When, earlier this year, UK politicians passed amendments to our embryo research law to permit embryonic stem cell research, vocal opponents of the changes had many complaints to make. Aside from their moral misgivings about embryo stem cell and cloning research, a major objection was that parliamentarians were given little time to fully discuss the issues involved. This sentiment was summed up in a recent article in the Spectator, which described the British regulations as 'smuggled through'.
Last week, the United States House of Representatives, after just six hours of discussion, passed a bill banning all forms of human cloning. Whilst British parliamentarians made a change to existing regulations on embryo research after protracted debate in both Houses, the Americans banned all cloning in one fell swoop.
Not only was the time for debate short: this was also the first opportunity that congressmen had ever had to discuss the issue of human cloning. Nor had they ever debated the rights and wrongs of embryo research, since it takes place in the US without federal oversight. The only federal involvement has been the introduction of a ban on government funding, leaving the private sector to regulate its own research.
Arlene Judith Klotzko, writing in the Independent on Sunday, thinks it is this kind of private sector activity, particularly in stem cell and therapeutic cloning research, that forced Congress into a hasty decision: 'The House of Representatives has rushed into a premature and ill-informed judgement, but it was sorely provoked.' Let's hope that the Senate feels less provoked and is offered more time to consider such an important issue.
See Recommends for these and other views on the US vote.