House Bill Would Expand Obama’s Promoting Embryonic Stem Cell Research

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Mar 9, 2010   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

House Bill Would Expand Obama’s Promoting Embryonic Stem Cell Research

by Steven Ertelt Editor
March 9
, 2010

Washington, DC ( — Two members of Congress have introduced new legislation designed to expand President Barack Obama’s decision to force taxpayers to fund embryonic stem cell research. The measure could pave the way for a battle over federal restrictions on research destroying human embryos.

Reps. Diana DeGette, a Colorado Democrat and Michael Castle, a Delaware Republican, are behind the legislation.

They say it is designed to codify Obama’s executive order — which would prevent a future pro-life president from overturning it.

Instead of issuing a subsequent executive order, a future pro-life president would be forced to rely on Congress to approve a bill putting the Bush protections back in place. With a Congress strongly in favor of embryonic stem cell research funding, that appears unlikely.

"Congress must still enact legislation so that both scientists and individuals who stand to benefit from the promise of this research will have some stability backing their quest for life-changing cures," DeGette said — despite the fact that embryonic stem cell research has yet to help any human patients.

"I am committed to codifying the process set out in the President’s Executive Order and ensuring that stem cell lines such as these remain eligible as we look to the future," she added in a statement obtained.

Castle added that "Congress must act to ensure that an over-arching ethical framework is signed into law."

The statement said the bill requires NIH to maintain guidelines on all human stem cell research and review them at least every three years. It bans the use of federal funding for human cloning under the NIH guidelines but the ban would likely only apply to human cloning for reproductive, not research, purposes.

But pro-life advocates fear the legislation would go much further — and text of the bill was not available to at press time.

When the Clinton administration announced plans to fund destructive experiments on live human embryos, the National Institutes of Health announced its plans for funding such research in December 1994.

But pro-life Republican congressmen Jay Dickey and Roger Wicker introduced an amendment to the annual health appropriations bill to prevent this funding – – an amendment approved by Congress in 1995 and every year since.

In 1997, the language was strengthened to ensure that federal funds cannot be used to clone human embryos by the method recently used to produce Dolly the sheep, the first cloned mammal that ultimately had to be euthanized because of problems.

The law is important because while researchers can obtain federal funds under the Obama order, they still can’t use those funds to create their own embryonic stem cells.

But DeGette wants to overturn the law and has been talking with White House officials about ditching the amendment.

“Dickey-Wicker is 13 years old now, and I think we need to review these policies,” she told the New York Times last year.

DeGette and Castle introduced the same bill last year and Melody Barnes, Obama’s chief domestic policy adviser, told the New York Times then that Obama had not taken a position on DeGette’s bill.

Pro-life advocates told at the time they would fight DeGette’s move to kill more than just so-called leftover human embryos for research.

“I don’t think it will fly because the movement in the country is in favor of life,” Rep, Chris Smith of New Jersey said. "“For Congress to say that the new guinea pig will be human embryos, most Americans will find that highly offensive.”
Douglas Johnson, a spokesman for the National Right to Life Committee, also talked with about the impending battle.

"This sets the stage for an attack on the Dickey-Wicker law," he says. "Any member of Congress who votes for legislation to repeal this law is voting to allow federal funding of human embryo farms, created through the use of human cloning."

The Dickey-Wicker law prohibits the creation of embryos for the purpose of research as well as any research that harms an embryo, a unique human being after conception.

The provision also prohibits federal funds from being used for the intentional creation of embryos by IVF, cloning, or by any other means, for the purpose of their destruction and use in scientific experimentation.

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