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Stem Cell Bill Research Bill Approved by the House

On January 11, the House approved, 253-174, the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act (H.R. 3), sponsored by Reps. Diana DeGette (D-CO) and Mike Castle (R-DE). The bill would allow the Department of Health and Human Services to use federal funding to conduct and support human embryonic stem cell research. Currently, federal funding for embryonic stem cell research is limited to cells derived on or before August 9, 2001.

Under the bill, embryonic stem cells could be used for research if they met the following conditions:

  • the stem cells were derived from human embryos donated from in vitro fertilization clinics, were created for the purposes of fertility treatment, and were in excess of the clinical need of the individuals seeking such treatment;
  • prior to consideration of embryo donation, and through consultation with the individuals seeking fertility treatment, it had been determined that the embryos would never be implanted in a woman and would otherwise be discarded; and
  • the individuals seeking fertility treatment donated the embryos with written informed consent and without receiving financial or other incentives to make the donation.“It has been nearly two years since the House of Representatives passed the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act in an attempt to lift the crippling ban on lifesaving research,” said Rep. DeGette. She continued, saying, “Over 71 percent of the public now supports this research, a stunning 20 percent increase since the vote in 2005…Great progress in research is being conducted overseas, out of the hands and out of the oversight of our distinguished scientists here at home…We were once on the cutting edge of this groundbreaking research, but we have now effectively handed over the reins to those outside our borders while our own researchers remain tethered by a restrictive six-year-old policy and we still have no federal ethical standards over this research. But there is one thing that has not changed since we last considered this bill. Millions of people in this country and around the world are still stricken by disease, accidents are still leaving people paralyzed, too many people are becoming victims of Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, heart disease, sickle cell anemia, diabetes, and many other debilitating diseases. Cancer hasn’t been cured…Well, here we are again, and here we are going to come time after time until this bill passes. This bill will become law, and we will not tire in our efforts until it does for the millions of Americans who suffer from diseases.”

    Rep. Bart Stupak (D-MI) said, “As elected representatives, we have been cloaked with America’s legislative responsibility. With this responsibility we are entrusted to determine the ethical and moral bounds of scientific research and to determine what value America places on human life. I believe our work today must reflect America’s belief that all life has value, from the human embryo to those in the twilight of their life. We must not legislate shortcuts for one life over another…Where do we as a nation draw the ethical and moral line on scientific research as to when life begins, and at which stage of human life are we willing to sacrifice one life to promote the life of another? The proponents do not allow us, as America’s elected representatives, to draw the ethical and moral line for human life…Let me be clear: I am committed to funding ethical scientific research that will unlock the origins of diseases and develop cures that can help my constituents. We cannot, however, let science leapfrog our ethics. I urge Members to protect life at all stages and vote ‘no’ on H.R. 3.”

    “I stand with 500 of America’s most respected research groups in support of this bill. The bottom line is that this bill is about saving and improving lives,” said Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite (R-FL). “As a mother and grandmother, I fear that the untapped potential of stem cell research may be falling by the wayside. Let us remember, only when the embryo is implanted in a uterus to grow can life be sustained. Unless a couple has an option of donating remaining embryos, a failure to pay storage fees means the embryos will be disposed of as medical waste. Listen up, America. H.R. 3 gives us a choice. We can use the promise of embryonic stem cell research to save lives, or we can let that promise be thrown away. Millions of people around the country support this life-affirming and life-enhancing research. People with cancer, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s want this bill to pass. Your friends and neighbors and your constituents back home want this bill to pass because it gives hope where hope doesn’t exist now.”

    Rep. Jean Schmidt (R-OH), who opposed the bill said, “H.R. 3 would use federal tax dollars, tax dollars of hardworking Americans to fund the destruction of human life. This research is already permitted. The debate is not about stopping it but about who is going to pay for it. To my colleagues who support this legislation, I share your concern for finding future medical treatments to improve lives, but disagree with your focus on embryonic stem cell research. There are other promising techniques to produce stem cells, techniques that do not involve the destruction of human life. Moreover, these techniques have actually achieved results. Cord blood has saved the lives of people with leukemia and other blood-related diseases. This week a series of encouraging research reports reveal the promise of stem cells obtained from amniotic fluid. These share the characteristics of embryonic stem cells, but obtaining them does not damage the embryo. We should focus on funding alternative sources of stem cell research, something we can all support…Let’s be aggressive in looking at alternative ways to save human lives through stem cell research, ways that do not compromise our moral values and the lives of the unborn.”

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