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Society Supports Legislation Allowing Cloning Technique to Enhance Medical Research, Banning Reproductive Cloning

(Washington, DC, 2/6/03) - The Society for Women's Health Research supports the Senate bill allowing the use of a cloning technique, somatic cell nuclear transfer, to enhance medical research, but banning reproductive cloning, introduced today by Senators Orrin Hatch (RUT), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Arlen Specter (R-PA), Edward Kennedy (DMA), Tom Harkin (D-IA), and Zell Miller (D-GA).

The Society believes the "Human Cloning Ban and Stem Cell Research Protection Act of 2003" (S. 303) strikes an appropriate balance between the need to prevent the cloning of a human being, reproductive cloning, and the need to protect important research opportunities, therapeutic cloning.

"This new legislation will protect therapeutic cloning research and provide strong safeguards against reproductive cloning," said Phyllis Greenberger, M.S.W., president and CEO of the Society. "It also provides severe criminal and financial penalties for reproductive cloning and requires strict research oversight."

The Society supports federal guidelines allowing therapeutic cloning research to move forward using somatic cell nuclear transfer, a technique to create custom stem cells for potential therapies for patients, while prohibiting its use for reproductive cloning, which the Society feels is unsafe and unethical.

The Society is concerned that a ban on somatic cell nuclear transfer for medical research could thwart research directed at finding cures and treatments for diseases and disabilities which solely, predominately or differently affect women. If this technology is banned for research purposes opportunities could be lost, including efforts that may lead to the development of cardiac muscle cells to treat heart attack victims and those with degenerative heart disease; pancreas cells to treat diabetes; blood cells to treat cancer, anemia, and immunodeficiencies; cells for use in gene therapy to treat genetic diseases, including Cystic Fibrosis, Tay-Sachs disease, schizophrenia and depression; cartilage cells for the treatment of osteoarthritis; and bone cells for the treatment of osteoporosis. Nuclear transplantation also may provide insight into treating other illnesses such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's diseases.

The bill includes important guidelines to ensure ethical research practices, including mandatory informed consent, ethics board review of research, and safety and privacy protections. It includes strict penalties for researchers who violate these ethics requirements, including imprisonment and fines for those who clone, or attempt to clone, a human being. The bill extends oversight to other areas, such as egg donation, and includes a limit of only 14 days as to when research can be conducted.

"We appreciate the work of Senators Hatch, Feinstein, Specter, Kennedy, Harkin and Miller" said Roberta Biegel, M.A., the Society's government relations director, "and we will continue to support their efforts."

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The Society for Women's Health Research is the nation's only not-for-profit organization whose sole mission is to improve the health of women through research. Founded in 1990, the Society brought to national attention the need for the appropriate inclusion of women in major medical research studies and the resulting need for more information about conditions affecting women. The Society advocates increased funding for research on women's health, encourages the study of sex differences that may affect the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of disease, and promotes the inclusion of women in medical research studies. Dr. Donnica Moore has been a member of the Society since 1990 and is a past member of its Board of Directors.

Created: 2/6/2003  -  Donnica Moore, M.D.

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