2 Orthodox Jewish Groups Back Therapeutic Cloning

WASHINGTON, D.C., MARCH 14, 2002 (Zenit.org).- The largest Orthodox Jewish organizations in the United States declared their support for allowing scientists to clone human embryos for medical research, the Washington Post reported.

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The U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation last year that would ban all human cloning, and the Senate may vote next month on an identical bill backed by the Bush administration. The Catholic Church and many Protestant groups also support a ban.

However, two senators have introduced bills that would allow the cloning of embryos for stem cell research while prohibiting attempts to implant a cloned embryo in a woman´s womb to produce a cloned baby.

That is the approach endorsed Tuesday by the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, which represents nearly 1,000 synagogues, and the Rabbinical Council of America, which consists of more than 1,000 Orthodox rabbis.

«We must be careful to distinguish between cloning for therapeutic purposes — which ought to be pursued, and cloning for reproductive purposes — which we oppose,» the groups said in a joint statement.

Edward Reichman, an Orthodox rabbi and physician at New York´s Einstein College of Medicine, said the Jewish position is that a «fertilized embryo in a petri dish does not have the status of human life,» and if such an embryo can be used to cure diseases and save lives, «that is something we would welcome with open arms.»

The dominant branches of American Judaism, the Reform and Conservative movements, have not yet adopted positions on cloning but appear likely to follow the Orthodox stand.

Therapeutic cloning involves growing embryos in laboratories and destroying them after a few days, in order to remove their stem cells.

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