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Pro-life senators offer bill banning funding of embryonic stem cell research

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WASHINGTON, D.C., July 31, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) – On Tuesday, Republican Sens. Roger Wicker and Cindy Hyde-Smith of Mississippi re-introduced legislation that would prohibit the federal government from spending tax dollars on embryo-destructive research and instead support the use of stem cells from ethical sources.

S.2308 is the latest version of Wicker’s Patients First Act, which directs the federal government to prioritize stem cell research funding “in terms of potential for near-term clinical benefit in human patients,” and forbids it from supporting research that involves the “creation of a human embryo for research purposes,” the “destruction of or discarding of, or risk of injury to, a living human embryo,” or the “use of any stem cell” obtained via such means.

The bill would effectively reverse an executive order by former President Barack Obama that authorized the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to support embryonic stem cell research.

“We do not have to choose between promoting stem cell research and respecting life,” Wicker declared in a statement. Hyde-Smith added that “ethical science that respects the dignity of life is always the best science. Advances in stem cell research can be achieved without relying on the destruction of human embryos.” Other cosponsors so far include Sens. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Roy Blunt (R-MO), Kevin Cramer (R-ND), Steve Daines (R-MT), Joni Ernst (R-IA) Jim Inhofe (R-OK), and James Lankford (R-OK).

Embryo-destructive research was originally rationalized on the grounds that embryonic stem cells are pluripotent, meaning they have the ability to become any type of tissue. But investment has been steadily declining over the years as science has learned how to induce pluripotency in stem cells from other sources.

In December, pro-life biochemist Dr. Tara Sander Lee testified before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, where she detailed how “discarded cord blood from labor and delivery is stored in tissue repositories, because it is a rich and plentiful source of stem cells for research, regenerative medicine, and transplantation,” so much so that it has been used to treat as many as 80 different diseases. 

She also noted that stem cells from placenta, amniotic fluid, and mothers' own bone marrow are showing “tremendous potential” for treating babies before birth. “Stem cells can be obtained from ethical sources...such as umbilical cord blood, bone marrow, and granulocyte colony-stimulating factor (G-CSF)-mobilized peripheral blood (MPB),” she testified.

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