by Steven Ertelt
July 27, 2005
Washington, DC (LifeNews.com) — A Minnesota senator has proposed yet another bill that would require taxpayer funding for embryonic stem cell research. Sen. Norm Coleman, who typically votes pro-life on abortion issues, hopes his bill will be more likely to find compromise than a more aggressive funding measure.
"This is an attempt to find common ground between science and pro-life," Coleman, a Republican, told the Associated Press.
In August 2001, President Bush put in place a policy prohibiting taxpayer funding of any new embryonic stem cell research conducted after that point. Coleman’s legislation moves that date forward and allows federal funds to be used for embryonic stem cell research conducted between then and now.
"He’s drawn a line in the sand that’s not pro-science," Coleman said of Bush. "We don’t want to be the party that’s anti-science. We’re not finding real hope" for cures.
His proposal does not have the support of either the president or leading pro-life organizations.
Coleman told the Associated Press that White House officials indicated Bush would oppose his legislation and White House spokesman Allen Abney confirmed that.
Meanwhile, Coleman also said representatives of the National Right to Life Committee opposed his proposal because they said biotech lobbyist would ask that the deadline be pushed back again in the future — requiring taxpayers to pay for more of the unproven research.
"I don’t buy that," Coleman said, telling AP he thought there were enough embryonic stem cell lines available now for researchers to make progress.
However, embryonic stem cell research has yet to cure a single patient while the use of adult stem cells has already produced dozens of cures and treatments.
Surprisingly, Coleman’s proposal may face opposition from the biotech community.
Sean Tipton, a spokesman for the Coalition for the Advancement of Medical Research, said Coleman’s proposal was similar to Bush’s policy in that it puts arbitrary limits on embryonic stem cell research funding.
"It’s a nonsensical way to make policy," Tipton added. "What do we do, come back next year and say there are better lines today, so let’s move the line again?"
Whether Coleman’s bill will come up for a vote is another question.
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist is having a difficult time getting members of the Senate to reach a consensus on what bills to bring up for a vote on the issue of stem cell research. He faces intense lobbying from both sides. On one hand, pro-life lawmakers want Frist to allow a vote on an adult stem cell research bill that was almost unanimously approved in the House and would allow the create of a national stem cell bank for umbilical cord blood.
They say only adult stem cell research has shown promise to cure diseases and they point to the dozens of treatments such cells have already produced.
On the other hand, some senators want Frist to allow a vote on a bill that would overturn President Bush’s limits on using taxpayer funds to pay for embryonic stem cell research, which requires the destruction of human life to gather cells.
Other bills that could be on the table include a measure banning all forms of human cloning and a fourth that would call for federal funds to investigate alternate methods of obtaining embryonic stem cells that don’t require killing human embryos.
Frist held a meeting last week to address the situation and left without any agreement.