Did Obama Open the Door to Human Cloning With His Stem Cell Order?

Some conservative Christian groups charge Obama with misleading the public on cloning.

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Scientists say that rather than create embryos, as religious conservatives allege, somatic cell nuclear transfer creates embryolike cells that have little chance of survival were they to be implanted in a woman's uterus. "Nature would not consider this an embryo," says Jonathan Moreno, a University of Pennsylvania medical ethicist who oversaw bioethics issues for Obama's transition team.

In the case of Dolly, it took 277 tries to clone a sheep. Even if they wanted to produce a human clone, scientists say, it would be difficult to recruit the hundreds of women necessary to try to turn fused cells into a viable fetus. "Nobody wants to do this," says Moreno. "It has no purpose, and it's a red herring."

The NIH has until July to issue its recommendations. But both scientists and religious conservatives expect Obama to allow somatic cell nuclear transfer. So the question over whether the United States bans human cloning is likely to be a matter of perspective.