Delaware House Passes Fraudulent Human Cloning 'Ban'

Dianne N. Irving
Copyright January 18, 2006
Reproduced with Permission

See full news article about the human cloning "ban" just passed by the Delaware House of Representatives below. The bill can be found at: click here

I. Human Cloning Ban?1

One would think that by now people who are genuinely interested in banning human cloning and who really care about protecting innocent nascent human beings, patient safety, and women's rights would have gotten it right. But apparently not. Witness the bill just passed by the Delaware House of Representatives who gutted the even worse Senate version of SB 80.

As in the current case of scientific fraud -- yes, Virginia, f-r-a-u-d -- concerning disgraced South Korean cloning and stem cell researcher Hwang, in the real world "cloning" is not defined only in terms of "somatic cell nuclear transfer" or just in terms of "reproductive cloning" (as Irving Weissman, Michael West et al have tried to pretend), but in terms of the asexual reproduction of any human being using any asexual reproductive method for any purposes. Thus both "therapeutic" and "reproductive" cloning are cloning. The very same cloning technique is used to reproduce new living single-cell human beings (not just "stem cells" as Weissman et al claim), which then develop to the 5-7 day old blastocyst stage (they're not just " balls of cells" as Weissman et al claim). And there is no question that the immediate product of nuclear transfer is a human embryo, a human being. As human molecular geneticists Strachan and Read succinctly put it:

A form of animal cloning can also occur as a result of artificial manipulation to bring about a type of asexual human reproduction ... Wilmut et al (1997) reported successful cloning of an adult sheep. For the first time an adult nucleus had been reprogrammed to become totipotent once more, just like the genetic material in the fertilized oocyte from which the donor cell had ultimately developed.2 (emphases added)

Irving Weissman knows this. Michael West knows this. Robert Lanza knows this. Rudolf Jaenisch knows this. Ian Wilmut knows this. Etc. Are we to believe that the legislators in Delaware don't know this?

So why, then, do the Delaware politicians think that they have passed a bill that bans all human cloning when it only bans "reproductive cloning" - if that?

II. Silent on "Stem Cell Research"

As also in the Hwang case, the definitive tests that empirically proved his scientific fraud were DNA fingerprints of both the nuclear DNA from the donor and the mitochondrial DNA from the oocyte used in the nuclear transfer process. Since the mitochondrial DNA from the oocyte is different from that of the donor cell, there should be no total genetic match - only the nuclear DNA would match. (Thus it is just as scientifically incorrect to claim that the product of nuclear transfer is "virtually genetically identical" to the donor,3 or to claim that the product of nuclear transfer is a "twin" of the donor.4) It is precisely for this scientific reason that there are no "patient-specific" stem cells. The foreign mitochondrial DNA from the oocyte used is incorporated into the new cloned human embryo - and thus later into his or her stem cells. Because of the presence of this foreign genetic material, patients seeking cures would experience severe immune rejection reactions if injected with these not-patient-specific stem cells. If Hwang has taught us nothing else it is that there is no such thing as "virtual genetic identity" between donor and stem cells produced by nuclear transfer.

So why, then, do the Delaware politicians want to pass a bill that is "silent" on that very kind of stem cell research, since such research directly involves human cloning - and purportedly for the purpose of producing "patient-specific" stem cells as "therapies" for sick patients? Weissman knows. Michael West knows. Robert Lanza knows. Rudolf Jaenisch knows. Ian Wilmut knows. Etc. Are we to believe that the legislators in Delaware don't know this?

The truth is that the Delaware House just passed a bill that allows "stem cell research" by means of any kind of human cloning with unfettered freedom, and bans only "reproductive" cloning - if that.

III. Definitions, Definitions, Definitions

Just one peek at the formal definition of "cloning" in the "gutted Senate version of the" bill just passed by the Delaware House to "ban" cloning tells it all:

"Human reproductive cloning" means "the asexual genetic replication of a human being by transferring a preimplantation embryo that has been created by somatic cell nuclear transfer, parthenogenesis, or by any other asexual means into a uterus, or uterine-like or artificial environment, which has any potential to create, or for the purpose of creating a human fetus or a human child."


  1. All cloning is "reproductive" -- i.e., it produces a new living individual human being, a single-cell zygote, a human organism. Thus this bill is only directed to the implantation of the more mature cloned human being (aka, "reproductive cloning"). Since the bill does not specifically articulate any prohibition against the cloning of human beings for research purposes only, using any cloning methods, then such cloning of human beings would not be prohibited by this bill. Thus it would not be a total human cloning ban, but only a partial ban - if that.
  2. As just noted, a new cloned human being is "asexually genetically replicated" at least by the single-cell zygote stage. Whether or not the developing human being is then implanted is irrelevant as to the objective scientific fact that a new living cloned human being already exists before implantation.
  3. Again, the "pre-embryo substitute" language looms large in this bill: "which has any potential to create, or for the purpose of creating a human fetus or child." Hello? The developing cloned human being is already a human being, a child - not a "potential" human being or child -- long before implantation.
  4. And why their distinction between a "human fetus" and a "human child"? The "embryonic period" extends from the beginning of the human being's existence through 8 weeks of development; the "fetal period" extends from 9 weeks through birth. There are no formal definitions in this bill for "embryo" or for "fetus". If the term "embryo" is only defined and understood as "the preimplantation embryo" as this bill implies, then there are possibly even worse problems. The IRBs that will be required to approve this research in Delaware must legally follow the federal OHRP regulations. In those federal regulations, "fetus" is mis-defined as "beginning at implantation" rather than properly at 9 weeks. (The OHRP federal regulations also mis-define "pregnancy" as beginning at implantation rather than, with normal human reproduction, at fertilization in the woman's fallopian tube.) Consequently these federal regulations do not apply to any human embryo through 8 weeks -- whether in vitro or in vivo, whether before or after implantation. Women's rights groups should duly worry.

    Unless this ambiguity about the definition of "embryo" and "fetus" is cleared up first, this bill as written would not ban the cloning of human beings for research purposes or their implantation through 8 weeks (since according to the OHRP regulations such "embryos" simply don't exist). Thus this bill does not even ban all "reproductive cloning".
  5. It is no virtue of the bill that it remains "silent on stem cells". Given the false scientific definitions of Weissman, West, et al, this bill would suit them just fine. Legally, if a bill does not specifically articulate something then the bill doesn't cover it. Thus all the followers of Weissman et al can continue to fool the public into believing that all they are doing is "stem cell research" rather than human cloning.

IV. Foreign Influences, or Small World?

One does have to be curious about the precise kind of false science being sported in the State of Delaware lately. Where on earth does it come from? They all seem to be on the same page. But you can't find that page in any human embryology or human molecular genetics textbooks. You can't find it in PubMed or the Library of Congress. It unquestionably contradicts the international nomenclature on human embryology.5 Who is so influential that Delawareans would dare to sport such false science, especially in view of Hwang-gate?

It is at least interesting that the sponsor of the original Senate Delaware bill (SB 80), prolife Senator Venables, also believes that the use of "nuclear transfer" only produces "stem cells" -- not human beings. Like other politicians (including Mr. Neaves of the Stowers Institute in Missouri), he and other religious-thinking colleagues believe that a human being can only result from the use of a sperm and an oocyte during fertilization (sexual reproduction). That is, no human beings can be reproduced asexually (without a sperm).

But of course, this is false science - regardless of what any religious mentors might believe. Human beings are already empirically known to reproduce asexually - as in naturally occurring human monozygotic twinning in utero. In these current cloning issues it is simply that the same process is artificially duplicated by technicians in vitro in a lab. In fact, human monozygotic "twinning" is now a common asexual reproductive method used to treat infertility in women in IVF clinics. If there is no such thing as asexual human reproduction, Senator Venables, then there are no such things as naturally occurring human monozygotic twins among us.

Curiously, the same "requirement" for a sperm and an oocyte, and the belief that the immediate product of cloning is "just a cell" or the human blastocyst is just "a ball of cells", is given by both Irving Weissman and Michael West in various of their testimonies and articles.

For example, while deconstructing the human embryology about even normal human sexual reproduction (fertilization), Michael West (Advanced Cell Technologies) makes the following remarkable claim in one of his many "expert" testimonies before Congress:

"The fertilization of the egg cell by a sperm leads to a single cell called the "zygote". From this first cell, multiple rounds of cell division over the first week result in a microscopic ball of cells with very unusual properties. This early embryo, called the "preimplantation embryo", has not implanted in the uterus to begin a pregnancy ... Should the embryo implant in the uterus, the embryo, at approximately 14 days post fertilization will form what is called the primitive streak, this is the first definition that these "seed cells will form an individual human being ... ."6 (emphases added)

Here West fails to mention that the "zygote" is not just a single "cell"; it is a single-cell organism. And West defines the "human embryo" here as just a "microscopic ball of cells", rather than as a whole human organism, a human being. Then we are "taught" that: "Seed cells will form ... . " What? There is no human embryology textbook that refers to the totipotent cells of the human blastocyst as "seeds" or as "seed cells". None. And these "seed cells" will form an "individual human being"? Sounds curiously like the old McCormick/Grobstein "pre-embryo" argument for "individuality", although draped in different "language".

The objective scientific fact is that the human being who is always simultaneously a human individual was already formed back at the beginning of fertilization.7 There is no "will form" about it. Already done! How is it that "expert" West doesn't know these basic Human Embryology 101 facts?

Likewise, physician Irving Weissman, architect and promoter of the contentious California Stem Cell Research Initiative and Proposition 71 (among other things), claims in his Stanford Report:

"In normal development, the fertilized egg undergoes 7-9 cell divisions to make the blastocyst, a ball of cells that has minimal specialization. ... For many the blastocyst is a ball of cells like many other cell lines from other tissues, and it would be a violation of their medical oaths not to use these cells to gain valuable medical knowledge that could translate to therapies."8 (emphases added)

Again, for Weissman, like West, even in normal sexual human reproduction there is no organism reproduced, just "cells", similar, he says, to "cells" in many other "cell lines". The human organism has disappeared. Weissman does indeed make a weak attempt to preempt any criticisms from veteran human embryologists about his verbal deconstruction of human embryology, but in the process belies his own defense:

"Technically, one should not use the term embryo to describe a blastocyst produced by nuclear transfer as an embryo, because it was not the product of sperm and egg, although I think that since the embryologists who coined the term embryo could not have known about nuclear transfer technology, it's anyone's guess what they might say now. ... I would hope we could discover ways to process ovaries as byproducts of human tissues from surgeries so that the tens of thousands of pre-oocytes could be made into useful targets of nuclear transplantation."9 (emphases added)

Ah. Is this the source of many religious politicians' belief that unless a sperm and oocyte is involved there can be no human being produced? Perhaps. Yet, the same "scientists" claim that even the product of fertilization is just a "cell" and the blastocyst is just a "ball of cells".

So "technically", according to Weissman, the term "embryo" should only refer to the product of sexual human reproduction involving a sperm and an oocyte, but not to the product of asexual human reproduction (e.g., in cloning)! Indeed, according to Weissman there is no full-fledged human being present until after implantation and birth; before that the "embryo" is just a "ball of cells", and tissues composed of "cells". Think of the implications of that for human embryonic and human fetal research issues! Think of the impact of their definition of "reproductive cloning" as requiring "birth" on women impregnated with cloned human embryos!

But isn't his distinction without a difference? Hasn't he has already stated above that the product of even normal fertilization is just "cells"? Isn't any sexually reproduced human "embryo" for him just a "ball of cells"?

Thus either way you look at it, in both sexual and asexual reproduction, for Weissman there is just a "cell" or a "ball of cells" - but no human organism - i.e., no human being.

Clearly, real human embryologists - with Ph.D. degrees in human embryology - would see no biological difference in the human organisms produced either sexually or asexually. They are both new living human beings - not just "cells" or "balls of cells". The Carnegie Stages of Early Human Embryonic Development are not categorizing stages of cell development! Surely they would heartily disagree with Weissman that these human beings are "minimally specialized". Such statements also belie any serious familiarity with the subject matter of human embryology per se. And my guess is that real human embryologists would howl over his fabricated term "preoocytes"! There is no such thing as a "pre-oocyte" - except, perhaps in the minds of those like Weissman.

These "scientific" statements are objectively scientifically absurd, and leave us no alternative but to conclude that these "scientists" simply make up their "science" as they go along - if it gets them where they want to go. It is now an internationally established scientific fact that there is no such thing as a "pre-embryo", thus any and all similar attempts at "pre-embryo substitutes" used to define away the living human being who is the immediate product of either sexual or asexual human reproduction accrue the same scientific admonition so succinctly stated by Ronan O'Rahilly, long time member of the international Nomina Embryologica Committee which determines the accurate scientific nomenclature for human embryology, and one of the founders of the internationally accepted and professionally required Carnegie Stages of Early Human Embryonic Development:

"The term 'pre-embryo' is not used here for the following reasons: (1) it is ill-defined because it is said to end with the appearance of the primitive streak or to include neurulation; (2) it is inaccurate because purely embryonic cells can already be distinguished after a few days, as can also the embryonic (not pre-embryonic!) disc; (3) it is unjustified because the accepted meaning of the word embryo includes all of the first 8 weeks; (4) it is equivocal because it may convey the erroneous idea that a new human organism is formed at only some considerable time after fertilization; and (5) it was introduced in 1986 'largely for public policy reasons' (Biggers). ... Just as postnatal age begins at birth, prenatal age begins at fertilization." (p. 88) ... 'Undesirable terms in Human Embryology': 'Pre-embryo'; ill-defined and inaccurate; use 'embryo'." ( p. 12) 10 (emphases added)

So imagine what the response would be from real human embryologists upon reading the following excerpts from the California Cloning Report recently shepherded through the California legislature by Weissman and now passed into law:

"We define non-reproductive human cloning as the transfer of human cell nuclei into enucleated oocytes to produce human pre-embryos without implanting the preembryos to produce a human child. Such a process would likely be used to create early pre-embryos to be used as sources of embryonic stem cells. As set out below, we would limit the use of such pre-embryos to the period before the appearance in the pre-embryo of the so-called primitive streak, which occurs 14 to 18 days after the pre-embryo's creation. This developmental stage has also been termed the blastocyst or pre-embryo. ... Various committees, in the United States and elsewhere, that have studied embryo research have concluded that the appearance of the primitive streak marks an important step in the moral status of the pre-embryo, and hence, the ethical arguments concerning pre-embryo research. ... Before the appearance of the primitive streak, the pre-embryo is not necessarily one individual --- it could lead to identical twins."11 (emphases added)

Hello? "Pre-embryos" or "cells" - they don't see much difference. For them, neither is a real human organism - a human being. That isn't even what McCormick's and Grobstein's "pre-embryo" claimed. Nor is there much difference between West's and Weissman's "cell" or "ball of cells", and the use of the term "oocyte" - a cell, not an organism -- as the immediate product of human cloning. They are all simply imaginative variations on the old "pre-embryo" myth, rendering the real individual living human being as having just a "reduced moral status". The latest "preembryo substitute" myth is "reproductive cloning", as starkly and clearly defined in the Delaware House human cloning "ban" just passed.

If Delaware politicians don't want to suffer the same ignominies as South Korea's Hwang, they should seek their scientific information elsewhere from more reliable sources. Hopefully the Delaware politicians will think for themselves and pass a true total human cloning ban - protecting vulnerable innocent nascent human beings, human patients and women alike.


1 See Irving, (June 25, 2005), at: Analysis: Delaware Regenerative Medicine [Stem Cell] Bill SB 80 (June 25, 2005); Analysis: "State of Delaware human cloning 'ban': Loopholes Form Blueprints for Human Genetic Engineering" (April 14, 2004); "Open Memorandum to Sen. Venables (Delaware): Irving Does Not Support SB 80 Cloning/IVF Bill" (June 25, 2005); "YOU DON'T NEED A SPERM!" (February 3, 2005); Comments: "California: Stem-cell wonderland?" (Oct. 20, 2005); Comments: "Please, Mr. Massie: A Human Fetus is NOT 'An Unborn or Unhatched Vertebrate'" (Jan. 7, 2005); Comments: "California court rejects false science in Proposition 71" (Nov. 1, 2004); Comments: "The California 'Stem Cell" Initiative" (Aug. 8, 2004); "What Human Embryo? Funniest Mental Gymnastics from Medicine and Research" (Oct. 14, 2004). See also dozens of scientific analyses of other state, national and international human cloning/stem cell "bans". [Back]

2 Tom Strachan and Andrew P. Read, Human Molecular Genetics 2 (New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc, 1999), pp. 508-509. [Back]

3 As in the current Weldon/Brownback federal cloning "bans" (see Irving, "Analysis: "University Faculty for Life: Letter of Concern to Sen. Brownback and Congressman Weldon Re the 'Human Cloning Bill 2001'"; written as UFL Board Member on behalf of UFL; submitted to Sen. Brownback and Cong. Weldon, U.S. Congress, Washington, D.C. (May 27, 2001). [Back]

4 As in Family Research Council brochure by Rev. Dr. Tadeusz Pacholczyk, "Stem Cell Research, Cloning and Human Embryos" (November 16, 2005). See also the same incorrect science in Dr. David Prentice's testimony before the Delaware State Senate, "Written Testimony of David A. Prentice, Ph.D., Senior Fellow for Life Sciences, Family Research Council, Affiliated Scholar, Center for Clinical Bioethics, Georgetown University Medical Center, Founding Member, Do No Harm: The Coalition of Americans for Research Ethics", June 6, 2005. [Back]

5  The Carnegie Stages of Early Human Development is the basis for the Nomina Embryologica which was part of the larger Nomina Anatomica for decades until 1989. In 1999 the name was changed by the International Associations of Anatomists to Terminologia Embryologica and Terminologia Anatomica, which was published in 1999 by the IFAA and is available for sale in book or CD-Rom format. For on-line access to information about the international Nomina Embryologica Committee and the Carnegie Stages of Early Human Development, see U.S. national website; Human Developmental Anatomy CenterNational Museum of Health and Medicine, Armed Forces Institute of Pathology; the Carnegie Collection of Embryology.

The scientific quotes on human embryology herein are taken directly from the following internationally recognized human embryology textbooks in concert with the Carnegie Stages and the international nomenclature on human embryology: Ronan O'Rahilly and Fabiola Muller, Human Embryology & Teratology (New York: Wiley-Liss, 2001): In preparing this book, the authors have made full use of the [Carnegie Embryological] Collection and of the various published studies, whether by themselves or by others, based on what George W. Corner felicitously termed that "Bureau of Standards." ... Serious work in human embryology now depends on staging and the internationally accepted system of Carnegie embryonic stages (a term introduced by the senior author) has been adopted throughout. ... A scheme of embryonic stages can be found on the inside front cover of this book. These developmental stages are indicated by superscripts throughout this book, thereby avoiding interruptions in the flow of the text. (p. ix)

Ibid, O'Rahilly and Muller (1994): Wilhelm His, Senior (1831-1904), the founder of human embryology [Fig. 1-1]. ... [H]uman embryology is scarcely more than one hundred years old. The first to study the human embryo systematically was Wilhelm His, Senior, who established the basis of reconstruction, i.e., the assembling of three-dimensional form from microscopic sections. His, who has been called the "Vesalium of human embryology," published his three-volume masterpiece Anatomie menschlicher Embryonen in 1880-85 [His, Vogel, Leipzig]. In it the human embryo was studied as a whole for the first time. ... A detailed Handbook of Human Embryology by Keibel and Mall appeared in 1910-12. Franklin P. Mall, who studied under His, established the Carnegie Embryological Collection in Baltimore and was the first person to stage human embryos (in 1914). Mall's collection soon became the most important repository of human embryos in the world and has ever since served as a "Bureau of Standards". Mall's successor, George L. Streeter, laid down the basis of the currently used staging system for human embryos (1942-48), which was completed by O'Rahilly (1973) and revised by O'Rahilly and Muller (1987). (p. 3)

Keith Moore and T. V. N. Persaud, The Developing Human: Clinically Oriented Embryology (6th ed. only) (Philadelphia: W.B. Saunders Company, 1998): Schleiden and Schwann were responsible for great advances being made in embryology when they formulated the cell theory in 1839. This concept stated that the body is composed of cells and cell products. The cell theory soon led to the realization that the embryo developed from a single cell, the zygote, which underwent many cell divisions as the tissues and organs formed. (p. 12)

For more historical information on the development of these international standards, see, e.g., article on Wilhelm Hiss. [Back]

6 "Testimony of Michael D. West, Ph.D., President & CEO, Advanced Cell Technology, Inc." (July 18, 2001). [Back]

7  See, O'Rahilly and Muller (2001); ... the procession of events that begins when a spermatozoon makes contact with a secondary oocyte or its investments, and ends with the intermingling of maternal and paternal chromosomes at metaphase of the first mitotic division of the zygote. The zygote is characteristic of the last phase of fertilization and is identified by the first cleavage spindle. It is a unicellular embryo. (p. 19)

Moore and Persaud (1998): Zygote: This cell results from the union of an oocyte and a sperm. A zygote is the beginning of a new human being (i.e., an embryo). The expression "fertilized ovum" refers to a secondary oocyte that is impregnated by a sperm; when fertilization is complete, the oocyte becomes a zygote. (p. 2)

Larsen (1997): ... [W]e begin our description of the developing human with the formation and differentiation of the male and female sex cells or gametes, which will unite at fertilization to initiate the embryonic development of a new individual. (p. 1)

O'Rahilly and Muller (2001): Although life is a continuous process, fertilization ... is a critical landmark because, under ordinary circumstances, a new, genetically distinct human organism is formed when the chromosomes of the male and female pronuclei blend in the oocyte. (p. 31)

Moore and Persaud (1998): ... The embryo's chromosomes sex is determined at fertilization by the kind of sperm (X or Y) that fertilizes the ovum; hence it is the father rather than the mother whose gamete determines the sex of the embryo. (p. 37); Carlson (1999): The sex of the future embryo is determined by the chromosomal complement of the spermatozoon. (If the sperm contains 22 autosomes and an X chromosome, the embryo will be a genetic female, and if it contains 22 autosomes and a Y chromosome, the embryo will be a male.) ... Through the mingling of maternal and paternal chromosomes, the zygote is a genetically unique product of chromosomal reassortment, which is important for the viability of any species. (p. 32)

O'Rahilly Muller (1994): The embryonic period proper ... occupies the first 8 postovulatory weeks (i.e., timed from the last ovulation) ... The fetal period extends from 8 weeks to birth. (p. 55); Carlson 1994: After the eighth week of pregnancy the period of organogenesis (embryonic period) is largely completed and the fetal period begins. (p. 407)

O'Rahilly and Muller (2001): ... Fertilization takes place normally in the ampulla (lateral end) of the uterine tube. (p. 31); Moore and Persaud (1998): The usual site of fertilization is the ampulla of the uterine tube [fallopian tube], its longest and widest part. If the oocyte is not fertilized here, it slowly passes along the tube to the uterus, where it degenerates and is resorbed. Although fertilization may occur in other parts of the tube, it does not occur in the uterus. ... Human development begins when a oocyte is fertilized. (p. 34); Carlson (1999): "Human pregnancy begins with the fusion of an egg and a sperm, but a great deal of preparation [recedes this event. First both male and female sex cells must pass through a long series of changes (gametogenesis) that convert them genetically and phenotypically into mature gametes, which are capable of participating in the process of fertilization. Next, the gametes must be released from the gonads and make their way to the upper part of the uterine tube, where fertilization normally takes place. ... Finally, the fertilized egg, now properly called an embryo, must make its way into the uterus ... .". (p. 2); ... Fertilization age: dates the age of the embryo from the time of fertilization. (p. 23) ... In the female, sperm transport begins in the upper vagina and ends in the ampulla of the uterine tube [fallopian tube] where the spermatozoa make contact with the ovulated egg. (p. 27); Larsen (1997): In this text, we begin our description of the developing human with the formation and differentiation of the male and female sex cells or gametes, which will unite at fertilization to initiate the embryonic development of a new individual. ... Fertilization takes place in the oviduct [not the uterus]... resulting in the formation of a zygote containing a single diploid nucleus. (p. 1); "These pronuclei fuse with each other to produce the single, diploid, 2N nucleus of the fertilized zygote. This moment of zygote formation may be taken as the beginning or zero time point of embryonic development. (p. 17) [Back]

8 Irving Weissman, M.D., "A Message from the Director of the Institute of Cancer/Stem Cell Biology and Medicine at Stanford", in The Stanford Report (Jan. 22, 2003). [Back]

9 Ibid. [Back]

10 Ronan O'Rahilly and Fabiola Muller, Human Embryology & Teratology (New York: Wiley-Liss, 2001). [Back]

11 "Report of the California Advisory Committee on Human Cloning" (Jan. 11, 2002), Sacramento. [Back]
January 18, 2006
By Patrick Jackson and Hiran Ratnayake
The News Journal

Del. stays silent on stem cell research

Bill would ban human cloning, but drops controversial standards

DOVER -- House lawmakers today will vote on a stripped down bill that bans human cloning and the sale of embryos, but guts provisions that would have set standards for and regulated embryonic stem cell research.

The revised version of Senate Bill 80 would leave embryonic stem cell research where it is today in Delaware -- legal, because the law is silent on the issue, and without standards or regulations.

The new bill must be passed by the House and Senate and signed by Gov. Ruth Ann Minner to become law.

Rep. Deborah Hudson, R-Fairthorne, the bill's chief House sponsor, said she backed away from the full stem cell bill passed last spring by the Senate because of a strong lobbying and advertising campaign against the measure that eroded support in an election year.

"There was a lot of angst among some supporters because there was a lot of misinformation about this bill and they didn't think the public had caught up with this issue," she said.

Another try

Hudson hopes to bring back the proposed establishment of standards for embryonic stem cell research, and establishment of an oversight board, in a separate bill before lawmakers leave in June. She said such standards are needed.

"As someone said during the hearings, this is a train that's already left the station," Hudson said. "Embryonic stem cell research is already going on in other states, such as New Jersey and Maryland. I don't think we want to wait until it's being done here to try and regulate it."

Many scientists think embryonic stem cells one day may yield treatments or cures for diseases such as Lou Gehrig's, Parkinson's and Alzheimer's. Embryonic stem cells are blank cells that can form into any type of cell or tissue.

Opponents think the research is tantamount to murder because it can result in the destruction of an embryo. They also say research into what are known as "adult" stem cells, which can be found in bone marrow and umbilical cord blood, shows equal, if not greater promise.

Stephen Jenkins, co-chair of the Adult Stem Cell Coalition, which opposed the bill, said legislators might have been swayed by people who don't want embryonic stem cell research conducted in Delaware.

"I suppose we turned out enough people to oppose the bill that the legislators didn't want it," Jenkins said. Sen. Robert L. Venables, D-Laurel, the bill's prime sponsor, said he was disappointed, but didn't plan to fight the amended measure if the House approves it and sends it back to the Senate. Delaware has no conference committees to resolve differences between chambers.

"After four years of fighting this, we're back to square one," Venables said. "I'm not happy about this because I thought we might have had regulations that would have helped put Delaware on the leading edge of this new, important knowledge."

Venables said the elements remaining in the bill still are worthy of support.

"I'll support it because we need to ban cloning, but I've had it," he said.

Economic development

Delaware officials, including Minner, have touted biotechnology -- including possible stem cell advances -- as important to the state's economic development.

Kate Bailey, Minner's spokeswoman, said the governor wouldn't comment on the revised bill until she's had a chance to review it. Minner backed the original bill and an earlier House-Senate compromise that included wording that shielded private research.

The bill would have set up an oversight panel to review publicly funded embryonic stem cell research. It also would have mandated that private research conform to federal research guidelines, but shielded trade secrets from public view. It would have fined people or fertility clinics that sold leftover embryos for profit, and banned cloning.

The bill going to the House today bans cloning, which is narrowly defined, and the sale of human embryos for profit. The bill does not prohibit the practice of allowing couples to sign papers voluntarily donating embryos to science.

"This bill does what it needs to do," said House Majority Whip Clifford "Biff" Lee, R-Laurel. "It bans human cloning and makes it illegal for people to sell their embryos."

Rep. Joe Di Pinto, R-Wilmington West, said he hopes the changed bill will spur more work with adult stem cells.

"Scientists talk about the potential of embryonic stem cell research, but the scientific literature shows the real progress right now is being made with adult stem cells," Di Pinto said. "Embryonic research gets the attention because it's sexy, but adult stem cell work is showing promise. I think we should work to become the world leader in adult stem cell research."

'A stand for life'

Dr. David Weir, head of the University of Delaware's Biotechnology Institute and a strong supporter of embryonic stem cell research, said he was not aware of the changes in the bill.

Pastor John Betts of the Abundant Life Church in Georgetown said he was pleased that the law bans cloning but thinks lawmakers should specifically ban embryonic stem cell research.

"I think Delaware should be the first state to take a stand for life -- not the destruction of embryos," he said.

Contact Patrick Jackson at 678-4274 or Contact Hiran Ratnayake at 324-2547 or


What remains in

What is cut from the bill