Lawmakers Want President Bush to Fund Embryonic Stem Cell Research

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Apr 29, 2004   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Lawmakers Want President Bush to Fund Embryonic Stem Cell Research

by Steven Ertelt Editor
April 29, 2004

Washington, DC ( — A letter sent to President Bush that has been signed by over 200 members of Congress demands that the president reverse his policy prohibiting federal funding of new embryonic stem cell research.

The president’s policy, put in place in August 2001, essentially denied almost all funding of such destructive research.

Although there were reportedly 78 stem cell lines available for federally funded research when Bush signed the policy, fewer than 20 stem cell lines currently are available for federally funded research, according to an NIH analysis.

Scientists have found most of those embryonic stem cells unusable because mouse cells were combined with human cells to induce growth in most of the stem cell lines.

That de facto prohibition on federal funding led to the letter lawmakers sent Bush on Wednesday.

"Scientists have told us that since this policy went into effect more than two years ago, we have learned much more about why the embryonic stem cell lines eligible for federal funding will not be suitable to effectively promote this research," the letter says.

Lawmakers want scientists to be allow to conduct research on the more than 400,000 human embryos "leftover" from in vitro fertilization that remain frozen and unused.

But pro-life groups say those are unique human beings whose lives deserve to be protected, not destroyed for research.

Lawmakers say the leftover embryos will be destroyed anyway, but pro-life groups point to adopt agencies that have sprung up that are allowing parents to implant the human embryos and adopt the child after birth.

The letter received signatures from 206 members, including 36 Republicans, some of whom are pro-life on issues such as abortion and euthanasia.

"I’m pro-life. Been pro-life for 14 years. But this is an area in which we can save lives," Rep. Randy Cunningham (R-CA) told the Washington Post, adding, "The bottom line is, these cells are going to be thrown away" if they are not used for research.

The letter claims that embryonic stem cell research has the potential to "treat and better understand deadly and disabling diseases that affect more than 100 million Americans, … [w]e would very much like to work with you to modify the current embryonic stem cell policy so that it provides this area of research the greatest opportunity to lead to the treatments and cures we are hoping for."

The letter says American scientists are leaving the U.S. for other countries to conduct research because of our President Bush’s restrictions on funding.

But pro-life Rep Dave Weldon, a Florida congressman and doctor who sponsored a ban on all forms of human cloning that passed in the House, says "this controversial research has all the promise its supporters claim, let the private sector fund it."

"Taxpayers shouldn’t have to pay for what many think is unethical research," Weldon told the Post.

Pro-life groups point out that no patients have yet been cured or had the effects of their diseases limited from embryonic stem cells. On the other hand, hundreds of patients have been successfully treated with adult stem cells that come from more ethical sources.

The latest studies from doctors in Pittsburgh and Argentina show that adult stem cells repaired diseases heart tissue and increased the amount of blood pumped by the hearts of such patients.

The group Do No Harm, which opposes embryonic stem cell research, said in response to the letter, "Instead of throwing more federal dollars into embryonic stem cell research, the administration should expand its support for adult stem cell research — research that is producing real results with real patients"

If President Bush does not reverse his policy, and it is expected he won’t, Representatives Diana DeGette (D-CO) and Michael Castle (R-DE) say they will introduce legislation to overturn Bush’s policy.

DeGette says that, in addition to the members who signed the letter, she believes "another couple dozen" lawmakers would support such a bill.

But White House spokesman Trent Duffy said that Bush does not plan to reverse his policy. "The president continues to believe strongly we should not cross a fundamental moral line by funding or encouraging the destruction of human embryos," Duffy told the Denver Post newspaper.

Presumptive Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry says he supports the destructive research and would overturn Bush’s anti-funding policy if elected.

Related web sites:
Do No Harm –