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Bush Pushes for a Ban on Cloning

Aired April 10, 2002 - 13:17   ET


KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: We are going to take you now live to the East Room of the White House where President George W. Bush is stepping up to the podium. He is addressing a number of scientists, law makers, doctors, religious activists, about his push to pressure the U.S. Senate to approve legislation that would outlaw the cloning of human beings for use of research and future diseases.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, thank you all so very much for coming to the White House. It's my honor to welcome you to the people's house.

I particularly want to honor three folks who I had the honor of meeting earlier, Johnny Tada (ph), Jim Kelly (ph) and Steve McDonald (ph). I want to thank you for your courage. I want to thank you for your wisdom. I want to thank you for your extraordinary perseverance and faith.

They have triumphed in the face of physical disability and share a deep commitment to medicine that is practiced ethically and humanely.

All of us here today believe in the promise of modern medicine. We're hopeful about where science may take us. And we're also here because we believe in the principles of ethical medicine. As we seek to improve human life, we must always preserve human dignity.


And therefore we must prevent human cloning by stopping it before it starts.


I want to welcome Tommy Thompson, who is the secretary of health and human services, a man who's doing a fine job for America.


I want to thank members from the United States Congress, members from both political parties who are here. I particularly want to thank Senator Brownback and Senator Landrieu for sponsoring a bill about which I'm going to speak.

(APPLAUSE) As well, we've got Senator Frist and Senator Bond and Senator Hutchison and Senator Santorum and Congressman Weldon, Stupak, and eventually Smith and Kerns. They just don't realize...


Thank you all for coming.

They seem to have forgotten we start things on time here in the White House.


We live in a time of tremendous medical progress. A little more than a year ago, scientists first cracked the human genetic code; one of the most important advances in scientific history.

Already, scientists are developing new diagnostic tools so that each of us can know our risk of disease and act to prevent them. One day soon precise therapies will be custom made for our own genetic makeup.

We're on the threshold of historic breakthroughs against AIDS and Alzheimer's disease and cancer and diabetes and heart disease and Parkinson's disease. And that's incredibly positive.

Our age may be known to history as the age of genetic medicine, a time when many of the most feared illnesses were overcome. Our age must also be defined by the care and restraint and responsibility with which we take up these new scientific powers.

Advances in biomedical technology must never come at the expense of human conscience.


As we seek what is possible, we must always ask, "What is right?" And we must not forget that even the most noble ends do not justify any means.


Science has set before us decisions of immense consequence. We can pursue medical research with a clear sense of moral purpose, or we can travel without an ethical compass into a world we could live to regret. Science now presses forward the issue of human cloning. How we answer the question of human cloning will place us on one path or the other.

Human cloning is the laboratory production of individuals who are genetically identical to another human being. Cloning is achieved by putting the genetic material from a donor into a woman's egg which has had its nucleus removed. As a result, the new or cloned embryo is an identical copy of only the donor.

Human cloning has moved from science fiction into science. One biotech company has already begun producing embryonic human clones for research purposes. Chinese scientists have derived stem cells from cloned embryos created by combining human DNA and rabbit eggs. Others have announced plans to produce cloned children, despite the fact that laboratory cloning of animals has led to spontaneous abortions and terrible, terrible abnormalities.

Human cloning is deeply troubling to me and to most Americans.

Life is a creation, not a commodity.


Our children are gifts to be loved and protected, not products to be designed and manufactured. Allowing cloning would be taking a significant step toward a society in which human beings are grown for spare body parts and children are engineered to custom specifications -- and that's not acceptable.

In the current debate over human cloning, two terms are being used: reproductive cloning and research cloning.

Reproductive cloning involves creating a cloned embryo and implanting it into a woman with the goal of creating a child. Fortunately, nearly every American agrees that this practice should be banned.

Research cloning, on the other hand, involves the creation of cloned human embryos which are then destroyed to derive stem cells.

I believe all human cloning is wrong and both forms of cloning ought to be banned, for the following reasons.

First, anything other than a total ban on human cloning would be unethical. Research cloning would contradict the most fundamental principle of medical ethics -- that no human life should be exploited or extinguished for the benefit of another.


Yet, a law permitting research cloning while forbidding the birth of a cloned child would require the destruction of nacient human life.

Secondly, anything other than a total ban on human cloning would be virtually impossible to enforce. Cloned human embryos for research would be widely available in laboratories and embryo farms. Once cloned embryos were available, implantation would take place. Even the tightest regulations and stricting policing would not prevent or detect the birth of cloned babies.

Third, the benefits of research cloning are highly speculative. Advocates of research cloning argue that stem cells obtained from cloned embryos would be injected into a genetically identical individual without risk of tissue rejection. But there is evidence, based on animal studies, that cells derived from cloned embryos may indeed be rejected. Yet even if research cloning were medically effective, every person who wanted to benefit would need an embryonic clone of his or her own to provide the designer tissues. This would create a massive national market for eggs and egg donors, an exploitation of women's bodies that we can not and must not allow.


I stand firm in my opposition to human cloning. And at the same time, we will pursue other promising and ethical ways to relieve suffering through biotechnology.

This year, for the first time, federal dollars will go towards supporting human embryonic stem cell research, consistent with the ethical guidelines I announced last August.

The National Institutes of Health is also funding a broad range of animal and human adult stem cell research. Adult stem cells which do not require the destruction of human embryos and which yield tissues that can be transplanted without rejection are more versatile than originally thought.

We're making progress. We're learning more about them. And therapies developed from adult stem cells are already helping suffering people.

I support increasing the research budget of the NIH, and I ask Congress to join me in that support.

And at the same time, I strongly support a comprehensive law against all human cloning. And I endorse the bill -- wholeheartedly endorse the bill -- sponsored by Senator Brownback and Senator Mary Landrieu.


This carefully drafted bill would ban all human cloning in the United States, including the cloning of embryos for research. It is nearly identical to the bipartisan legislation that last year passed the House of Representatives by more than a 100-vote margin.

It has wide support across the political spectrum: Liberals and conservative support it. Religious people, and non-religious people support it. Those who are pro-choice and those who are pro-life support the bill. This is a diverse coalition, united by a commitment to prevent the cloning and exploitation of human beings.


It would be a mistake for the United States Senate to allow any kind of human cloning to come out of that chamber.


I'm an incurable optimist about the future of our country. I know we can achieve great things to make the world more peaceful. We can become a more compassionate nation. We can push the limits of medical science. I truly believe that we're going to bring hope and healing to countless of lives across the country.

And as we do, I will insist that we always maintain the highest of ethical standards.

Thank you all for coming. God bless.


PHILLIPS: President George W. Bush in the East Room of the White House standing firm on pressing the U.S. Senate and other scientists and researchers in the group there in the East Room to approve legislation that would outlaw the cloning of human beings for use in research and treatment of diseases. CNN White House correspondent Major Garrett has been following this announcement by the president.

He joins us now to talk about the impact here. Why now? Why is he coming out, Major, and talking about this now?

MAJOR GARRETT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Because the Senate is about to work on this particular piece of legislation, Kyra. It had been scheduled, at least theoretically scheduled for debate sometime in February or March. But that, as much of the Senate agenda has slipped. The White House knows in an election year, this is a very volatile issue. He wants the president's stamp out there. Want to make sure that senators, many of whom haven't made up their minds about this issue, know emphatically where the president stands.

I don't think there is any doubt now that the president is telling all the senators, if you vote for something less than an all out ban on human cloning, reproductive or research, I am going to veto it. So it is not going to happen.

There are about 30 senators right now who have yet to stake out a position on this; 29 senators have supported the legislation the president just endorsed there. Only one of them is a Democrat, Mary Landreau of Louisiana, who, by the way is running for re-election this year. One Republican has endorsed at least a concept that is about to be put on the floor of research cloning. That is Arlen Specter, Republican from Pennsylvania.

The White House wanted to make it clear to the Senate that those senators making up their minds better know where the president stands and better know that if they vote against the White House they are not going to get any sort of human cloning out of the Senate or the House because the president will stop it. He is trying to shift the debate, make it very clear that a human cloning ban is the only thing he will sign. The only thing will become law, and that's what he wants -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: Major, the president making a major point there, no pun intended, between reproduction and research. Let's talk a little bit about that.

GARRETT: That's exactly right. Almost everyone in the United States Congress, House and Senate, opposes the reproductive human cloning. That is to say, creating a cloned human being that becomes an embryo, and is implanted for the purpose of giving birth. Everyone opposes that.

There are some senators, and there are some members of the House as well, there are a distinct minority, who support the idea of research cloning, creating clone cells that can be used for research, quite possibly in stem cell research, to deal wit diabetes, Alzheimers, potentially spinal cord injuries. It is much the same coalition that was much more in favor of a broader use of stem cell research that the president rejected last August. He favored a much more limited brand of stem cell research.

These senators and members of the House argue that by banning human cloning for reproductive purposes we are protecting society from the worst horrors of cloning, but by allowing an exemption for he research we are at least opening up the possibility of scientific gains that can treat so far untreatable kinds of injuries and untreatable kinds of diseases. They believe that is a legitimate purpose of cloning research.

The president fundamentally disagrees. The White House says it is a slippery slope. There is no way you can put a legal fence around cloning of any type. If you allow one type it is going to spread to other types of cloning, reproductive cloning and all the horrors of reproductive cloning that so many Americans are acutely aware of will be unleashed. So the president says now, before it's too late, stop all cloning. Make sure it is legally enforceable so the country can be safe from those types of horrors and pursue other more promising types of research, the president specifically mentioned adult stem cell research which the White House and some scientists believe is even more promising than embryonic stem-cell research. The president wants to fund that and not have anything to do with human cloning, reproductive or research -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: White House correspondent Major Garrett, thank you. Senate majority leader Tom Daschle says understanding the distinction between the two different purposes for cloning is key to a decision about how to move forward on this issue.


SEN. TOM DASCHLE (D-SD), MAJORITY LEADER: There is resolute, determined, universal opposition to cloning for creation of human beings. We differ strongly, however, in the need to allow science and research to cure disease such as cancer, Parkinson's, Alzhiemer, and diabetes. That's where the fisher is. That's where the break is, the chasm. We believe we need to continue that research.


PHILLIPS: Well, scientific and ethical implications of human cloning are subjects of endless often passionate debate. Joining me now from Lexington, Kentucky is Dr. Panayiotis Zavos. He is the director of Andrology of America and proponent of human cloning. Good afternoon Dr. Zavos, or good afternoon, I should say. DR. PANAYIOTIS ZAVOS, DIR., ANDROLOGY OF AMERICA: Good afternoon to you.

PHILLIPS: First, let's get your reaction to what the president had to say.

ZAVOS: Obviously it is an eloquent speech. Very well put together. But I think that it is just one sided story. I think the technology as it evolves is going the right direction. And that there are obviously oppositions to the development on cloning and we do understand that.

The same oppositions came up 24 years ago when Lewis Brown was born. The same kind of reaction when a test-tube baby was produced for the first time and of course 24 years later, IVF is synonymous to sliced bread. And so we do see that opposition coming along the same way, but I think as people get to understand the real truth and the facts about this technology I think they will accept it much more and we will be on our way of assisting people having children via the reproductive cloning methods.

PHILLIPS: Let's talk about it. Let's talk about your research. Let's hear your side of the battle here.

ZAVOS: Yes. Well, we are developing the technology well enough, responsibly enough. I should say that all of us involved in this, we have almost a quarter of a century of experience in the reproductive medicine. And we have been assisting people having children, healthy children, born from such efforts, and we don't intend to change now. This is not anything that we will do to change that. We do realize that people want healthy biological children of their own, and if they so desire, they should be able to have that.

PHILLIPS: The president says his main concerns are moral and ethical. You say you are doing this responsibly. Can you tell us how you are doing that?

ZAVOS: We are doing it ethically, morally and responsibly I should say. When we were speaking about the so-called ethics and morality, that is a very big issue. We can all sit around the table and debate it for hours and hours and probably agree about nothing on this issue.

What is ethically correct by the president's definition may not be by the guys that were sitting across from him. Therefore, those are all relative terms. In each society, each family, each setting needs to decide on their own whether this is ethically morally or otherwise correct. Ironically enough, this world is made out of many many cultures, religions, and it is such a tremendous heterogeneity so saying we will are going to ban this technology in America and the whole world will go along with us, it is just a dream.

PHILLIPS: Dr. Severino Antanori (ph), previously you had a relationship with him. He announced last week he had successfully impregnated a woman with a cloned egg. Why did you formally end your relationship with him? ZAVOS: We ended our relationship informally for the last five months almost. We decided after this announcement this last week that we definitely needed to announce it to the public and make it formal. We very much doubt very much what Severino has done this last week. It is Severino's responsibility and his duties to the world and to us and to all of us, that he needs to tell the world as to what are the facts. We cannot speak for that because we have never participated, although a report yesterday saying that Dr. Zavos, one of his partners in this effort participated in the production of this clone embryo and the cloned pregnancy. I do not know anything about it. And I obviously worry a great deal about Sevorino and the way that he is approaching the subject.

PHILLIPS: Well, if you support cloning, why do you not support him and what are your concerns?

ZAVOS: I'm not saying I do not support him. I think that if he has done this, I will congratulate him. But he needs to act responsibly as we do, and tell the world that if he indeed did this. The facts speak for themselves. He doesn't have -- he should not have any difficulty presenting to the world the evidence.

As of today, 5, 6, 7 days later, it is still a highly speculative subject. It shouldn't be. I shouldn't be the one to be asked those questions since I don't work with Severino.

PHILLIPS: Doctor Panyiotis Zavos, thank you very much for being with us.

ZAVOS: Thank you very much. Its pea pleasure.

PHILLIPS: For a different take on the human cloning issue we turn to Alex Capron, he is director of the Pacific Center for Health Policy and Ethics at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. Good to see you, Alex.


PHILLIPS: First of all, your reaction to Dr. Zavos? Any thoughts?

CAPRON: The claim that this is like IVF is laughable. At the time that IVF was introduced it had been through many years of testing with animals and then testing with human eggs not carried through to pregnancy. These were all published in the literature. There was no opposition from scientists and physicians to it.

There were questions about its effect on the family and there were some questions before the first birth whether the level of risk was acceptable, but these were minor questions. Here, with reproductive cloning, you have the fact that not only have the European nations banned it, Muslim nations have, other nations around the world, in Asia. You also have the astonishing thing of the National Academy of Sciences having said that it should be banned.

I can't remember another scientific development where the scientists themselves have agreed that there should be legislation to prevent this from happening. The level of risks given the animal research are simply unacceptable, without even getting to the moral questions of what it would mean to create a clone, what it would do to family life and so forth. So there's just no comparison with IVF.

PHILLIPS: You talk about National Academy of Scientists also, Bush and Clinton Administration, European Union, all have gone against this. Why hasn't the U.S. Congress banned cloning outright?

CAPRON: We have had a log jam in Congress. You can hear some of that coming through in the president's statement and then the majority leader's response. The Republicans and those in the right to life side are not willing to pass a ban on reproductive cloning that also doesn't have a ban on research cloning. Because to do so they feel would be to say, it's OK to make cloned embryos as long as you kill them, as long as you destroy them in the laboratory. And that is simply unacceptable since they regard the embryo as the equivalent of a born human being.

On the other side, you have the people who believe that the research is important and who don't think that research, embryos, destruction, is bad. They would have gone further than the president for example in the stem cell issue in terms of U.S. funding of researchers who would derive the stem cells, not just use them, which is what the president allowed. There has been this log jam for five years that we have not been able to break.

PHILLIPS: So from your perspective when it comes down to it, is there a real scientific need for cloned embryos?

CAPRON: Today I don't know of any such need. In terms of what is sometimes referred to as the therapeutic use, that will depend upon developments which will come out of basic stem cell work with embryos, using the cell lines that have been approved for federal funding, which means it can be work at the National Institutes of Health and at the universities and research centers that get federal funds for medical research as well as in the private sector. And that work will help to establish how stem cells can be used.

When we get to the point, if we do get to the point, that it looks as though it is possible to have life saving treatments of diseases like cancer, diabetes, diseases like Alzheimers and Parkinson's if it then became obvious that the only way for those to be really effective was to match it with the recipient, the patient, then we could have a debate in that frame work.

And for that reason, I think that a compromise that would appeal both to those who want it ban it now and those who want to keep the door open for the future would be to put a moratorium, a time limit moratorium on the research cloning and say in five years the Congress is going to have to come back this, make it even a ban that would expire at that time. In the meanwhile we can find out, would there be a way, if that happened of regulating this so that it doesn't seep out.

As the president said, if it went on right now, if research cloning went on right now and there were many research embryos created, there would be no way to keep someone like a Dr. Antanori from getting some of them and trying to implant them. Therefore a moratorium could be a compromise. If the Democrats could agree to that and modify their bill, or if Senator Frist, who has taken a lead on this now with his statement yesterday as a proponent of stem cell research, that he still sees the value in holding off on cloned embryos at this time, if he could take the lead and say, let's reach a common ground. I can't believe the president wouldn't be willing to sign that. And we could get the necessary majority.

It'll be very close otherwise in the Senate and if the Senate passes a Democratic bill, then the House and Senate will not be able to agree and the president will not sign a bill along the lines that the Democrats want with no restrictions on research cloning. I think that idea of the moratorium ought to be pursued and it offers a way it get an overwhelming majority and get the ban on reproductive cloning which everyone wants to see enacted.

PHILLIPS: Alex Capron we have to leave it there. Bioethicist from University of Southern California. Thank you, sir.

CAPRON: You're most welcome.




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