Lawmakers Begin Debating House Bills on Stem Cell Research

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   May 24, 2005   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

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by Steven Ertelt Editor
May 24, 2005

Washington, DC ( — Lawmakers in the House of Representatives have begun debating two competing bills on stem cell research. The debate has already become contentious as lawmakers decide between bills promoting adult or embryonic stem cell research.

House Majority Leader Tom DeLay is one of the leading opponents of legislation sponsored by Rep. Michael Castle, a Delaware Republican, which would overturn President Bush’s policies preventing taxpayer funding of embryonic stem cell research.

"The Castle bill is both divisive and, to put it bluntly, dismissive of human life at the embryonic stage," DeLay told lawmakers.

He called any attempt to approve the Castle bill a “vote to fund with taxpayer dollars the dismemberment of living, distinct human beings for the purposes of medical experimentation.”

But, Representative Carolyn Maloney, a New York Democrat, said the bill was needed to ure fatal diseases, even though no patient has been cured from embryonic stem cell research in the 20 years scientists have been looking at such research.

"How many more lives must be ended or ravaged?" Ms. Maloney said. "How much more unimaginable suffering must be endured until government gives researchers the wherewithal to simply do their jobs?"

"For America to stand back because of a moral principle and not allow sound scientific research to proceed under the umbrella of the National Institute of Health, I think, is unconscionable,” said New Hampshire Rep Charlie Bass.

Rep. Dave Weldon, an internal medicine doctor and a Florida Republican, told legislators that, "Private individuals and private foundations can fund [embryonic stem cell research], but there are millions of Americans who do not feel that is an appropriate use of their tax dollars."

Rep. Tom Feeney, another Florida Republican, agreed.

"There’s absolutely no research that cannot be done with umbilical cords and the embryonic cell lines available now," Feeney said. "When in doubt, err on the side of life."

Other lawmakers pointed to the second bill, funding the use of adult stem cells from umbilical cord blood, and said such stem cells were both more effective and more ethical.

"The use of stem cells from the umbilical cords represents a breakthrough of immense promise," Alabama Rep. Artur Davis, a Democrat co-sponsor of the bill, said. "I am particularly hopeful that these blood cells will represent a new front in the campaign against sickle cell anemia, which disproportionately affects black Americans."

President Bush has indicated he backs the Davis bill and opposes the Castle legislation. Should he veto the bill, Castle would need 290 votes in the House to override, and he won’t likely get that many.