In November 1998, two different groups of scientists reported the successful isolation and culturing of human embryonic stem cells. Generally referred to as pluripotent stem cells, these cells have the ability to develop into most of the specialized cells or tissues in the human body and can divide for indefinite periods in culture. Because these cells can give rise to many different types of cells, such as muscle cells, nerve cells, heart cells, blood cells, and others, they are enormously important to science and hold great promise for advances in health care.
The establishment of human pluripotent stem cell lines represents a major step forward in human biology. This advance has generated interest among scientists, the public, and patients and their advocates, especially with regard to the ethical issues related to stem cell research.
The Clinton Administration published guidelines governing the use of human embryonic stem cells in the Federal Register on August 23, 2000. On April 25, 2001, a scheduled review of pending grant applications was postponed to provide President George W. Bush and his new Administration an opportunity to review the issue. On August 9, 2001, President Bush issued a long-awaited decision on stem cell research. He authorized funding of stem cell research using existing pluripotent stem cell lines that were derived from human embryos before August 9. Such research is eligible for Federal funding if the following criteria are met: 1) there must have been informed consent of the donors, 2) the embryos must have been created for reproductive purposes and in excess of clinical need, 3) there must not have been any financial inducements to the donors, and 4) the embryos must not have been created for research purposes. During fiscal year (FY) 2002, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) funded the first grants to conduct human embryonic stem cell research, including both new grants and supplements to existing grants.
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108th Congress, House Bills
H.R. 534—Human Cloning Prohibition Act of 2003
On February 27, 2003, the House voted 241 to 155 in favor of H.R. 534, the Human Cloning Prohibition Act of 2003. H.R. 534 would prohibit both reproductive and therapeutic cloning, and includes a criminal penalty of up to 10 years for violation of the provisions of the bill. A less restrictive substitute measure offered by Representative Jim Greenwood (R-PA), which would have prohibited reproductive cloning only, failed by a vote of 231 to 174.
HR 534 was introduced on February 5, 2003, by Representative Dave Weldon (R-FL). The was reported favorably by the House Committee on the Judiciary with a vote of 19 to 12 on February 12.
H.R. 801—Cloning of Humans
On February 13, 2003, Representative Jim Greenwood (R-PA) introduced H.R. 801, a bill to amend the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act with respect to the cloning of humans, and for other purposes. Although the text of the bill is not available, it is reported that it would prohibit reproductive cloning but permit therapeutic cloning. The bill was referred to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce.
H.R. 916—Human Cloning Research Prohibition Act
On February 25, 2003, Representative Cliff Stearns (R-FL) introduced H.R. 916, the Human Cloning Research Prohibition Act. The intent of the bill is to prohibit the expenditure of Federal funds to conduct or support research on human cloning. The bill would require the Director of the National Science Foundation to contract with the National Research Council for a review of the implementation of the Act. H.R. 916 would also express the sense of Congress that other countries should establish similar provisions. The bill was referred to the House Committees on Energy and Commerce and on Science.
H.R. 938—Human Cloning Prevention Act of 2003
On February 26, 2003, Representative Ron Paul (R-TX) introduced H.R. 938, the Human Cloning Prevention Act of 2003. The bill would prohibit any Federal agency from making any grant, contract, or other payment to any entity that "within the past year has engaged in human cloning." The phrase "human cloning" is defined to include somatic cell nuclear transfer technology for the purpose of deriving stem cells. The bill was referred to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce.
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108th Congress, Senate Bills
S. 245—Human Cloning Prohibition Act of 2003
On January 29, 2003, Senator Sam Brownback (R-KS) introduced S. 245, the Human Cloning Prohibition Act of 2003. The bill would prohibit both therapeutic and reproductive cloning, and is similar to H.R. 234, introduced by Representative Dave Weldon (R-FL). The bill was referred to the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions.
S. 303—Human Cloning Ban and Stem Cell Research Protection Act of 2003
On February 5, 2003, Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA) introduced S. 303, the Human Cloning Ban and Stem Cell Research Protection Act of 2003. The bill would prohibit reproductive cloning but would specifically permit therapeutic cloning, as long as certain ethical requirements are met.
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