Sound Science: The Stem Cell Debate

This afternoon the Senate will likely pass H.R. 810, a bill whose passage would mean new hope for millions of Americans who suffer from debilitating diseases and who understand the possibilities that expanded stem cell research has to offer.

From The Washington Post:

The legislation in question, which the House has passed, would allow federal funding for research on stem cell lines derived from frozen embryos that are stored at fertility clinics and slated for destruction. The president's policy allows for federal funding of research only on stem cell lines that existed as of Aug. 9, 2001, the date he announced his policy. Bush said such a policy was reasonable because additional embryos would not have to be destroyed to create stem cells.

Since President Bush signed strict restrictions into law that limited the stem cells available for study the scientific community has been hindered:

Although the so-called ``presidential lines'' continue to grow and be distributed, some researchers say the number of government-approved cell lines is inadequate.

``We're still going to be needing new cell lines under new conditions all the time in order to better understand what the properties of these cells are,'' says Kevin Eggan, a Harvard researcher, who spoke at a July 1 press conference at the International Society for Stem Cell Research meeting in Toronto.

According to scientists, including 80 Nobel Laureates, embryonic stem cell research has the potential to unlock the doors to treatments and cures to numerous diseases, including diabetes, Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's, Lou Gehrig's disease, multiple sclerosis, cancer, and spinal cord injuries.

In 2001, before Bush signed restrictions into law, they wrote to the President:

"Some have suggested that adult stem cells may be sufficient to pursue all treatments for human disease.  It is premature to conclude that adult stem cells have the same potential as embryonic stem cells  -- and that potential will almost disease to disease.  Current evidence suggests that adult stem cells have markedly restricted differentiation potential.  Therefore, for disorders that prove not to be treatable with adult stem cells, impeding human pluripotent stem cell research risks unnecessary delay for millions of patients who may die or endure needless suffering  while the effectiveness of adult stem cells is evaluated."

In addition, 591 Organizations - Scientific Societies, Research Universities, Health Organizations, Patient Advocacy Groups, and Others - wrote to Members of the Senate today saying that Only H.R. 810, which provides for funding of embryonic stem cells, will advance stem cell research.  

"Of the bills being considered simultaneously, only H.R. 810 will move stem cell research forward in this country."

Finally, nearly three-quarters of Americans support embryonic stem cell research.   A national poll, conducted by the Opinion Research Corporation, found that 72 percent of Americans support embryonic stem cell research, up from 68 percent in 2005, and 70 percent want the Senate to pass a bill providing federal funding.

Despite this wide-spread support, despite the possibilities and the hope this research offers, the President is expected to veto this legislation.  He will veto potentially life-saving legislation to please a minority of the extremely conservative religious right-wing of the Republican party.  He will veto legislation that offers hope to millions; he will put politics before science, before the welfare of the American people.

In addition to the majority of Americans who support federally funded research, some of the prominent groups in support of this bill are:

Alzheimer's Association
American Association for the Advancement of Science
American Diabetes Association
American Society for Reproductive Medicine
Association of American Medical Colleges
Biotechnology Industry Association
Christopher Reeve Paralysis Foundation
National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges, National Organization for Women
National Women's Political Caucus

The bill is opposed by:

Christian Coalition
Concerned Women for America
National Right to Life Committee
Traditional Values Coalition
U. S. Conference of Catholic Bishops
Family Research Council

Compare those two lists and you see a stark contrast between sound science and pure ideology.  The President should not use his first veto to block the pursuit of science, but it's likely that he will.  The House and the Senate will have done the right thing with the passage of this bill, which puts the health of Americans, and the health of their families, first.  In contrast, the President will have failed us again, by pushing aside facts and figures in favor of an extreme ideology which leaves millions of Americans and their families behind.

Tags: Congress, religious right, Research, Science, Stem Cell (all tags)

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