Some Republicans Want Platform to Back Embryonic Stem Cell Research

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Aug 20, 2004   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

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by Steven Ertelt
LifeNews.com Editor
August 20, 2004

Washington, DC (LifeNews.com) — Saying it hands John Kerry a political issue to use in the presidential election, some Republicans are looking to add language downplaying President Bush’s position against taxpayer funding of embryonic stem cell research.

Delaware Congressman Mike Castle released a letter to members of the Republican party’s platform committee Thursday urging them to include language in the platform advocating Bush’s position to be overturned.

Castle, who has sponsored legislation seeking to overturn the policy and allow taxpayer funds to pay for the destruction of human embryos in research, wants the upcoming party platform to reflect his position.

"It is important to show the embryonic stem cell research is not a so-called wedge issue and that it does have bipartisan support," Castle said.

But pro-life advocates on the platform committee say Castle’s efforts will be futile.

"There is no way that the platform committee is going to repudiate any of President Bush’s pro-life positions," Jim Bopp, a pro-life attorney and member of the platform committee, told LifeNews.com.

"I don’t understand why some Republicans are so intent on parroting Kerry’s talking points and on undermining President Bush’s re-election," Bopp said.

Representative Castle and the Republican Main Street Partnership, a group of liberal Republicans — many of whom support abortion and embryonic stem cell research — want the following added to the platform:

"The Republican Party recognizes the enormous potential of adult and embryonic stem cell research. The Party supports efforts to fulfill President Bush’s August 9, 2001 human embryonic stem cell policy by expanding the number of stem cell lines available to researchers based on the ethical guidelines established by the President and the National Institutes of Health."

Pro-life advocates say expanding the number of stem cell lines directly contradicts Bush’s executive order. The president expressly forbid the federal funding of new embryonic stem cell lines.

Castle drafted the letter to Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, Colorado Governor Bill Owens and Pennsylvania congresswoman Melissa Hart, three pro-life lawmakers who head of the platform committee.

Despite claims that Bush has prevented funding for stem cell research, Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson wrote, in a recent editorial, that the Bush administration has spent millions on the use of adult stem cells.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) funded $190 million in adult stem-cell research on, for example, cells from bone marrow or placental tissue.

Pro-life members of the platform committee has also been battling another attempt to change the platform against positions held by the president.

Abortion advocates have launched an effort to get the Republican Party to overturn its pro-life position on abortion and to adopt a so-called unity provision that would reflect opposition to that aspect of the party’s platform.