House Defeats Embryonic Stem Cell Research Alternative, Backs Fetal Farming Ban

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jul 18, 2006   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

House Defeats Embryonic Stem Cell Research Alternative, Backs Fetal Farming Ban

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by Steven Ertelt Editor
July 18, 2006

Washington, DC ( — Just hours after the Senate approved two bioethics bills on fetal farming and embryonic stem cell research, the House split on its vote on them. The House narrowly rejected a measure to urge the federal government to find alternative ways of obtaining embryonic stem cells without destroying human life.

While the Senate approved the bill on a unanimous 100-0 vote earlier in the day, the House was more divided, backing it 273-154. Republicans backed the alternatives bill 215-15 while Democrats opposed it on a 58-138 margin.

Despite the lopsided bipartisan vote for the bill, lawmakers failed to reach the two-thirds vote necessary to suspend House rules and send the bill to President Bush for his signature. The House needed 290 votes to approve the measure.

Criticizing pro-life lawmakers, Rep. Tammy Baldwin, a Wisconsin Democrat, said the bill was only designed to provide Bush and pro-life lawmakers with political cover.

"This legislation does not advancing lifesaving stem cell research," Baldwin claimed "This bill really serves as political cover for those {who oppose embryonic stem cell research]."

But pro-life Rep. Chris Smith, a New Jersey Republican, said Baldwin and others who were politicizing stem cell research should be ashamed.
"This isn’t about political cover, but about how we can support stem cell research that is ethical and works," he said.

Smith pointed to efforts by pro-life lawmakers in previous years to provide 256 million for cord blood, bone marrow and adult stem cell research.

"That’s not cover, that’s about trying to find cures and we take a back seat to no one," he added.

Meanwhile, the House approved a ban on the practice of fetal farming on a 425-0 vote.

The measure makes it a crime to create, acquire, or traffic in tissue derived from a human embryo created and grown specifically for tissue harvesting.

Fetal farming involves human embryos who are specifically implanted in a woman’s womb for the sole purpose of killing them months later for their tissue for research.

The Senate approved the measure, S. 3504, on a unanimous 100-0 vote earlier on Thursday.

With the House votes, President Bush is expected to receive two bills this evening — the fetal farming ban and the embryonic stem cell research funding bill. Bush is expected to sign the former and veto the latter.

During the House debate, some supporters of the bill indicated the fetal farming ban would prohibit a practice that doesn’t exist.

However, Douglas Johnson, the legislative director for the National Right to Life Committee, says cloning researchers are rapidly progressing down the road towards fetus farms.

"Some may wrongly believe that fetus farming is science fiction, but in reality, American researchers have already gestated cloned calves to four months before aborting them to harvest their kidney and heart tissue," Johnson told

Johnson points to the June 2005 issue of "Cloning and Stem Cells," a technical journal. In an article, Dr. Robert Lanza and other researchers at Advanced Cell Technology reported they created cloned cow fetuses, grew them in utero in adult cows to four months, performed abortions and used the liver tissue from the aborted cow fetuses for experiments and transplants.

The same could be done in humans, Johnson contends, especially if some sort of "artificial womb" is ever created.

"We need to enact the Santorum-Weldon bill now in order to prevent biotech firms from pursing such experiments with humans," Johnson told

In April 2002, President Bush warned that human cloning will lead to experimental human beings, "human embryo farms," and "a society in which human beings are grown for spare body parts and children are engineered to custom specifications." Some supporters of the bill indicated the Santorum measure would ban a practice that doesn’t exist.