In the latest twist in the cloning debate in the US state of Louisiana, amendments to a bill that would ban all forms of human cloning have been rejected by the Senate because of what is seen to be 'conflicting' language. The bill (SB 873, sponsored by Senator Arthur Lentini) originally proposed to ban cloning embryos for research purposes as well as reproductive cloning, subject to a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and up to a $10 million fine. The Senate approved it in its original form last month.
On Tuesday, Louisiana's House of Representatives voted 60-40 to approve a suggested amendment to the bill, which would have allowed research to take place in the state on embryonic stem cells (ES cells) derived from cloned embryos, as long as the embryos had not actually been cloned in Louisiana. However, the House left untouched a provision of the original bill saying that cloned embryos could not be imported into the state.
Senator Lentini urged the Senate to approve the bill, saying that he was concerned that it would not survive the committee stage that it now has to undergo, particularly as that committee would be organised by Senate president Don Hines, a supporter of ES cell research. But Hines said that the committee must look at it as the amendment had 'created a flawed bill that needs rewriting'.
Two other cloning bills are also currently undergoing debate in Louisiana. One (HB 803), sponsored by Gary Beard and similar to Lentini's bill, is waiting to be heard by the Senate. Another (SB 74), sponsored by Don Hines, is waiting to be heard by the House, having already been approved by the Health and Welfare Committee of the Senate and, later, the full Senate. Hines' bill would prohibit reproductive cloning but allow embryos to be cloned for ES cell research. According to newspaper reports, both legislative bodies must approve any changes to legislation by Monday, the final day of the current legislative session. But it has not yet been decided whether to bring up Hines' bill for discussion in the House, according to state representative Eric LaFleur.