House Bill Would Expand Federal Funding for Human Embryonic Stem Cell Research
Reps. Michael Castle (R-Del.) and Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) on Wednesday introduced a bill that would loosen federal funding for human embryonic stem cell research, the Boston Globe reports (Milligan, Boston Globe, 6/24). The measure would expand funding restrictions to allow federal funding for research on unused embryos originally created for fertility procedures, according to CongressDaily (CongressDaily, 6/23). The bill would require that the embryos be donated voluntarily by fertility clinics. The measure also specifies that only embryos "slated to be discarded as medical waste" would be eligible for federally funded research, a requirement "intended to ease the worries" of some abortion-rights opponents that human embryos would be created specifically for federally funded research, according to the Globe (Boston Globe, 6/24).
Some scientists believe that research on embryonic stem cells could yield treatments or cures for several diseases, according to the Washington Post. However, President Bush in 2001 limited federal funding for embryonic stem cell research (Washington Post, 6/24). Bush's policy, which he announced on Aug. 9, 2001, limits federally funded embryonic stem cell research to cell lines created on or before that date (California Healthline, 6/22). DeGette, speaking at a news conference to announce the bill, said, "Government policy -- not scientific limitation -- is now holding stem cell research back," adding, "Now is the time for Congress and this administration to recognize that the current policy does not work" (Fox, Reuters, 6/23).
Despite bipartisan support for the bill, the measure "appears doomed" this year, the Globe reports. John Feehery, spokesperson for House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), said, "I don't think that it will come up as a free-standing bill," adding, "It divides our caucus. We're into unity, not division." Bush spokesperson Trent Duffy said that the president is "standing firm" behind the current policy, adding, "It's about principle." Neil Newhouse, a partner in the polling firm Public Opinion Strategies, said that Bush "risks alienating" some abortion-rights opponents if he changes his policy, according to the Globe. Jayd Hendricks, director of congressional relations for the Family Research Council, and Wendy Wright, senior policy director for Concerned Women for America, said they are "confident Bush will not move" on the stem cell issue (Boston Globe, 6/24).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.