WASHINGTON, D.C.--President Bill Clinton today sent a memo to federal agencies prohibiting them from funding experiments on human cloning. The ban doesn't change existing policy at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which is already barred from funding research on human embryos. But in remarks made earlier today at the White House, Clinton asked the private sector to adhere to a voluntary moratorium on such research.
Reacting to a report in Nature last week that Scottish researchers had cloned a sheep from a cell taken from an adult ewe, Clinton said, "Each human life is unique, born of a miracle that reaches beyond laboratory science. I believe we must respect this profound gift and resist the temptation to replicate ourselves."
NIH has had an unwritten moratorium on research involving human embryos and in vitro fertilization since the early 1980s. Clinton made the prohibition explicit in December 1994, when he forbade the agency from funding the creation of human embryos for research. Congress ruled out all human embryo research funded by the entire Department of Health and Human Services, NIH's parent agency, in language in the 1996 and 1997 appropriations bills. But NIH isn't the sole federal sponsor of medical research--the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Defense, for instance, are major underwriters, too. "I want to make it absolutely clear that no federal funds will be used for human cloning," Clinton stated in his directive.
Clinton also asked the private sector, which funds studies on in vitro fertilization, to refrain from research on human cloning at least until the National Bioethics Advisory Commission finishes a review of the legal and ethical issues surrounding the stunning technique.