The days when researchers “only” wanted to derive embryonic stem cells solely from embryos leftover from IVF treatments that were doomed to be discarded anyway, are long gone. Last year, New Jersey legalized human cloning, implantation of cloned embryos into wombs, and gestation through the ninth month. In the last two years, Illinois, Delaware, Maryland, and Texas, tried unsuccessfully to legalize the same thing. Current legislation in Washington would also permit cloning through the ninth month, as I reported two days ago. Now, it turns out, Minnesota also has a cloning bill pending that would explicitly legalize human cloning (somatic cell nuclear transfer), and permit implantation of cloned embryos and their gestation through the ninth month for purposes of obtaining stem cells. Specifically, Senate File No 730 states:
“The policy of the state of Minnesota is that research involving the derivation and use of human embryonic stem cells, human embryonic germ cells, and human adult stem cells from ANY SOURCE, including SOMATIC CELL NUCLEAR TRANSFER, shall be permitted and that full consideration of the ethical and medical implications of this research be given.” (My emphasis.)
Notably, the bill does NOT outlaw implanting embryos–whether cloned or natural–into natural or artificial uteri for purposes of gestating late stage embryos or fetuses for use in deriving stem cells. This means implantation of human embryos for research and destruction would be legal, since, by definition, that which is not illegal is legal. It is also important to note that embryos can only be maintained in Petri dishes for up to about 10 days. Human embryonic germ cells, which are specifically referenced in S.F. 730, are derived from gestated embryos at between 6-8 weeks of development. Moreover, adult stem cells can be obtained from fetuses, infants, and children, as well as adults.
Put this altogether, and if this bill passes in its current form, Minnesota would explicitly permit human cloning, implantation of cloned or natural embryos, and their destruction for obtaining stem cells through the ninth month.
This bill marks the seventh attempt of which I am aware, to permit radical research on human life well beyond the Petri dish stage. This can’t be done yet technologically, but the legal groundwork is clearly being laid today for very radical work. e.g. fetal farming, that is anticipated to be done tomorrow. Indeed, anyone who still believes that therapeutic cloning and embryonic stem cell research is intended to be restricted to leftover embryos from IVF procedures and cloned embryos in Petri dishes is simply not paying attention to the facts.