Hatch Statement on Cloning
WASHINGTON, DC -- Today the Committee takes up an important set of
issues as we explore how considerations of law and ethics affect -
and should affect - the science of what is commonly and perhaps
sometimes confusingly lumped together under the term cloning.
In a general sense, cloning merely means making a xerox copy - an
exact duplicate. There are, in fact, many types of entirely
unobjectionable, noncontroversial common uses of cloning in science.
For example, if researchers developed a new smallpox vaccine and
needed to clone billions and billions of copies of a snippet of
genetic material as part of this new therapy, no one would complain.
In the context of this hearing, cloning does raise substantial
questions. Today, we will examine cloning as a technique to produce
cells, or even potentially whole individuals, with the identical
genetic code of one parent cell.
Cloning stands in sharp contrast to normal reproduction - the
proverbial birds and the bees - in which the father and mother each
contribute one-half of the genetic makeup - the DNA - of the
offspring. While nature in some cases produces twins who share the
same two parents and virtually identical genetic code, cloning
technology could conceivably one day enable the birth of a literally
a new type of person who springs forth from solely the genetic
contribution of a single parent.
The type of cloning we are discussing today revolves around the
technology of somatic cell nuclear transfer. This consists of
removing the nucleus of an egg and replacing it with the full
complement of 46 chromosomes from an adult body cell. This, of
course, is very different from the time-immemorial case in which the
egg and spermatozoa contribute 23 chromosomes each to the offspring.
Theoretically, an embryo produced in the test tube through this
somatic cell nuclear transfer technique could be implanted into a
womb and result in a live birth.
No doubt somewhere, some - such as the Ralians - are trying make a
name for themselves and are busy trying to apply the techniques that
gave us Dolly the Sheep to human beings. Frankly, I am not sure that
human being would even be the correct term for such an individual
heretofore unknown in nature.
I am a conservative and an unabashed pro-life, religious conservative
at that. Or should I say, to be politically correct, I am a
faith-based conservative. In any event, I would be extremely hesitant
to rewrite the Book of Genesis as the story of Adam or Eve.
We know that most everyone at this time opposes so-called
reproductive cloning - the development and birth of a completely new
type individual through what would essentially amount to an elaborate
form of asexual reproduction.
The fact is that, today, there is not a simple, straightforward
federal law that prohibits reproductive cloning. I believe - and I
believe that the members of this Committee and the entire Senate and
the House believe - that it is long past time for reproductive
cloning to be prohibited by federal law.
Here's the rub: There is another branch of cloning, termed by its
proponents as therapeutic cloning, whose motivation is not birth, but
the development of broad range of new treatments and diagnostic tests
for a host of diseases. Through cloning techniques, it is possible
that the type of highly versatile pluripotent stem cells we heard so
much about last year could be produced.
As some of the testimony today reveals, many scientists and advocates
believe that this line of research is both ethically proper and
appears extremely promising. Many believe that the problem of
potential rejection of new stem cell-derived tissues could be
minimized, and perhaps avoided altogether, by this DNA regenerative
Other well-respected experts and groups will tell us that not only is
the science being over-hyped, but there remain fundamental legal and
ethical objections to this line of research because the very creation
- and subsequent destruction of -- these new types of cloned embryos
is inherently immoral.
A question with which the Senate struggled in 1998 and with which we
still struggle with today is to see whether we can find a way to
outlaw the offensive uses of cloning techniques, but do so in a
manner that does not bar potentially life-saving and ethically proper
scientific research. I commend Senator Leahy and Senator Feinstein
for holding this hearing today so we may more fully explore these
complex issues. The Senator from California, together with our
colleague, Senator Kennedy, has offered legislation on this topic. As
well, Senator Specter, in partnership with Labor-HHS Appropriations
Subcommittee Chairman Tom Harkin, has held over 12 hearings in this
general area, and they have also offered both legislation and
leadership in the biomedical research arena.
Frankly, I think we all need to take our hats off to President Bush
and Congressional leaders like Arlen Specter and Tom Harkin for the
bipartisan achievement in doubling our nation's investment in
biomedical research at NIH over the past 5 years.
My pro-life colleague and good friend, Senator Brownback, takes a
different view than Senators Feinstein and Kennedy and Specter and
Harkin on some key aspects of cloning legislation. He, too, has
offered a bill. It is similar to the measure sponsored by one of our
most influential witnesses today, Rep. Dave Weldon, that passed the
House last year. We welcome Representative Jim Greenwood here today
and commend him for his efforts as well.
I am studying the issues and the proposed legislative responses. I
have met with experts on all sides of this issue and welcome the
opportunity to learn more today.
This debate today will inevitably and ultimately involve questions
regarding when and under what circumstances life begins. As we saw
during the debate on the federal funding of certain stem cell
research last year, these are difficult issues and opinion is
unlikely to be monolithic.
Public education and debate are essential in our pluralistic society
if we are to reach acceptable compromises on contentious issues.
Toward this end, I would repeat a thought I raised at a Judiciary
Committee mark-up last August when I wondered aloud whether the
development of an egg incapable of implantation might alter the
debate of these issues? I intend to ask this question of the
I hope that today's hearing will help the members of the Committee
gain a better understanding of the science, law and ethics of
cloning. It is my hope that this Committee and the Congress will be
able to arrive at a reasonable consensus on a policy that fully
respects the dignity of humanity with respect to reproduction and
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Hatch Statement on Cloning
Senator Orrin Hatch Press Release 5Feb02 T2