US ban on human embryo patents draws praise
By Michelle Bauman
Washington D.C., Sep 24, 2011 / 05:44 pm (CNA).- Pro-life leaders welcomed the recent passage of the “Weldon Patent Ban,” which makes permanent a prohibition on patenting human embryos. Previously, the ban had to be annually renewed.
“Human kind should not be for sale at any state of development,” said Dr. Charmaine Yoest, president of Americans United for Life.
“Making permanent this important pro-life policy to ensure human organisms are never patented is a notable victory for Americans who believe that human beings – regardless of their stage of development – are not considered property to be licensed for financial gain.”
The Weldon ban was included as part of the 58-page America Invests Act, which was signed into law by President Obama on Sept. 19. The act makes various changes to laws regulating the activity of the U.S. Patents and Trademarks Office.
The key language is found in Section 33 of the bill. It reads, “Notwithstanding any other provision of this title, no patent may issue on a claim directed to or encompassing a human organism.”
The Weldon amendment was introduced into the bill by Republican Judiciary Committee Chairman Representative Lamar Smith (R-Texas).
It was also supported by House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), Congressman Chris Smith (R-N.J.) and other key lawmakers. Both the House and Senate approved the America Invests Act without a separate vote on the ban.
In 2003, pro-life doctor and Congressman Dave Weldon (R-Fla.) initially proposed a similar provision, which was approved by Congress. However, because the ban was attached to an annual appropriations bill, it had to be re-approved each fiscal year.
The passage of the Weldon Patent Ban will make that prohibition permanent.
“Enactment of the Weldon Amendment is not a cure-all, but it may serve as an important bulwark against some of the darker trends in contemporary biotechnology research,” said Douglas Johnson, legislative director for the National Right to Life Committee.
“This law recognizes that human life is not a commodity, and that a member of the human family can never be regarded as a mere invention, or as ‘intellectual property.’”
Dr. Yoest called passage of the ban an indication that “members of Congress are beginning to appreciate the discomfort people feel with life-altering technology.”
“Human beings should never be property or a commodity,” she said. “The intrinsic value of human life should not be measured in dollar signs.”