Bill to ban cloning worries some lawmakers
By ALISA ULFERTS, Times Staff Writer
TALLAHASSEE -- The Florida House on Tuesday voted to ban human cloning, but not before Democrats warned that the bill could have a chilling effect on research and possibly some fertility treatments.
A majority of House members, including some Republicans, tried to change the bill (HB 805) to leave no doubt that in vitro fertilization would be exempt from the bill, but they fell short of the two-thirds majority needed to change a bill on its final vote.
Some lawmakers feared the bill, which passed 70-42, could limit research to cure diseases like Parkinson's because it limits what can be done in a lab with a human egg.
Gov. Jeb Bush said he wants to sort out "deep moral implications" in the bill before deciding whether to sign it. During the debate, Rep. Loranne Ausley revealed she had a miscarriage last week after becoming pregnant through in vitro fertilization.
"What you probably don't know is I can't get pregnant without in vitro fertilization," said Ausley, D-Tallahassee. "Me and thousands of other families across Florida may not be able to have families" if the bill becomes law, she said.
Although bill sponsor Rep. Jim Kallinger, R-Winter Park, assured her his bill had nothing to do with fertility treatments, Ausley said she wanted that assurance written into the bill.
"The comfort level is not there. I'm voting against it," said Rep. Ken Littlefield, R-Dade City.
But Kallinger said lawmakers' concerns were unnecessary.
"The bill prohibits human cloning -- no more, no less," Kallinger said. "I would suggest you act responsibly and act accordingly."
Violations would carry a jail term of at least 10 years, plus civil fines of at least $1-million.
There was a flurry of legislation in Congress and many statehouses across the country after an announcement last November by Massachusetts-based Advanced Cell Technology that it had cloned the first human embryo.
The bill's Senate companion (SB 1164) has one more committee stop, but it has passed out of four other committees already, and senators could agree to take up the House bill instead.
-- The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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