House ex­pands stem-cell re­search; bill faces likely veto from Bush

The Washington Times Weekly - - From Page One - By Christina Bellantoni

The House on Jan. 11 passed a bi­par­ti­san bill ex­pand­ing fed­eral fund­ing of em­bry­onic stem-cell re­search, al­though not with enough sup­port to over­ride a likely pres­i­den­tial veto.

TheStemCel­lRe­searchEn­hance­ment Act of 2007, which passed by a vote of 253-174, is iden­ti­cal to leg­is­la­tion that Pres­i­dent Bush ve­toed last sum­mer — an act that the White House on Jan. 11 vowed to re­peat.

The mea­sure, which Democrats ex­pect to be ap­proved by the Se­nate, in­creases the lim­ited num­ber of em­bry­on­ic­stem-cel­lli­ne­sel­i­gi­ble­forfed­eral fund­ing from the 78 the White House al­lows un­der an Au­gust 2001 ex­ec­u­tive or­der.

De­spite the prom­ise of a veto, the new Demo­cratic ma­jor­ity says ex­pand­ing­stem-cell­re­searchi­saw­in­ning is­sue that paints Mr. Bush as ex­treme.

Back­ers of the bill say em­bry­onic stem-cell re­search can be used to de­vel­op­treat­ments­fordis­eases,suchas Parkin­son’s.Sup­port­er­sal­so­saidJan. 11 that they have other op­tions of ex­pand­ing­stem-cell­re­search,in­clud­ing at­tach­ing the is­sue to a “must-pass” bill such as a spend­ing mea­sure.

“We have a moral obli­ga­tion to pro­vide our sci­en­tific com­mu­nity with the tools it needs to save lives,” saidMa­jor­i­tyLead­erStenyH.Hoyer of Mary­land.

The bill states that the re­search would be done un­der “strict eth­i­cal guide­lines” and that fund­ing would onlyap­ply­tostem-cel­lli­nes­fromem­bryos that “would oth­er­wise be dis­carded by fer­til­ity clin­ics.”

But pro-life mem­bers from both par­ties op­pose em­bry­onic stem-cell re­search, ar­gu­ing that it de­stroys life in the process of har­vest­ing the cells. They also said the mea­sure should have been put on hold be­cause of re­cent re­search show­ing that am­ni­otic fluid can be used to pro­duce stem cells with­out de­stroy­ing life.

Mi­nor­i­tyLead­erJohnA.Boehner of Ohio urged his col­leagues to in­stead study those new meth­ods, say­ing, “We are go­ing to find out that we are not go­ing to need to de­stroy hu­man em­bryos to get the kind of prom­ise that we want.

“I’ve­g­ot11broth­er­sand­sis­ters.I’m sure it wasn’t con­ve­nient for my mother to have twelve of us, but I’m sure glad that she did,” he said. “Tax­payer funds shouldn’t be used to de­stroythe­hu­man­life,pure­and­sim­ple.”

Re­searchers at the Wake For­est and Har­vard med­i­cal schools con­cluded that stem cells found in am­ni­otic fluid are ver­sa­tile and avail­able and could have equal ben­e­fits to em­bry­onic cells.

How­ever, the mea­sure’s spon­sors, Demo­cratic Rep. Diana DeGette of Colorado and Repub­li­can Rep. Michael N. Cas­tle of Delaware, said the­lead­sci­en­tist­wrotealet­ter,say­ing the study should not slow down em­bry­onic re­search.

Stem-cell-re­search sup­port­ers have gained votes since fail­ing to over­ride Mr. Bush’s July veto, the first of his pres­i­dency. That vote was 235-193, 55 votes shy of the needed ma­jor­ity.

The Democrats cam­paigned on a pledgeto­fund­stem-cell­re­search,an is­sue that res­onated with the Amer­i­can­peo­plein­part­be­cause­oft­head­vo­ca­cy­workofcelebri­ties,in­clud­ing ac­tor Michael J. Fox, who has Parkin­son’sdis­ease­an­dap­pearedin ads for can­di­dates who sup­ported the re­search.

Mrs. DeGette cited a poll show­ing 71per­centofAmer­i­canssup­port­em­bry­onic re­search and said U.S. researchersare“teth­ered”byMr.Bush’s six-year-old pol­icy.

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