is that there are two fundamental types of human cloning: reproductive cloning and therapeutic cloning. Reproductive cloning is the cloning of a whole human being from the cells of another human being. Therapeutic cloning, or “research cloning” is the production of embryo cells that are used in stem cell research. Reproductive cloning, the more obvious extreme of the two, is generally agreed upon by both proponents and opponents of human cloning as too controversial because of the safety and ethical risks involved in producing an entire human being from a laboratory. Therapeutic cloning is where a finer line exists. Using embryo cells for stem cell research in essential in researching new treatments and cures for terminal and potentially fatal diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, but opponents argue that creating human embryos just for research and disposing of them afterwards is unethical and treats human life as a commodity.

Under the Commerce Clause of the Constitution, Congress inherently does have the grounds to regulate cloning. As modern medicine and scientific research has grown to be a multibillion-dollar industry, it can hardly be argued that cloning could be determined as a substantial impact on interstate commerce. Consequently, the federal government does have the grounds to regulate cloning at any time, given that they can reach an agreement to pass a bill.

The legality of cloning was first brought up in the United States House of Representatives in February of 1998. The bill, which was introduced by two Democratic senators, called to ban only reproductive cloning and not therapeutic cloning. There was then a competing bill introduced by three Republican senators that called to ban both reproductive cloning and therapeutic cloning. The Republican bill then failed to pass in the House, and the Democratic bill subsequently never attempted to pass theirs. This failure to pass a bill happened again in 2001, 2004, then again in 2007. In all 4 cases, the Democrats and Republicans could not agree on what to ban. The Democrats were intent on keeping the therapeutic cloning provision while the Republicans were intent on banning both reproductive and therapeutic cloning. The recalcitrance displayed by Republicans in therapeutic cloning is closely linked to their stance as anti-abortionists because in both cases Republicans are trying to protect the sanctity of the embryo as a living being. The result is that nothing is determined at the federal level, and the only effective stance that the federal government has is that they don’t allow their federal funding to be used for cloning research (Clinton’s legacy).

It may be fortunate that Congress was unable to come up with a definitive regulation on human cloning, because their power to pass such a law may not...
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