From the Office of State Senator Royce West - District 23
For Immediate Release
March 30, 2001
Senator West's bill on human cloning studied by lawmakers
To be or not to be through science - Man's choice?
Just over four years ago, a group of Scottish scientists led by Dr. Ian Wilmut announced the birth - if you will - of a cloned lamb, affectionately named "Dolly." It marked the first announced successful replication of a mammal by way of the fusion of a donor cell and an unfertilized ewe egg. It was also reported that human cloning might be technologically possible within the next few years.
Immediately, the repercussions of this unparalleled, scientific achievement sent shockwaves of concern throughout the scientific, governmental and religious communities. The question was obvious. If this artificial, life-creation process was now available for sheep - who are used in scientific experimentation because of their genetic similarities to man - how long would it be before humans would be crawling off the man-made assembly line? An even larger question asks if man should dare tinker with the work of the Creator.
Soon after, President Clinton issued a memorandum banning the use of federal funding for human cloning research. He also asked privately-funded laboratories and industry leaders to abide by a self-imposed moratorium on cloning research.
Presently, five states have laws that prohibit the cloning of human beings. Most all provide civil penalties for violations of these laws and California law calls for the revocation of professional licenses for cloning infractions. The state of Michigan has made cloning a criminal offense. Five other states are discussing human cloning in their respective Legislatures this year. Texas currently has no statutes that address the process of human genetic cloning.
From a policy standpoint the question is, should we allow human cloning in the State of Texas? I say no.
Monday, March 26, 2001, the Senate Jurisprudence Committee - for which I serve as Chairman - heard two bills that propose to prohibit the practice related to the cloning of humans. To this effect, I have authored Senate Bill 1209, that would make it a second degree felony for those who engage in activities that would be classified as human cloning. The bill would also provide a civil penalty of up to $10 million per incident. If passed into law, Senate Bill 1209 would also hold health care facilities liable for persons who practice human cloning therein.
Another bill, filed by my Dallas-area Senate colleague Jane Nelson, also addresses the practice of cloning human beings. Both bills were left pending in committee. Together, we plan to work toward a single, comprehensive bill that would delineate the specific actions pertinent to the act of human cloning.
I make this distinction because I do realize the marvelous advances to humankind that has been made possible through genetic research.
Over the past 20 years, cloning techniques have been invaluable in the breakthroughs for medicines and treatments for human maladies such as cancer, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, heart disease, kidney ailments and many others.
The legislation that I've proposed will not deter those efforts. I support continued scientific research, including that of cloning techniques, that would improve the overall health and quality of life for fellow Texans, Americans, and all of mankind.
One of the great things about being a member of the Legislature is in having an opportunity to have a voice in the myriad of issues that face the great State of Texas. And on this issue, there promises to be lively debate in these halls of Legislature. It's a debate that I'm looking forward to. But unequivocally, I don't think that the State of Texas should be in the business of cloning human beings.
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