The US House of Representatives Judiciary Committee voted 19-12 last week - along party lines - to approve a bill banning all forms of human cloning, including for medical research. The bill is similar to another passed last year by the House, but which failed to pass through the Senate. Having gained approval by the committee, it will now come before the House on 24 February and, after debates, a vote is expected to take place the following day.
Co-sponsored by Republicans Dave Weldon and Bart Stupak, the bill provides that anyone who attempts to clone humans for either reproductive or therapeutic purposes would be liable for a fine of up to $1 million and a possible 10-year jail sentence. It would also prohibit the importation of cloned human embryos.
Several amendments to the bill proposed that cloning should be allowed for medical research only - but these were turned down by Republicans, who said that 'it would be impossible to enforce a cloning ban unless all human clones were outlawed'. Passage through the House is thought to be likely, as it was passed by 265-162 last year by the Republican majority. Unlike last year, the Republicans now also have the majority, albeit slim, in the Senate.
A similar bill, co-sponsored by Senator Sam Brownback, is currently being considered by the US Senate. But it is competing with another bill, introduced by Democrats last week, that would ban reproductive cloning while allowing the creation of cloned human embryos for use in medical research.