LIFE DIGEST: Iowa close to lifting cloning ban; Mississippi nears abortion prohibition; Emily’s List endorses Clinton

WASHINGTON (BP)--Iowa is a governor’s signature away from reversing a ban on human cloning for research purposes.

The Iowa House of Representatives voted 52-46 Feb. 22 in favor of a bill to lift the restriction on therapeutic cloning in a 2002 state law. The Senate had passed the measure Feb. 14 in a 26-24 vote.

Gov. Chet Culver, a Democrat, has promised to sign the bill into law.

Iowa law would still prohibit implanting a cloned embryo in a woman’s womb, but it would require the destruction of any embryo cloned for the purpose of harvesting stem cells (a process known as research or therapeutic cloning).

Rep. Thomas Sands, a Republican, opposed the measure, saying, according to the Des Moines (Iowa) Register, “When is wrong right? It’s never right. One life is never more important than another. Never. We’re equal.”

The push for rescinding the ban on therapeutic cloning came from advocates of embryonic stem cell research. Experiments using stem cells from embryos always result in the deaths of the tiny human beings and have yet to provide any therapies for human afflictions. Embryonic research also has been plagued by the development of tumors in lab animals.

Meanwhile, research using stem cells from non-embryonic sources -- such as bone marrow, fat, umbilical cord blood and placentas -– has produced therapies for 72 ailments, according to Do No Harm, a coalition promoting ethics in research. These include spinal cord injuries, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, multiple sclerosis and sickle cell anemia.

Richard Doerflinger, a foe of embryonic stem cell research, said the Iowa bill will permit cloning for any purpose, as long as the embryo is destroyed.

“The only important thing, under this bill, is that any embryos produced by human cloning must not be born alive,” Doerflinger, a pro-life official with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, wrote in a column on National Review Online. “The bill replaces a ban on human cloning with a ban on human survival.”

Some claims for embryonic stem cell research during the legislative effort in Iowa fell far short of the facts, Doerflinger said.

The assertions or hints such research might provide cures for Alzheimer’s disease or juvenile diabetes have little support, he wrote. “Even the most vigorous proponents of human cloning for research purposes ... admit that stem cells from cloned embryos will not treat juvenile diabetes,” Doerflinger wrote, adding a consensus has been reported among Alzheimer’s experts that embryonic stem cells almost surely will not treat the disease.

“The reality is that the ‘lifesaving cures’ campaign for embryonic stem cell research is in bad shape overall –- or would be, if anyone were paying attention to the facts,” he wrote. “More and more experts in the field are backtracking furiously, publicly admitting that any human treatments using these cells may be ‘decades’ away.

“For years the political campaign to allow human cloning for research purposes has paid only grudging attention to anything resembling a fact. Recent events in Iowa suggest that it is now fashionable to follow this campaign into a complete fantasy land.”

Stem cells are the body’s master cells that can develop into other cells and tissues. The remarkable ability of stem cells has given hope for the development of cures for a variety of diseases and other ailments.

MISSISSIPPI NEARS BAN -– A "trigger bill" that potentially could prohibit the vast majority of abortions in Mississippi appears near final approval in that state’s legislature.

The House of Representatives passed the measure Feb. 22 in a 97-16 vote, and a Senate leader indicated he likely would approve of revisions made by the House after it left his chamber, according to The Jackson (Miss.) Clarion-Ledger.

The measure’s provisions are: (1) It would ban most abortions if the United States Supreme Court reverses its 1973 Roe v. Wade opinion, which struck down all state laws prohibiting abortion; there would be exceptions if the mother’s life is endangered or in case of rape. (2) It would require a doctor to offer a pregnant woman an ultrasound of her unborn child before she has an abortion. (3) It would mandate underage women seeking abortions without parental consent gain a judge’s permission.

The second and third proposals will go into effect July 1 if approved by the Senate and signed into law, as expected, by Republican Gov. Haley Barbour.

It appeared the legislation would not make it through the House a few weeks ago. Rep. Steve Holland, a Democratic committee chairman, said he would not move the legislation forward, according to The Clarion-Ledger. An overwhelming lobbying effort changed his mind, however.

According to the newspaper, Holland complied Feb. 22 during a committee meeting, citing the appeals of fellow representatives and “about 800 and something phone calls from the general public. Phones have been jammed for 10 days.”

The Senate previously had passed an outright ban on abortion that did not have a trigger tying it to the overturning of Roe.

EMILY AND HILLARY –- All of the candidates for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination support abortion rights, but a pro-choice political committee has chosen to endorse only one: Hillary Clinton.

By virtue of being a woman, the United States senator from New York gained the backing of Emily’s List. She is the first presidential candidate endorsed by Emily’s List, which was established in 1985. The organization seeks to elect pro-choice, Democratic women to federal, state and local offices.

“Women are really moving up at all levels, which really sets the stage for the big enchilada, and we’re doing all we can to help Hillary Clinton become the first woman president,” Emily’s List President Ellen Malcolm said, according to the Feb. 22 issue of The Oakland (Calif.) Tribune.

Emily’s List does not have much of a track record of success, however. It raised about $46 million in 2006, according to The Tribune, but its candidates won only two of 19 competitive races in the U.S. House of Representatives, LifeNews.com reported.


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