United Press International
News. Analysis. Insight.
April 9, 2002
New cloning controversy roils Italy
ROME -- Several key Italian lawmakers are calling for a ban on cloning technology in
the wake of the controversy over an Italian fertility expert's claim he has assisted a
woman who now is pregnant with the first cloned embryo.
Severino Antinori, a Rome-based fertility expert, is in the center of the international
spotlight after he was said to have told a reporter at a fertility conference in the United
Arab Emirates that an Arab patient was eight weeks pregnant with the world's first
cloned human. Antinori first made headlines eight years ago when he helped a
62-year-old woman conceive a child.
Antinori since has declined to confirm or deny the report and the person answering
the phone at his Rome offices told United Press International the controversial
physician would not comment. The claims, however, have captured the attention of
political and spiritual leaders worldwide.
A move by Italian lawmakers to ban even the technology used for cloning is the first
concrete action proposed after Antinori's reported announcement.
According to an official with the Northern League -- the third-largest party in the coalition
led by media tycoon and conservative politician Silvio Berlusconi -- a bill is in the works
that would ban some of the basic technology necessary to clone human beings.
Although the spokesman said the proposed law was not the official policy of the ruling coalition, it has a great deal of support in
Parliament, where several key lawmakers -- including members of all of the ruling coalition's major parties and some opposition
lawmakers -- have made public statements condemning Antinori's reported cloning.
"There are few in Parliament who would support the idea of human cloning for reproductive reasons and we are in the process of
developing a framework that will make sure that if such an unethical event takes place it will do so without Italy being part of it," the
Northern League official told UPI. "This measure could be passed quickly ... because so many lawmakers are appalled at the reports of
Italy already has a legal ban against human cloning. However, the official said the proposed ban is aimed at preventing someone like
Antinori from conducting his research in Italy, then slipping out of the country to actually perform the procedure.
The Italian media so far has treated Antinori's reported claims with suspicion. One of Antinori's former colleagues said it might be a
public relations stunt from a man who has grown accustomed to the spotlight.
"I don't believe the technology to successfully clone a human being exists, though we are getting closer and closer," said the physician at
Rome's San Giovanni Hospital, who asked not to be further identified. "It would not be surprising to find that when it happens that
(Antinori) does it, but now it is too soon for the reports to be true."
Meanwhile, U.S. Sen. Bill Frist, R-Tenn., set the stage for an upcoming Senate debate about a potential ban on human cloning in the
United States by calling Tuesday for "a comprehensive ban on all human cloning." Frist, also a medical doctor, said in a statement that
human cloning was dangerous and unethical.
The U.S. House of Representatives already has passed a bill to ban human cloning, and President George Bush has said he supports
In Vatican City, a spokesman for Pope John Paul II told UPI the Holy See stands by its long-time view that cloning in general was
"contrary to God's will."
Other world leaders have taken similar stances in the wake of Antinori's reported announcement.
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