Senators May Change Position on Embryonic Stem Cell Research Funding

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Nov 29, 2006   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Senators May Change Position on Embryonic Stem Cell Research Funding Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
November 29
, 2006

Washington, DC ( — With election results that saw a handful of pro-life senators defeated, embryonic stem cell research funding advocates are hoping to use that momentum to persuade more senators to change their position and vote for a measure that forces taxpayers to fund the unproven research.

Last week, Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch, indicated he thought there were enough votes in the Senate to override a possible second presidential veto of a funding bill.

He also appeared to know where he could get a few more votes and talked about unnamed senators who may switch their position.

One of those senators could be Sen. Kit Bond, a Missouri Republican who has a historically strong pro-life voting record and opposed the embryonic stem cell research funding bill this year.

The Associated Press reported that Bond spokesman Rob Ostrander told it on Tuesday that it’s possible the lawmaker could switch his position on the legislation.

Ostrander said Bond was "reluctant to support an expansion of the president’s stem cell policy that allows federal taxpayer dollars to be used for research in which human embryos are destroyed."

But, Ostrander told the "the Senator’s position has not changed" sinc previously declaring his opposition to the funding legislation in July and subsequently voting against it.

Meanwhile, Sen. Johnny Isakson, a Georgia Republican who some say may change his mind on the funding measure, told AP he is standing firm against the legislation.

“My position didn’t change" because of the elections, he said.

While backers of the research, which destroys human life, are focusing on a lobbying effort to persuade President Bush to support the legislation, White House spokesman Tony Fratto said the president’s position is firm.

While he wouldn’t "issue veto threats on hypothetical legislation" Fratto told AP the president’s position hasn’t changed.

Bush vetoed the previous funding bill in July and the House voted 235-193 in favor of overriding the veto, but the vote was 51 short of the two-thirds necessary to override it. The Senate voted for the bill 63-37, which was four votes short of being able to override a veto.

Members of Congress will be put to the test on the controversial issue early on as Democratic leaders say they will push for a vote on funding embryonic stem cell research in the first weeks of the new Congress in January.

The elections increased the number of votes embryonic stem cell research proponents have in both chambers and appeared to have given backers enough votes in the Senate with losses of pro-life senators from Pennsylvania, Virginia, Missouri, Ohio, and Montana.

However, Tennessee Sen.-elect Bob Corker campaigned as someone who had recently come to embrace the pro-life position and he may vote differently from the man he replaced, former Sen. Bill Frist.

Sen.-elect Bob Casey of Pennsylvania will be lobbied heavily on the issue from both sides and, while he opposes abortion, he may not stand with pro-life advocates in opposing embryonic stem cell research funding.

Polls show Americans aren’t clamoring for their tax dollars to pay for the destruction of human life for embryonic stem cell research that has yet to help any patients and may never do so.

A new poll conducted by Newsweek in August showed a decline in the support for taxpayer funding of embryonic stem cell research. According to the poll, 48 percent of Americans favor funding embryonic stem cell research with taxpayer funds while 40 percent say they don’t.

That eight percent margin is down from an October 2005 Newsweek poll showing a 50-36 percentage split — or a 14 percent margin. That means support for funding embryonic stem cell research with tax dollars is down 6 percent from late last year.

Other polls show lower support for using taxpayer dollars to pay for embryonic stem cell research.

Conducted by International Communications Research in mid-May, a poll found 48% of Americans oppose federal funding of stem cell research that requires destroying human embryos. Just 39% support such funding and another 12 percent had no position.

The ICR survey found 57% favored funding only the research avenues that do not harm the donor. Just 24% favored funding all stem cell research, including the type that involves destroying human embryos.

Adult stem cells have already produced 70 cures or treatments for various conditions including various cancers such as breast cancer, lymphomas, leukemia, arthritis, heart damage, Parkinsons, Sickle Cell Anemia and other disorders.