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Stem Cell Debate Returns to Senate

Bill Bans Cloned Babies but Allows Embryonic Disease Study

Limits on Stem Cells continued...

Hatch and other backers predicted that they would secure the 60 votes necessary to overcome any procedural hurdles in the Senate. But the bill would still face likely opposition from President Bush, who has shown no signs of expanding his 2001 policy.

"We think we can get 60 votes in the U.S. Senate, and if we do it'll put a lot of pressure on everybody to do something about this," Hatch tells WebMD.

Douglas Johnson, the chief lobbyist for the National Right to Life Council, an antiabortion group, says efforts to ban all cloning also have wide congressional support and that Thursday's bill "has no chance to become law."

A Policy 'Patchwork'

New federal rules on stem cell research would smooth what has become a "patchwork" of state laws that are draining scientists and research money from some jurisdictions toward others, says Sen. Dianne Feinstein (Calif.), the bill's lead Democratic sponsor.

Four states -- California, New Jersey, Wisconsin, and Massachusetts -- have laws funding embryonic stem cell research, while five others, including Arkansas, Iowa, and Michigan, outlaw all cloning studies. More than 20 other states are considering limits on the research.

Supporters also argue that their bill was needed to stem a tide of U.S. researchers who are fleeing to other countries where stem cell research is permitted. "Embryonic stem cell research is going to go on in the world one way or the other," Feinstein says.

Sam Brownback, (R-Kan.), who supports banning all forms of cloning research, said he will "aggressively oppose Thursday's bill. Brownback tells WebMD that embryo research is "unnecessary" because dozens of clinical trials using adult stem cells or cells from umbilical cord blood are in progress.

"We are getting cures in an ethical fashion," he says.

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