WASHINGTON – Utah Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch is supporting research cloning, putting him squarely at odds with President Bush and the rest of Utah's congressional delegation.
Hatch told reporters Tuesday that, after weeks of soul-searching and research, he has aligned himself with those that support using the science behind cloning in attempts to discover new therapies and cures for some incurable diseases.
"I come to this issue with a strong pro-life, pro-family record. But I also strongly believe that a critical part of being pro-life is to support measures that help the living," he said at a press conference on Capitol Hill.
At the heart of the technology are stem cells — undifferentiated cells (like those in an embryo's early stages) that have not begun to develop into specific organs or other body parts. Scientists think that by manipulating these cells they can be used to help cure Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, leukemia, diabetes and a wave of other neurological and degenerative diseases.
Critics of cloning, like the National Right to Life Committee, cite the National Institutes of Health and its expert panel, which says that the group of undifferentiated cells produced during the procedure amounts to a life.
Hatch disagrees, saying the cloning procedure lacks one element essential to life.
"Some, including many in the right-to-life community, oppose embryonic cloning research on the grounds that the new cell created in the laboratory becomes a new human life at the moment it is electronically activated," he said. "That is a view I respect, but with which I disagree. At the core of my support for regenerative medicine research is my belief that human life requires, and begins, in a mother's nurturing womb."
Hatch continues to oppose human cloning, but said Congress must not "stand in the way of scientific advances that hold the promise of treatments and cures for literally millions of Americans."
Hatch said he will oppose a Bush-backed, anti-cloning bill introduced by Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan. A compromise bill is in the process of being crafted.