Former President Ford Backs Cloning
Fri Apr 26, 5:06 PM ET

WASHINGTON (AP) - Former President Ford is siding with those who want to allow cloning for medical research, saying the effort holds "enormous potential" for treating an array of diseases.

In a letter to President Bush (news - web sites) dated Thursday, Ford records his "strong opposition" to legislation that would outlaw cloning for research along with reproductive cloning, which is meant to produce a baby.

In both cases, an embryo is created from the cells of an existing human being.

In reproductive cloning, the embryo would be implanted into a womb, where it could develop into a fetus and then a person.

In cloning for research, sometimes called therapeutic cloning, stem cells would be extracted from the embryo a few days after it was created in a lab, and then used to develop treatments. The embryo would be destroyed.

While various animals have been cloned, no one has cloned a human being for any purpose.

Ford said in his letter that, like virtually all policy makers, he supports a ban on reproductive cloning but said "a more measured approach should be taken towards therapeutic cloning."

"Unlike reproductive cloning, this approach will never produce a cloned human being. But it could result in the development of lifesaving therapies that could improve the well-being of all Americans," Ford wrote.

He compared the cloning issue to controversy during his presidency over research involving recombinant DNA. This research was allowed to proceed with safeguards in place, he said, and led to advancements in the prevention and treatment of disease.

The Senate will soon consider a bill offered by Sens. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., and Mary Landrieu, D-La., that would ban all human cloning. The House approved a total ban last year.

Ford's letter was distributed Friday by the office of Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., who opposes the total ban.