By John Jalsevac

WASHINGTON, D.C., June 8, 2007 ( – For the second time in a year Congress has passed a bill that, if signed by the President, would see the ban on federal funds being used for embryonic stem cell research lifted.

In 2001 the Bush administration authorized federal funding for embryonic stem cell research on already existing lines of embryos, while forbidding any such funds from being used to create new embryonic human beings for the purpose of research and therefore destruction.

Although the Administration’s policy bans federal funds from being used for such research, there is no federal ban on embryonic stem-cell research as such. Such research is being carried out in numerous labs across the United States, but using private funds. Nevertheless, pro-embryonic stem-cell research advocates have cried foul since Bush unveiled his 2001 policy, demanding that federal taxpayers pay for embryo research.

“It is time to take the shackles off of our federal researchers,” said Sen. Thom Harkin of Iowa.

The bill lifting the ban was passed by the House on Thursday with a vote of 247 to 176. Among those who voted in favor of the bill were 37 Republicans. The vote however, was still 40 votes short of the two-thirds majority needed to prevent a Presidential veto.

President Bush has promised that he will in fact veto the bill for the second time.

The President responded to the passage of the bill yesterday with an official statement, expressing his disappointment that the “leadership of Congress recycled an old bill that would simply overturn our country’s carefully balanced policy on embryonic stem cell research.”

“If this bill were to become law, American taxpayers would for the first time in our history be compelled to support the deliberate destruction of human embryos,” he continued. “Crossing that line would be a grave mistake. For that reason, I will veto the bill passed today.”

Shortly after the New Year a report by the United States governments’ Domestic Policy Council stated clearly why federal funds must never be used to promote the deliberate creation and destruction of human embryos for the purpose of research. “Embryos are humans in their earliest developmental stage,” wrote the Council in its official report on embryonic stem-cell research.

It continued, “We do not have to think that human embryos are exactly the same in all ways as older humans to believe that they are entitled to respect and protection. Each of us originated as a single-celled embryo, and from that moment have developed along a continuous biological trajectory throughout our existence. To speak of ‘an embryo’ is to designate a human being at a particular stage.”

The Council’s report pointed to the fact that there is no need to pursue the ethically condemnable route of embryonic stem cell research when more effective stem-cell treatments have already been developed using stem-cells harvested from such sources as cord-blood.

In his response to Congress’ passage of the bill on Thursday President Bush again pointed out this fact saying, “Recent scientific developments have reinforced my conviction that stem cell science can progress in ethical ways…These reports give us added hope that we may one day enjoy the potential benefits of embryonic stem cells without destroying human life.”

While Bush has promised that his veto will be shortly forthcoming, some politicians in Washington have pointed out that the passage of the bill, for the second time in less than a year, is likely less about actually allowing federal funds to be spent embryonic stem cell research, and more about politics. Currently, intense campaigns to promote embryonic stem cell research appear to have generated significant support from the public with the result that a second veto from Bush will likely receive more negative reaction.

Opponents of the contentious research, however, point out that the obfuscations in the media have made it difficult for the public to get the facts, with embryonic stem cell research and other, ethically permissible types of stem cell research often being undistinguished in media reports. Many people do not know that all of the major breakthrough developments from stem cells are from stem cell sources other than embryos and that embryonic stem cell research has yet to yield a single practical cure.

“This is not about expanding research,” said Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, the House GOP leader. “They understand the president has vetoed this in the past, he’ll do it again. This is Washington being Washington, trying to score political points.”

Rep. Mike Pence, R-Ind expressed his relief that the President would veto the bill. “I thank God we have a president in the White House who will, with every confidence, veto this legislation like he did before.”

See related coverage:

“Embryos are Humans” Says U.S. Government Report on Stem Cell Research

UK Researcher: Embryonic Stem Cells Have Never Been Used to Treat Anyone and no Plans Exist to do so
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  Part II:…;


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