WASHNGTON -- Saying President Clinton's proposed ban doesn't go far enough, House Majority Leader Dick Armey said Thursday the House will legislate next month a permanent ban on cloning humans in the United States.
"This is the right thing to do, at the right time, for the sake of human dignity," Armey, R-Texas, said at a news conference.
Clinton issued an executive order last March banning the use of federal funds for human cloning projects.
He also proposed legislation, which Congress did not act on last year, that would outlaw the cloning of humans for at least five years. During that time the National Bioethics Advisory Commission would assess the risks and the ethical and social impact of human cloning.
Armey said Congress will pass a permanent ban. "How can you put a statute of limitations on right and wrong?" he asked.
He also contended that Clinton's plan would allow human cloning in laboratories for experimental purposes but said the Republicans' bill would "have no loopholes."
The legislation is being drafted by Rep. Vernon Ehlers, R-Mich., and Sen. Kit Bond, R-Mo., Armey said. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., is also introducing legislation that would put a 10-year ban on publicly or privately funded human cloning. And Sen. Bill Frist, R-Tenn., is crafting a bill under which a scientist convicted of human cloning could face up to 10 years in prison.
Momentum to outlaw cloning humans has grown since an independent Chicago scientist, Richard Seed, announced earlier this month he was trying to organize a team to do research on the procedure.
Clinton again recommended a ban in his State of the Union address Tuesday.
Armey said it was not the intention of the legislation to ban all experimentation on human embryos. Some scientists are perturbed that a rush to ban human cloning might unintentionally close down related research in such areas as replacement organs, the mending of spinal-cord injuries and infertility treatment.
Armey was joined at the news conference by representatives of the Christian Coalition, the conservative Family Research Council and the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, groups that contend that any manipulation of human embryos is immoral.
"Human life begins at conception," said Gary Bauer of the Family Research Council. "Cloning of human embryos is entirely unacceptable."
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