Pro-Life Lawmakers Chided for Signing Embryonic Stem Cell Research Letter

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jun 16, 2004   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Pro-Life Lawmakers Chided for Signing Embryonic Stem Cell Research Letter

by Steven Ertelt Editor
June 16, 2004

Washington, DC ( — A group of pro-life lawmakers are drawing criticism from a leading pro-life advocate. They signed a recent letter sent by members of the Senate to ask President Bush to rescind his restrictions on embryonic stem cell research.

Dr. James Dobson, founder and chairman of Focus on the Family, said he was "disappointed" that 58 members of the Senate signed the letter insisting that Bush reverse his decision and require taxpayer dollars to fund research that involves the destruction of unborn human beings days into their lives.

However, Dobson was also distressed that several members of the Senate, who normally vote pro-life on abortion and end-of-life issues, also added their names to the missive.

Dobson said that Senators Orrin Hatch of Utah, Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, and Thad Cochran and Trent Lott of Mississippi "seem to have lost their moral compasses."

"It is especially regrettable that the list of signatories to the letters included supposedly pro-life members of the Senate," Dobson said.

"Their demand, if implemented, would result in the deaths of countless human embryonic lives. Lowering that standard is also likely to lead to human cloning and harvesting of body parts from babies conceived for this purpose," Dr. Dobson explained.

Alexander said it’s time for the Bush administration to review and expand the policy.

Some members who oppose Bush’s August 2001 decision against federal funding of embryonic research say they will sponsor legislation that would overturn his decision.

Should a bill come up before a Senate, pro-life lawmakers may consider a filibuster. With 58 members backing the letter to Bush and 60 votes needed to break a filibuster, a cloture vote to end debate on the legislation would become a close battle.

Dobson said that Dr. D.G. McKay, a stem cell researcher at the National Institute for Neurological Diseases and Stroke, called the promises of miracle cures from embryonic stem cells a "fairy tale."

Dobson said those who signed the letter have "ganged up on those least able to speak for themselves. The American people deserve better from our leaders."

Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas, who backs abortion but votes mostly pro-life, and John McCain of Arizona, who normally votes pro-life, also endorsed the letter.

Republican Majority Leader Bill Frist, also a doctor, did not sign the letter. However, he has said Bush’s policy should be reviewed.

Only five Democrats did not endorse the letter. They were Sens. John Breaux of Louisiana, Kent Conrad of North Dakota, Zell Miller of Georgia, Ben Nelson of Nebraska and Mark Pryor of Arkansas. Nelson, Miller and Breaux normally vote pro-life, while the others back abortion.

Two months ago, 206 House members signed a similar letter.