Human cloning debate in Senate

Sen. Matt Bartle - R-Jackson County

Sen. Matt Bartle – R-Jackson County

JEFFERSON CITY – Emotions ran high as individuals lined up two hours before the scheduled Senate hearing on human cloning on Jan. 31.

Both Senate Committee Hearing rooms were used to accommodate the attention received by the proposed ban on human cloning.

Capital police officers, on hand to ensure decorum and order were maintained, watched as supporters and opponents of the ban entered through different doors.

Sen. Matt Bartle (R-Jackson County), who introduced Senate Bill 160, said, “Many across this land are trying to get their arms and brains around the science of cloning and the implications of restricting cloning.”

He said the timing of this legislation has been determined by science.

“Scientists in Missouri who are not now working on cloning a human being have informed us they anticipate they expect to hire embryologists who will be engaged in a procedure … that clones human being,” Bartle said.

Senate Bill 160 would criminalize the cloning of a human being, forbid the use of public funds in any attempt to clone a human or the use of any public facilities in the process of human cloning.

At the same time, the proposed bill would acknowledge a cloned human being as having the same rights as any other citizen.

The bill would prohibit a procedure called Somatic Cell Nuclear Transfer.

The debate rages around the issue of SCNT because of the potential benefits this process might have on human medicine and gene therapy treatments.

SCNT is the process through which embryonic stem cells are created for the purpose of extraction and where a clone is created.

Bartle said opponents of the proposed ban suggest SCNT does not create a human embryo.

“If SCNT did not create an embryo of a sheep which was then implanted in a womb, then Dolly is not a sheep,” he said.

Dolly, the sheep, was created by SCNT and was one of the first recognized mammal clones.

Opponents of the proposed ban are opposed to the implantation of the SCNT embryo into a womb and seek a law to forbid this process.

“Something that cries like a baby, soils its diaper like a baby, and yet the scientists, according to what they are going to tell us tonight, say this is not a human being,” Bartle said.

“They create a human embryo indistinguishable from an embryo created in the traditional fashion of sperm and egg union and then they kill that embryo when they extract the stem cell,” he said.

Scientists and ethicists were on hand to provide expert testimony on behalf of both sides of the issue.