Cloning claims revive debate, dominate political discussions

Andrew Pritchard

The national cloning regulation debate spawned by a company’s claim to have cloned a person has dominated political news in the past month, along with Democratic candidates preparing to seek their party’s presidential nomination, Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott’s resignation and a second chance for a controversial judicial nominee.

Clonaid ordered to court

the vice president of Clonaid, the company that in recent weeks has claimed to have produced several cloned humans, has been ordered to appear in a Florida court Wednesday.

Thomas Kaenzig will be a witness in a lawsuit asking the state to appoint a guardian for the child.

Clonaid, the scientific arm of the Raelian religious sect, claimed in mid-December to have produced the first cloned human. Since then, it has claimed to have cloned four more people.

The journalist and scientist chosen to verify the company’s claim resigned Jan. 6 and said the cloning project might be a hoax or publicity stunt.

Many scientists are skeptical, and the group has yet to produce evidence for its claims, but the announcement has renewed a nationwide debate on the ethics and regulation of human cloning.

In Congress, Reps. Dave Weldon, R-Fla., and Bart Stupak, D-Mich., reintroduced their Human Cloning Prohibition Act, which would require fines and up to 10 years in prison for attempting to clone a human.

The bill exempts scientific research.

“Any attempt at human cloning, for whatever purpose, is a gross form of human experimentation that the American people oppose,” Weldon said in a statement.

Though not mentioning the Clonaid claims specifically, Stupak said an “increased awareness of the feasibility of human cloning” would help pass the bill.

A similar bill passed the House in 2001, but the Senate did not vote on the measure.

Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., has pledged to introduce the Weldon-Stupak bill in the Senate.

“There is no need for this technology to ever be used with humans – whether for reproductive purposes or for destructive research purposes,” he said in a statement.

University law and medicine professor Susan Wolf said the Raelians’ claims are a classic example for the legal adage that bad cases make bad law.

“You would never want to base policy on a crazy case like this,” she said.

Wolf is the director of the University’s Joint Degree Program in Law Health and the Life Sciences and chairwoman of the Consortium on Law and Values in Health, Environment and the Life Sciences.

She said technology is not ready for cloning humans and there is no moral consensus on the issue.

“When you see people claiming to be renegades, it’s disturbing,” she said.

The Raelians claim to have a waiting list of approximately 2,000 people willing to pay to have themselves or another person cloned.

“The next step will be to directly clone an adult person Ö and to transfer the memories and personality into this person,” Rael, the group’s leader, is quoted as saying on Clonaid’s Web site. “Then, we will wake up after death in a brand new body just like after a good night sleep!”

Wolf said it is unlikely Clonaid succeeded in cloning a person, but it should not prompt an overreaction if the group did succeed.

“It shouldn’t provoke the kind of response that would shut down vast areas of reproductive technology and stem cell research,” she said.

A statement on the Raelian Web site claims it has received more than 30 million hits each day since the group’s announcement in mid-December.

The group claims to have 60,000 followers worldwide.

Democrats line up for 2004

six Democrats have taken the first steps toward seeking the party’s presidential nomination in 2004, and several other Democratic heavy-hitters are expected to announce their decisions in the coming weeks.

The six candidates who have announced they will file papers with the Federal Election Commission are: former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, North Carolina Sen. John Edwards, Missouri Rep. Richard Gephardt, Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry, Connecticut Sen. Joseph Lieberman and longtime civil rights activist Rev. Al Sharpton of New York.

Delaware Sen. Joseph Biden, Florida Sen. Bob Graham and former Colorado Sen. Gary Hart are also considered likely Democratic candidates.

Following former Vice President Al Gore’s mid-December announcement that he would not seek the presidency, a CNN-Time poll of registered Democrats found 30 percent would support New York Sen. Hillary Clinton against other Democrats.

A Gallup poll found 41 percent of Democrats would support the former first lady against other party challengers.

Clinton has previously said she will not run in 2004.

Also out of the running for the 2004 nomination is South Dakota Sen. Tom Daschle, the Senate’s Democratic leader, who announced his decision Jan. 8.

Lott resigns

sSen. Trent Lott, R-Miss., resigned from his post as Senate majority leader Dec. 21, the first party leader in Senate history to do so.

Lott had been criticized for praising former South Carolina Sen. Strom Thurmond’s pro-segregation presidential bid in 1948 and faced a challenge for the majority leader position from Tennessee Sen. Bill Frist.

Pickering renominated

president George W. Bush re-nominated controversial Judge Charles Pickering for a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals.

Critics claim Pickering is biased and insensitive on racial issues.

His nomination was previously defeated in a Democrat-controlled Senate committee on a partisan vote.

State lacks congressional seniority

minnesota’s delegation has the least seniority of any state in the U.S. Senate.

Senior Sen. Mark Dayton, a Democrat, has been in that body only two years, and interim Sen. Dean Barkley, appointed to fill the remainder of the late Paul Wellstone’s term, refused to resign to give Republican Norm Coleman an advantage over other freshman senators.

The state’s U.S. House delegation also includes several representatives who have been in Congress only a few years.

The Associate Press contributed to this report.

Andrew Pritchard covers politics and welcomes comments at [email protected]