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Congress Considers Human Cloning Ban

Aired June 20, 2001 - 13:19   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: Congress is under pressure this year to pass a total ban on human cloning. A house subcommittee hears testimony on two such anti-cloning bills today.

CNN medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen is here to tell us what's going on up there.

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Lou, there's one big reason they're having this hearing on Capitol Hill today, and it's that two groups in the United States have said they're all ready to clone a human being. In fact, one group told Congress in March that in April -- that was two months ago -- they could be all ready to start the pregnancy that would produce the first human clone.

Before we get to today's hearing, let's talk a bit about this group. They're called the Raelians and they say 50 young women have volunteered to be surrogate mothers to the world's first clone.

The cloning works is you make an embryo in the lab that's a copy of an existing human being. Then you implant that embryo into a woman to start a pregnancy. The Raelians are perhaps best known for their belief that human being were created by aliens, so it's hard to assess how serious their science is.

Members of Congress aren't taking any chances. Two bills are proposed banning human cloning.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Cloning a human being is immoral -- period. I say we rise up in moral outrage and that we pass laws both in this country and internationally to prevent the cloning of a human being.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COHEN: But there is a hitch. The same technique used to make clones also used to make advances in medical science.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. HENRY WAXMAN (D), CALIFORNIA: We should clearly define what we believe is wrongdoing, prohibit it, and enforce that prohibition, but we should not shut down beneficial work -- clinical trials, organ transplants, or genetic cell replication -- because of a risk of wrongdoing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COHEN: So there seems to be general agreement in Congress that cloning a human being is wrong, but what's the best way to ban it, and can the law catch up with science in time to stop the first human clone?

WATERS: If they pass a law in the United States, wouldn't those who want to clone a human being just move out of the United States and do the deed?

COHEN: Right -- as it were. In fact, the Raelian group originally was in Europe. It had to leave Europe because it was illegal in the country that they were in. However, if the Raelians are right, and if they do have a woman who's two months pregnant, you don't pass a law in couple of months, usually -- who knows what would they do with this woman who's pregnant with the first clone. It gets a little sticky.

WATERS: You say the Raelian science is questionable.

COHEN: Well, we just don't know. They claim that they've got it under control. They know how to do it. They're very confident; they said, We've done this in animals, we can do it in humans. But some people have said that this is a group that also believes that alien scientists created human beings, so how much can we really believe them?

WATERS: Do you think we're close? Are there groups other than these Raelians close to cloning a human being?

COHEN: There's one other group that is a former professor at the University of Kentucky who's teamed up with Italian researchers. They haven't named a date like the Raelians have, but they say that they're also close. And several scientists, even ones that are against cloning, have said if you can do with a sheep -- Dolly was a sheep, they've done it with mice, they've done it with cows -- the science is really pretty much the thing -- you can do it with human beings.

Of course, you're taking a gigantic risk; for every success story, like Dolly, there are hundreds of animals that came out deformed, and there were hundreds of miscarriages. So you could be creating a deformed human being.

WATERS: It is a very touchy subject.

COHEN: Absolutely.

WATERS: And highly controversial: A recent Gallup Poll asked more than 1,000 adults whether human cloning should be allowed. Only 9 percent answered yes; 89 percent said no. Compare that to 64 percent who opposed animal cloning.

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