By Emily Wagster Pettus
JACKSON – A longtime Mississippi lawmaker has filed a bill to ban human cloning, although he said he doesn’t know why he filed it, who requested it or even whether there’s any possibility of researchers trying to make clones.
“I get a lot of people who ask me to do stuff,” said Rep. Jeff Smith, R-Columbus.
His measure, House Bill 43, is nearly identical to one that passed the state House but died in the Senate in 2006.
Back then, opponents were worried that outlawing cloning would block the possibility of embryonic stem cell research that could lead to treatment or cures for some diseases.
The state’s only research hospital, the University of Mississippi Medical Center, is “absolutely not” conducting research that involves cloning, spokesman Jack Mazurak said this past week.
Pro-Life Mississippi says on its website that it opposes cloning, but Smith said he hasn’t heard from the group.
Smith first told The Associated Press that he was not sponsoring the anti-cloning bill. When an AP reporter showed him the bill on the legislative website, with his name listed as sponsor, Smith shook his head and said he didn’t know if a particular person or group had asked him to file it.
Asked if he supports his own bill, Smith said he doesn’t think it has much chance of becoming law.
“Obviously, I would vote for it if it made it to the House floor,” Smith said.
Smith said when the House passed a similar bill several years ago, “we were trying to be proactive” and get ahead of the issue in case scientists found a way to clone a human.
Tanya Britton, a Pro-Life Mississippi board member, referred questions about a cloning ban to Terri Herring of Pro Life America Network, another anti-abortion group. Herring said she pushed for a cloning ban a few years ago and would like one now but is not actively pushing for the bill this year.
Mazurak, the University of Mississippi Medical Center spokesman, said: “We don’t have any projects that have to do with cloning, in the least. The research going on at the University of Mississippi Medical Center focuses on the major health problems that residents of our state face.”
He said that includes research about heart disease, obesity, diabetes and cancer.
“I don’t think any of our research would surprise our legislators,” Mazurak said.
Rep. Steve Holland, D-Plantersville, opposed the previous attempts to ban cloning and said he hasn’t changed his mind.
“That is superfluous legislation,” Holland said. “It does not need to be a subject of debate in this Legislature. I hope it dies.”