Current Embryo Research Funding Ban

The NBAC report and Administration bill focus solely on the cloning of a human from an adult somatic cell using somatic cell nuclear transfer. This is the only issue which led to the NBAC review, the only issue covered in the NBAC review, and the only issue addressed in the Administration legislative proposal. NBAC did not review the issue of embryo research.

We do not revisit either the question of the cloning of humans by embryo-splitting or the issues surround embryo research. The latter issue has, of course, recently received careful attention by the National Institutes of Health panel, the Administration, and the Congress. Letter of Harold Shapiro, NBAC Chairman (June 9, 1997).

Strangely, as described above, H.R. 922 and S. 1599 and S. 1601 focus only on the creation of an embryo and contain no direct prohibition on the cloning of a child. This is obviously a substantial departure from the original terms of the debate reflecting a agenda different from or in addition to the prevention or outlawing of the cloning of a human being.

It is not clear why there is any need for the Congress to focus on the embryo research controversy. This is an issue which was extensively studied in 1994-1995, a debate which has led to enactment in the last three Labor, HHS Appropriations bills of a broad ban on federal funding for embryo research. The text of the current ban follows:

(a) None of the funds made available in this Act may be used for -- (1) the creation of a human embryo or embryos for research purposes; or (2) research in which a human embryo or embryos are destroyed, discarded, or knowingly subjected to risk of injury or death greater than that allowed for research on fetuses in utero... (b) For purposes of this section, the term 'human embryo or embryos' include any organism, not protected as a human subject under 45 CFR 46 as of the date of the enactment of this Act, that is derived by fertilization, parthenogenesis, cloning or any other means from one or more human gametes or human diploid cells.

Human diploid cells are precisely the human homolog cells used in the sheep cloning experiment which led to the human cloning debate, so a law has already been enacted which seeks to ban the use of Federal funds to clone a human being.

S. 1599/S. 1601 includes no definition of the terms "embryo" or "Preimplanation embryo" so it is not clear if their definition tracks that in the appropriations bills.

H.R. 922 does not define the term "embryo" so it creates the same uncertainty regarding the meaning of the term.