United Kingdom Moves to Close Cloning Loophole

But Officials Still Back “Therapeutic” Practice

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LONDON, NOV. 22, 2001 (Zenit.org).- A bill explicitly banning human reproduction through cloning was published by the United Kingdom government today after it passed a first reading unopposed in the House of Lords on Wednesday, BBC reported.

Ministers say their aim is to close a recently exposed loophole in the current law that could be used to justify any unlicensed cloning experiments.

The bill, which should pass all stages in the Commons on Nov. 29, makes it a criminal offence “to place in the womb of a woman a human embryo that has been created other than by fertilization.”

The government action was deemed necessary after anti-abortion campaigners, the Pro-Life Alliance, won a High Court ruling last week that exposed a major deficiency in the legislation covering embryology research.

This flaw centered on the legal definition of an embryo — the union of an egg and a sperm. Because a clone is produced in a different way, the judge ruled that current regulations did not embrace the new technology.

This loophole, in theory, could allow someone to conduct cloning experiments without the licensed permission of the Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority, the body that is supposed to oversee this area of research.

Government Ministers hope that by closing the loophole, researchers will then be properly licensed to carry out a more limited form of cloning — so-called therapeutic cloning — that aims to develop replacement cells to treat degenerative diseases. The Catholic Church opposes all human cloning.

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