WASHINGTON -- As the news of the birth of a cloned baby seeps through the news, the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission asks leaders of both houses for a complete ban on human cloning be initiated in the new session. The president of ERLC, Richard Land, asked new Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist and Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert to introduce bills S.1 and H.R. 1 - propositions to ban cloning entirely. Land's request, written on Jan. 7th, came on the first day of the 108th Congress.
Land told the leaders, referring to the December announcement of "Clonaid," "Even if this particular story is a hoax, the next one might not be. It is critical that Congress move immediately to enact a complete ban on all human cloning. We will work tirelessly to see that the bill is passed and signed into law" by President Bush.
Although there is widespread skepticism that Clonaid, which is affiliated with the Raelian religious sect, has produced a successful clone, it's announcement had intensified calls for Congress to act.
In the last session, the House of Representatives approved the prohibition on cloning for both reproductive ans research purposes, however, the Senate, due to inadequate votes, did not pass such a bill. By the end of the session, Sen. Sam Brownback, R.-Kan., sponsored the only comprehensive ban, while several Democratic senators drafted versions that barred reproductive cloning only. Those bills would have permitted cloning in order to harvest embryonic stem cells for experimentation. Such research cloning results in the destruction of the young embryo. Rep. Dave Weldon, R.-Fla., sponsored the comprehensive ban that passed the House in the last session.
The ERLC hopes that the Senate's only surgeon, Frist, will provide the leadership for adopting total cloning bans and other pro-life measures possible. Frist endorsed a comprehensive ban on cloning in the last congress, and has regularly voted for pro-life legislation. He supports however, research on existing colonies of embryonic stem cells.
"I think he does bring a special, sensitive perspective to the bioethical issues of the day," said Shannon Royce, the ERLC's director for government relations. "He brings a knowledge and expertise to those issues that we have not had before. My hope for him is that he will rise to this occasion, that he will prove himself to be a leader for this moment in history."
In addition to a cloning ban, the ERLC's other legislative priorities include confirmation of pro-life judges throughout the federal judiciary and adoption of several pro-life measures, including the partial-birth abortion ban, Child Custody Protection Act, Unborn Victims of Violence Act, Abortion Non-discrimination Act and restrictions on abortion funding.
Frist's allegiance to some pro-life positions and his close relationship with the White House is expected to affect his guidance as the majority leader of the Senate. The previous GOP majority leader, Sen. Trent Lott, also voted pro-life. Lott resigned in Dec. 20 after recieiving national criticism for his segregationist policies. Frist, a Tennesseean was elected by Republic senator to fill Lott's place three days later.
By Pauline C.