Senate Advocates of Embryonic Stem Cell Research Funding Press for Vote

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   May 4, 2006   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Senate Advocates of Embryonic Stem Cell Research Funding Press for Vote Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
May 4, 2006

Washington, DC ( — Senate advocates of using taxpayer funds to pay for embryonic stem cell research are continuing their efforts to press Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist to schedule a vote on the issue. A measure has already cleared that House that would overturn President Bush’s limits on funding the research, which involves the destruction of human life.

Frist has arranged a week’s worth of legislation on other Congressional issues that he’s dubbed "health" week and votes on those bills are expected to be held as early as next week.

Today, Senate Democrats asked Frist to include a bill using federal funds for the unproven research during the special week.

"Further delay will mean more lost opportunities for new cures and new treatments," leading Democrats claimed, even though embryonic stem cell research is nowhere close to helping patients.

In August 2001, President Bush put limits in place preventing taxpayer dollars from being used to pay for any new embryonic stem cell research. The federal government has spent hundreds of millions of dollars on research using adult stem cells, that have already produced dozens of treatments for various diseases and conditions.

Last May, the House approved the legislation despite a veto threat by the president but the Senate has never voted on it.

The letter to Frist is authored by Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid of Nevada and Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa, one of the leading bill sponsors, and was signed by several other Democrats. However, no Republicans appear on the letter, even though some, such as Pennsylvania’s Arlen Specter, are lead sponsors of the measure.

Meanwhile, pro-life advocates have bills that they could press to be added to "health week" as well, including a measure sponsored by Sen. Sam Brownback, a Kansas Republican, that would ban all forms of human cloning.

Any vote on funding embryonic stem cell research would follow on the heels of an international scandal involving South Korean and one American researcher who fabricated the results of studies supposedly advancing the science.

Richard Doerflinger, the deputy director of Pro-Life Activities at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and a bioethics watchdog, says there are scientific, political and moral lessons to be learned about the South Korea scandal.

Doerflinger explained that the scientific lesson is not to trust claims that human cloning has been successful, pointing to false claims in years past.

Politically, Doerflinger said human cloning and embryonic stem cell research shouldn’t get a free pass — especially since the research has yet to make any progress in curing or helping people.

“The political agenda for cloning has long been divorced from the facts,” he said.

"To win public support and government funding, advocates for human cloning and ESC (embryonic stem cell) research have long made hyped claims and exaggerated promises to legislators and the public," Doerflinger explained.