DES MOINES, Iowa – Archbishop Jerome G. Hanus of Dubuque reacted with “deep sadness” after the Iowa House of Representatives Feb. 22 passed a bill to allow the cloning of human embryos for research.
“With deep sadness, I regret the recent action by the Iowa House and Senate to change Iowa’s law which banned human cloning,” he said.
The measure, H.R. 287, passed with a 52-46 vote. Fifty-one votes were needed for passage. One Republican apparently accidentally voted for the bill.
A week earlier the legislation moved swiftly through the Senate, passing with a 26-24 vote.
The bill moves to Gov. Chet Culver’s desk. He has said he will sign it.
“In recent weeks and months, I strove to explain Catholic teaching,” the archbishop said. “This teaching is inspired by Jesus’ call to respect every human being, especially the most vulnerable among us. Catholic thought also supports scientific research based on sound ethical principles.
“Experimentation on nonembryonic stem cells has produced many medical therapies which have helped persons suffering from a wide range of ailments. Let us pray that Iowa tax dollars will be used only for these efforts,” he said.
Recognizing the season of Lent is here, Archbishop Hanus said, “Lent is a time when we are called to intensified prayer, generous almsgiving and penitential fasting. I urge all members of the Catholic community to enter into this season with greater seriousness. Let us all do penance.”
“This was a hard-fought battle,” said Tom Chapman, director of the Iowa Catholic Conference. “We were up against a governor who made it a top priority to drop the ban on cloning, and leadership in both houses who also wanted to drop the ban.”
Chapman thanked all the people who worked hard to protect life at its earliest stage by trying to maintain the ban on cloning, including Iowa Right to Life, the Iowa Christian Alliance and Iowans for LIFE, which stands for Life Is for Everyone.
Many people lobbied legislators. Others sent e-mails to their legislators, and supporters packed the House chamber the night of Ash Wednesday for a public hearing.
The House vote was preceded by hours of debate, during which Republican Rep. Dave Heaton read from the floor a recent opinion article written by the archbishop.
At the Feb. 21 public hearing, which lasted three hours, Archbishop Hanus delivered his testimony in person. It was his first appearance at a legislative hearing in almost 10 years.
Although most legislators were not present, there was a standing-room-only crowd of people opposed to H.R. 287 in the balcony. Many wore pro-life shirts, a sticker encouraging legislators to vote no on the bill, and Knights of Columbus pins or emblems. For many of them, it was the first time they had ever attended a legislative hearing.
Archbishop Hanus asked state lawmakers to preserve life and to focus state resources on adult stem-cell research, which has proven results.
“This is such an important issue for Iowa,” said the archbishop. “The respect for human life is fundamental to every other liberty that we enjoy, every other blessing that comes to us from God and that is protected by the rights of our Constitution and our way of life.”
He received applause at the conclusion of his testimony.
At least three former legislators who were instrumental in passing the ban on cloning in 2002 made the trip back to the Capitol for the public hearing.
Former Democratic Rep. Mark Tremmel asked what had changed in the five years since the cloning ban had been passed that would make the legislators think the law ought to be changed.
He pointed out that embryonic stem-cell research was still possible in the state, that the proposed bill would legalize human cloning, and that not one medical treatment had been derived from embryonic stem-cell research.
Tremmel said his mother suffered from juvenile diabetes and his dad has a rare blood cancer.
“We need to find cures,” he said. “We can cure human beings without cloning human embryos.”