Madison: A proposed ban on human cloning for any purpose would either draw an ethical line in the sand for scientists, or it would cripple embryonic stem cell research at the University of Wisconsin.
Those were the two perspectives on hand at a Joint Hearing at the Capitol, Monday.
Neither side condones reproductive cloning or the effort to clone babies. The debate centers around creating embryonic stem cells for research from your own cells, known as therapeutic cloning.
"The process involved in reproductive cloning and what's referred to as therapeutic cloning or research cloning is virtually the same," says Rep. Steve Kestell (R-Elkhart Lake).
"The legislation before you would ban not only the irresponsible use of cloning to make babies, but also the incredibly responsible use of non–reproductive cloning for research," says UW Bioethicist Alta Charo.
A neuroscientist from Wayne State University in Michigan testified that therapeutic cloning has no merits and destroys embryos for research. "I am trying to tell you that in reviewing the scientific literature the evidence is not there that this is a good direction to take," says Dr. Jean Peduzzi-Nelson.
But Dr. Peduzzi was flown in by Right to Life Wisconsin, and UW Chancellor John Wiley says this bill and her testimony was nothing more than an attack on embryonic stem cell research.
"It essentially cripples the field. You're taking away an important research tool that the scientists say they need for no apparent reason that I can see other than as a backdoor effort to cripple stem cell research," says Wiley.
The bill may pass the Republican controlled Assembly and Senate, but Governor Doyle has promised to veto it.
Chancellor Wiley says just the existence of this bill makes it harder to recruit and retain top–notch scientists, so while nothing will change anytime soon, it's affects are already being felt.
The senate and Assembly committees that took up the bill are expected to vote on the bill Tuesday. It then goes to the Assembly and Senate for debate.