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11/16/2007

Where the leading presidential candidates stand on cloning

Now that cloned monkey embryos have been created, the issue of creating cloned human embryos for the purposes of research and potential therapies moves back to the forefront. As a representative of the National Catholic Bioethics Center recently told the New York Times, “I certainly think that this represents a new threshold in the entire discussion.” If so, it will be interesting to see how it plays out during the presidential campaign (remember the role that embryonic stem cell research played the last time out). So where do the leading candidates for president stand on the issue? A breakdown of the front runners follows after the jump. Like almost all politicians, each of the candidates appears to be against reproductive cloning of humans. If you’ve found any information to bring this assessment into greater focus, please pass it along.

Rudy Giuliani
Giuliani said during the May 3, 2007 Republican debate that he supported expansion of federal funds for stem cell research as long as “We’re not creating life in order to destroy it, as long as we’re not having human cloning, and we limit it to that.” That would seem to indicate he’s against the creation of cloned human embryos for the purpose of extracting stem cells, but there’s doubt among cultural conservatives. As the National Review’s Romesh Ponnuru recently noted, Giuliani has not “pledged to veto any legislation authorizing the cloning of human embryos.”
bottom line: Giuliani is probably against therapeutic cloning

Mitt Romney
We’ve been over Romney’s “conversion” on this group of issues before. The short story, according to Romney: a meeting with Douglas Melton in 2004 prompted the then-Governor of Massachusetts to realize that our society has dangerously “cheapened life.” (Melton told the Boston Globe his memory of the meeting differs from Romney’s version.) And with that realization, Romney shifted positions on a number issues, including cloning. In a 2005 Globe editorial Romney wrote that he was against the creation of cloned human embryos.
bottom line: Romney says he’s against therapeutic cloning

John McCain
McCain has set himself apart from the rest of the Republican field by offering broad support for embryonic stem cell research as long as the embryos are left over from fertility treatment (he voted for legislation that included these guidelines earlier this year). But McCain has also stated that he would like to see human cloning of all types banned. And he’s a co-sponsor on the Brownback bill that would make human cloning illegal. His web site also includes this position.
bottom line: as evidenced by words and actions, McCain is against therapeutic cloning

Mike Huckabee
Huckabee’s web site states “I believe in using existing stem cell lines for research, but I do not believe in creating life for the sole purpose of destroying it.” And in 2003 as governor of Arkansas he signed a law (pdf) banning human cloning of all types.
bottom line: it appears that Huckabee is against therapeutic cloning

Hillary Clinton
In an interview with the New York Times in October, Clinton said that therapeutic cloning “is within the ethical framework” that NIH developed during her husband’s administration, a framework which she supports. But as the Wired Science blog notes, Senator Clinton’s comments leave some room for interpretation. In 2001, Clinton co-sponsored a bill that would have prohibited human cloning for reproduction, but kept the door open for using it for stem cell research.
bottom line: Clinton probably supports therapeutic cloning

Barack Obama
During his time in both the Illinois and US senates Obama has been a supporter of embryonic stem cell research. But he’s also made statements indicating he’s against “human cloning” — whether this opposition includes therapeutic cloning is unclear. While in the Illinois senate, Obama voted against (pdf) a 2001 bill that would have banned all types of cloning in the state.
bottom line: Obama might support therapeutic cloning (if you have further evidence, please pass it along)

John Edwards
While running as the Democratic candidate for vice president in 2004 Edwards said he and John Kerry opposed reproductive cloning, but supported therapeutic cloning. Edwards’ current web site includes a mention that he’s in favor of “strict ethical guidelines to prevent human cloning.”
bottom line: it appears that Edwards supports therapeutic cloning

-Greg Dahlmann

Earlier on blog.bioethics.net:
+ Monkey cloning follow up
+ Art Caplan at MSNBC: Monkey cloning a reason to pause, not panic
+ Return of the clones

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