House Expected To Pass Stem Cell Bill
The House on Thursday is expected to pass by a "substantial margin" a bill (HR 3, S 5) -- called the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act of 2007 -- that would expand federal funding for human embryonic stem cell research, the Washington Post reports (Weiss, Washington Post, 1/11).
Federal funding for embryonic stem cell research is allowed only for research using embryonic stem cell lines created on or before Aug. 9, 2001, under a policy announced by President Bush on that date.
Bush in July 2006 vetoed the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act of 2005 (HR 810), which would have expanded stem cell lines that are eligible for federal funding and allowed funding for research using stem cells derived from embryos originally created for fertility treatments and willingly donated by patients.
The House and Senate versions of the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act of 2007 are the same as the bill Bush vetoed. The Senate is expected to consider the legislation in a few weeks. Bush is all but certain to veto the measure again if it is passed by Congress (California Healthline, 1/10).
The White House on Wednesday as expected released a report that urged Congress to consider nonembryonic stem cell research funding, the New York Times reports. The report, titled "Advancing Stem Cell Science Without Destroying Human Life," highlighted the benefits of adult stem cell research and mentioned a study published in the Jan. 7 online edition of the journal Nature Biotechnology that found stem cells derived from human amniotic fluid appear to offer many of the same benefits of embryonic stem cells (Swarns, New York Times, 1/11).
"The stem cell debate is only the first in what will be an onrushing train of biotechnology challenges in our future," the report said, adding, "We must establish a constructive precedent here for taking the moral dimensions of these issues seriously."
It also stated that "[w]ithout an understanding that life begins at conception and that an embryo is a nascent human being, there will always be arguments that other uses, takeovers and makeovers of embryos are justified by potential scientific and medical benefits" (Fox, Reuters, 1/10).
White House spokesperson Tony Fratto said Bush administration officials were "reaching out" to House members to advocate the president's position. "A thoughtful review of the issue would lead most reasonable people to believe this is a line that we don't need to cross," Fratto said, adding, "This is a vote of conscience for a lot of members. We hope they take the time to review all aspects of it before casting their vote."
Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.), co-sponsor of the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act, said the White House "keep[s] trying to muddle the issue," adding that none of the types of stem cell research highlighted in its report is "a substitute for embryonic stem cell research" (New York Times, 1/11).
According to Rep. Michael Castle (R-Del.), co-sponsor of the bill, the Senate might add amendments to the measure, including adding funding for programs that donate discarded frozen embryos, requiring additional ethical management for stem cell research or increasing support for parallel studies of nonembryonic stem cells.
DeGette said Tuesday at a news conference that compromise language "is welcome" but added that Bush has rejected appeals for a compromise on the issue (Washington Post, 1/11).
APM's "MarketPlace" on Thursday interviewed Joanne Kurtzberg of Duke University Medical Center about federal human embryonic stem cell research funding (Babin, "MarketPlace," APM, 1/11).
The complete segment is available online in RealPlayer.