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Policy: Stem Cell Wars Afternoon Update

The House appears to be on its way to approving legislation which would relax federal rules on stem cell research.  The debate on both sides has been emotional, as was to be expected.  Ever popular House Majority Leader Tom DeLay is quoted by the Associated Press as saying stem cell research equates to the "dismemberment of living, distinct human beings."  In an effort to sway the undecided, President Bush spoke out against the legislation again this afternoon. "This bill would take us across a critical ethical line," Bush said "by creating new
incentives for the ongoing destruction of emerging human life."

In a carefully orchestrated demonstration of political spontaniety, the White House arranged to have a group of children adopted through fertility clinics appear with the president, all wearing t-shirts which say "former embryo."

UPDATE: As most people were predicting, the House passed the Castle-DeGette bill by a vote of 238-194, which is not a wide enough margin to withstand a presidential veto.  The alternative legislation favored by some Republican leaders, which encourages stem cell research using umbilical cord blood, passed 430-1. Rep. Ron Paul of Texas was the lone dissenter.

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  1. As a widower and former-caregiver to a cancer patient, I support Senate Bill S. 471, embryonic stem cell research.
    An embryo “is not” a fetus, but a cluster of about 150 cells which forms a few days after the joining of a sperm and egg, and is no larger than the period at the end of this sentence. Within the center of this cluster are the stem cells, which are like biological blank slates. These cells have the potential to become any of the 200 kinds of cells that make up the human body. Embryonic stem cell research could one day be used to treat people living in pain with serious illnesses such as spinal injuries, Alzheimers, strokes, brain injuries, Parkinsons, diabetes and heart defects.
    The bill passed by the House, does not support the creation of embryos for research. In fact, it contains safeguards designed to ensure it will only apply to these tens of thousands of embryos which will otherwise be incinerated.
    Those tens of thousands of surplus embryos come from couples having trouble getting pregnant who undergo in vitro fertilizaton. Once the woman becomes pregnant, the leftover embryos are either left in storage indefinitely or destroyed as medical waste. The estimated 400,000 other surplus embryos will otherwise be incinerated. These are the cells the House voted to allow to be used for stem cell research.
    I certainly agree with Sen. Arlen Specter’s statement that “Bush’s promise to veto any relaxation of his restrictions on funding stem cell research is an affront to millions of people with diseases that might be treated or even cured with federal dollars propelling the science.”
    The President has advocated scientists using adult bone marrow and umbilical cord blood instead of embryonic stem cells. However, umbilical and embryonic stem cells “are not” interchangeable. Current evidence suggests that adult stem cells have markedly restricted differentiation potential. Stem cells derived from bone marrow and umbilical cord blood have less potential than those from embryos. Adult stem cell lines are difficult to work with and cannot develop or differentiate into all types of cells like embryonic stem cells can.
    Stem cell research received a big boost last year after the deaths of both President Ronald Reagan and actor Christopher Reeves. Even Former First Lady Nancy Reagan personally called lawmakers to express her support before the recent congressional vote. A majority of Americans morally approve of stem cell research and a majority of registered Republicans said “they believe embryonic stem cell research generates significant medical and scientific advances.”
    Congress has an obligation to allow continued central government financing of embryonic stem cell research.

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