Amniotic Cells Will Impact House Debate on Embryonic Stem Cell Research

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jan 9, 2007   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Amniotic Cells Will Impact House Debate on Embryonic Stem Cell Research Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
January 9
, 2007

Washington, DC ( — News that scientists have been able to successfully manipulate stem cells found in amniotic fluid and that they have similar potential to embryonic stem cells may affect the Congressional debate on a bill to force taxpayers to fund embryonic stem cell research.

The House is expected to vote Thursday on its version of the legislation.

However, the top two sponsors of the bill are denying both the potential of the amniotic cells and the effect news about it may have on the debate.

Rep. Diana DeGette, a Colorado Democrat, says she doesn’t expect news on the amniotic stem cells to cause supporters of the funding bill to change their minds.

"We won’t lose anyone who was going to support the bill," she told the Associated Press. "People who would have already opposed the (embryonic) stem cell bill will use this breakthrough as an excuse to vote no."

Sen. Tom Harkin, an Iowa Democrat sponsoring a similar measure in the Senate, said he didn’t think news of the amniotic stem cells was any cause for lawmakers to change their mind on his measure.

In comments to AP, he claimed the new research "offers no evidence that amniotic stem cells have as much potential as embryonic stem cells to differentiate into all other cells in the human body."

House Minority Leader John Boehner, an Oho Republican, disagreed.

"This discovery provides great promise for both the future of medical research and the protection of unborn human embryos and may provide the basis for a consensus approach on the challenging issue of stem cell research," he said.

"In light of this breakthrough, I urge the Democratic leadership of the House to reconsider its decision to force stem cell legislation to a vote this week without hearings or committee debate" he added.

Pro-life lawmakers will likely tout the amniotic stem cells as another alternative to using embryonic ones, which can only be obtained by the destruction of human life.

White House spokesman Tony Snow, in a Monday press briefing, pointed to that difference, which has been the basis of President Bush’s position denying federal funding to new embryonic stem cell research.

"Obviously, there is a difference between using amniotic stem cells that do not, by design, involve the destruction of a human life, and embryonic stem cell research, which does," Snow told reporters.

"The vast majority of breakthroughs right now, virtually all, have involved those other than embryonic stem cells," Snow added. "And the president certainly supports continued research along those lines."

While the House and Senate are both expected to approve the funding bills, President Bush will likely veto the measure a second time.

Though the November elections increased the number of lawmakers who supporting embryonic stem cell research funding, the House will not likely have enough votes to overturn the veto.