Did Obama Outlaw Human Cloning? Depends What You Mean by Cloning

Religious conservatives say Obama may fund human cloning, but scientists disagree.

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By Dan Gilgoff, God & Country

In lifting limits on federally funded embryonic stem cell research, did President Obama leave the door open to federally funded human cloning? No way, scientists say. Religious conservatives disagree.

I explain in my most recent column for U.S. News Weekly, which was just posted at usnews.com for all to see:

...[A] slew of conservative Christian groups have charged Obama with misleading the public on human cloning. They accuse him of saying he's taking a zero-tolerance approach when he's not. That's because the president may allow federal funding for somatic cell nuclear transfer, a cloning process in which scientists produce embryos to provide stem cells for research, not for implantation. Some religious groups argue that regardless of whether the embryos are created for research or for reproduction, it is cloning. But the cloned embryos have never been implanted in a woman's uterus, and researchers say that they are unlikely to develop into viable fetuses even if they were. Scientists generally don't consider the process to be human cloning. After all, nothing resembling a human being is ever produced.

But religious conservatives are charging that Obama is supporting human cloning if he allows somatic cell nuclear transfer to go forward with government money. Obama will make the decision after receiving recommendations on embryonic stem cell research guidelines from the National Institutes of Health this summer. "[Obama] may be for cloning, as long as the cloned embryo is destroyed," the Southern Baptist Convention's Baptist Press reported recently. "Opponents call it 'cloning and killing.' "

Scientists, meanwhile, say religious conservatives are confusing the public about human cloning. "No legitimate scientist wants to make human clones," says Arthur Caplan, director of the University of Pennsylvania's Center for Bioethics. "The only people that care about this are critics of embryonic stem cell research, who use it as a battering ram against the research. It is purely political."

Check out the full piece here.