U.S. federal stem cell legislation

From SourceWatch
Jump to: navigation, search
Sciencelogo.png This legislation or issue article is part of the Congresspedia Science and Technology Policy (U.S.) Portal.

The issue of stem cell research, particularly embryonic stem cell research, became a high-profile political issue in the U.S. during the first year of President George W. Bush's term in office (2001). On August 9, 2001, Bush enacted a ban on federal spending for the purpose of deriving new embryonic stem cells from fertilized embryos. He argued that performing research on embryos is destroying human life, and should therefore be avoided. Both the 109th and 110th Congresses passed bills overturning the ban, but both were vetoed by Bush. During the 109th Congress, both houses also passed and Bush signed a bill banning the creation of human fetuses with the sole purpose of destroying them and harvesting their body parts. The Senate also passed a bill encouraging research into the creation of stem cell lines without destroying human embryos.

While both Democrats and Republicans have advocated for expanded federal funding for stem cell research, the debate over embryonic stem cells tends to be more polarized. Democrats are generally supportive of expanding embryonic research, while Republicans tend to favor expanding only other types of stem cell research that do not involve the harming of human embryos. [1]

Opponents of federal funding for embryonic stem cell research, including the Heritage Foundation, have argued that [more here].

110th Congress

Legislation governing stem cells in the 110th Congress (2007-2008) generally fell into two categories: bills seeking to expand the funding of embryonic stem cell research and bills seeking to expand stem cell research without using human embryonic stem cells.

Efforts to expand federal funding of embryonic stem cell research

The principle vehicle for expanding the federal funding of embryonic stem cell research in 2007 was the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act of 2007 (H.R.3).

<USbillinfo congress="110" bill="H.R.3" />

House

On January 11, 2007, the Democratic-controlled House passed the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act of 2007 (H.R.3), sponsored by Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.), lifting the restriction on new federal funding for embryonic stem-cell research implemented by President Bush in 2001. Under this bill, the Secretary of Health and Human Services would be directed to conduct and support research that utilizes human embryonic stem cells. [2]

Under the bill, the cells eligible for use would be required to come from excess human embryos, smaller than the head of a pin, donated from in-vitro fertilization clinics. The cells would have had to have been created for the purpose of fertility treatment. Once a woman was successfully fertilized, the “extra” cells could be donated for research. In particular, the bill required that prior to the consideration of donating the embryo and through consultation with individuals seeking fertility treatment, it must have been determined that the embryos would never be implanted in a woman and would otherwise be discarded.[3]

To avoid cell farming and other efforts to profit from providing stem cells, the bill would require that the individuals seeking fertility treatment donate the embryos with written informed consent and without receiving any financial or other inducements to make the donation.[4]

The final vote was 253-174, thirty-seven votes short of a veto-proof majority. As expected, President Bush promised to veto the bill if it reached his desk. The White House issued a statement saying, "The administration strongly opposes House passage of H.R. 3, which would use federal taxpayer dollars to support and encourage the destruction of human life for research...If H.R. 3 were presented to the president, he would veto the bill."[5]

<USvoteinfo year="2007" chamber="house" rollcall="20" />

Senate

Although it fell four votes short of the supermajority needed to override a presidential veto, the Senate passed the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act of 2007 (S.5) on April 11, 2007. The Senate bill differed slightly from that passed by the House in January 2007, for it contained new language regarding the possibility of obtaining embryonic stem cells without killing embryos. The legislation was passed in the face of a veto threat from President Bush.[6]

<USbillinfo congress="110" bill="S.5" />

The final vote was 63-34. The bill had been sponsored by Sens. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and Arlen Specter (R-Pa.).[7]

<USvoteinfo year="2007" chamber="senate" rollcall="127" />

As expected, most Democrats supported the legislation, while most Republicans opposed it. There were, however, the following exceptions:

Democrats who opposed the bill

All Democrats but Sens. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) and Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) opposed the bill.

Republicans who supported the bill

Republicans voted against the bill, 32-17. The Republicans who voted for the bill were:

House considers Senate version

On June 7, 2007, the House passed the stem cell legislation passed by the Senate in April 2007, 247-176. This vote was necessary because the House bill which passed in January 2007 was slightly different from that later approved by the Senate. Specifically, the Senate added language promoting federally funded research into methods of stem cell research that do not involve the destruction of human embryos. The legislation was passed in the face of a veto threat from President Bush.[8][9]

If approved, the bill would replace a law created in 2006 that only allowed for federal support of research using similar cells extracted from the umbilical cord after birth, but prohibited federal spending for research involving stem cells.[10]

<USvoteinfo year="2007" chamber="house" rollcall="20" />

Bush administration veto and executive order

On June 20, 2007, President Bush issued an executive order encouraging government agencies to support promising research that might craft useful stem cells without destroying human embryos.[11] Later that day, Bush vetoed the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act of 2007. It was the third veto of his presidency, and the second veto of embryonic stem cell-related legislation. In defense of the veto, Bush said, "If this legislation became law, it would compel American taxpayers for the first time in our history to support the deliberate destruction of human embryos. I made it clear to Congress and to the American people that I will not allow our nation to cross this moral line."[12] An override attempt was expected to be scheduled soon after by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), but such a move was not be expected to garner enough votes to reverse the president's veto.[13]

Following the veto, Bush was criticized by both Democratic and Republican members of Congress. Rep. Mike Castle (R-Del.), a cosponsor of the bill, stated "I consider this to be an overwhelming error... I consider this to be flat-out wrong because of the significance of what can be done with this research."[14] Sen. Hillary Clinton, a supporter of the bill, stated "This is just one example of how the president puts ideology before science, politics before the needs of our families -- just one more example of how out of touch with reality he and his party have become."[15]

Future legislative action anticipated

Following the veto, Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) commented, "This will be an election issue in 2008 not just in the House, not just in the Senate, but in the presidential election. We ... intend to continue bringing this up until we have a pro-stem cell president and a pro-stem cell Congress."[16]

In response to Bush's veto of the bill, supporters laid out plans to keep the issue of embryonic stem cell research in the forefront. On June 21, 2007, Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) indicated he would support a provision in the FY2008 Labor and Health and Human Services (HHS) bill that would effectively move the date of Bush's August 2001 ban on public funding for embryonic stem cell research up 6 years. This would allow taxpayer dollars to be spent on research on human embryonic stem cell lines derived prior to June 15, 2007. The legislation also would add ethical standards to be used for selecting embryos to be studied.[17] It was also expected that Democratic congressional leaders would bring back the original stem cell bill, forcing another veto.


Efforts to expand stem cell research without harming human embryos

Many opponents of embryonic stem cell research instead favored legislation which would expand stem cell research without harming human embryos. Measures achieving this end were considered in the 110th Congress.

Pluripotent Stem Cell Therapy Enhancement Act of 2007

On January 4, 2007, Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) introduced the Pluripotent Stem Cell Therapy Enhancement Act of 2007 (S.51). The bill would strive to[18]:

  • Intensify research that may result in improved understanding of or treatments for diseases and other adverse health conditions.
  • Promote the derivation of pluripotent stem cell lines without the creation of human embryos for research purposes and discarding, destroying, or knowingly harming a human embryo.[19]

The bill was referred to the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions.[20]

<USbillinfo congress="110" bill="S.51" />

Alternative Pluripotent Stem Cell Therapy Enhancement Act of 2007

A similar bill, the Alternative Pluripotent Stem Cell Therapies Enhancement Act of 2007 (H.R.322), was introduced in the House by Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R-Md.) on January 9, 2007. It was referred to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. As of March 1, it had collected 32 cosponsors.[21]

<USbillinfo congress="110" bill="H.R.322" />

HOPE Act

On January 23, 2007, Sen. Norm Coleman (R-Minn.) introduced the HOPE Act (S.363), which aimed to provide $5 billion over 10 years for stem cell research that does not involve "crossing the ethical line of using taxpayer dollars for the destruction of human embryos." Rather, the funds would be devoted to research on cells which were already "naturally dead." [22] "Naturally dead" was defined as "having naturally and irreversibly lost the capacity for integrated cellular division, growth, and differentiation that is characteristic of an organism, even if some cells of the former organism may be alive in a disorganized state." The bill did not address how the embryo may have died, but was explicit in assuring that it could not have died as a result of being created for the purpose of stem cell harvesting or a procedure for harvesting the amniotic or placental stem cells. [23]

<USbillinfo congress="110" bill="S.363" />

The Secretary of Health and Human Services would be directed to conduct and support research under those parameters. The research would aim to develop techniques for isolating, deriving, producing or testing stem cells that may result in improved understanding of or treatments for diseases and other adverse health conditions.[24]

The president for the Coalition for the Advancement of Medical, Sean Tipton, said, "It's not clear that this bill would allow the NIH (National Institutes of Health) to do anything it can't already do."[25]

On April 11, 2007, the Senate passed the HOPE Act, 70-28.[26]

<USvoteinfo year="2007" chamber="senate" rollcall="128" />


Debate

The debate over stem cell research generally surrounds embryonic research, which involves the destruction of human embryos.

Opposition

The following arguments have been made in opposition to funding embryonic stem cell research:

  • Do No Harm, an organization opposed to research which destroys human embryos, has argued that performing research on embryonic stem cells is effectively destroying life, and should therefore be avoided.[27]
  • Do No Harm has also argued that while embryonic stem cell potential remains theoretical, huge successes are being acheived using cord blood stem cells, which pose no ethical dilemmas or medical dangers to the patient. Among the most stunning advancements in adult stem cell therapy, the group has noted, are treatments for Parkinson's disease, juvenile diabetes, and spinal cord injuries. A list of these treatments can be found at the group's site. (here)
  • At a 2005 event sponsored by the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank opposed to embryonic research, Kelly Hollowell, a molecular and cellular pharmacologist and patent attorney, said that after 20 years of research, there was not a single approved treatment or human trial using embryonic stem cells. Their tendency to produce tumors and malignant carcinomas, cause transplant rejection, and form the wrong kinds of cells, she said, were just a few of the hurdles that embryonic stem cell researchers had been unable to overcome.[28][29]
  • At the Heritage event, Hollowell argued that women's health and human rights advocates worldwide were concerned that the necessity of harvesting a woman's eggs for further embryonic research could place that woman at risks associated with superovulation or high-dose hormone therapies such as cancer, infertility, memory loss, stroke, seizure, and death.[30][31][32]
  • At the Heritage event, Hollowell argued that the process of harvesting embryonic stem cells is extremely inefficient and is dependent on millions of women harvesting their eggs. She said that treating the 17 million diabetes patients alone in the United States would require 850 million to 1.7 billion human eggs or more. To acheive this, she continued, 85 to 170 million women would have to each donate 10 eggs, with 50 to 100 eggs per patient costing $100,000 to $200,000.[33]
  • At the Heritage event, Hollowell said that while embryonic stem cell research was legal, private investors were backing away from funding it, leaving researchers to seek federal government funding.[34]
  • At the Heritage event, Philip H. Coelho, CEO and Chairman of the Board of Thermogenesis Corp, argued that cord blood stem cell therapy had shown a survival rate of 70 percent among high-risk adults. Clinical trials in children with immunodeficiency diseases, he continued, had shown an 80 percent survival rate.[35]
  • The Bioethics Defense Fund, a law and policy organization which seeks to address "human rights violations involved in...embryo research" (among other things), has argued that embryonic research brings about increased possibilities for future commercial exploitation of women (poor women, in particular) to collect their eggs.[36]

Support

The following arguments have been made in support of embryonic stem cell research, as well as federal funding of it:

  • Many scientists, such as Dr. Diane Krause of Yale University, have argued that adult stem cells lack the versatility of embryonic cells, making them less likely to lead to breakthrough medical discoveries.[37]
  • Dr. Mary Hendrix of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology has argued that the research is too important to be left to private researchers, noting that researchers are required to share data when their work is federally funded.[38]
  • Many, including the 2004 General Conference of the United Methodist Church, have argued that destroying human embryos for research that would otherwise be discarded is ethically acceptable given the potential the stem cells hold.[39][40]

Articles and resources

Related SourceWatch articles

Sources

  1. “Democrats Hope to Divide G.O.P. Over Stem Cells,” New York Times, April 24, 2006
  2. Robert McElroy, “Managing America: Health,” TheWeekInCongress, April 13, 2007.
  3. Robert McElroy, “Managing America: Health,” TheWeekInCongress, April 13, 2007.
  4. Robert McElroy, “Managing America: Health,” TheWeekInCongress, April 13, 2007.
  5. William Roberts. "Democrats' Stem-Cell Measure Passes, Isn't Veto-Proof," Bloomberg News. January 11, 2007.
  6. Jeffrey Young,"House passes stem cells bill; veto awaits," The Hill, June 7, 2007.
  7. Jeffrey Young. "Senate passes stem cell research bill," The Hill. April 11, 2007.
  8. Jeffrey Young,"House passes stem cells bill; veto awaits," The Hill, June 7, 2007.
  9. Robert McElroy, "Managing America: Health," TheWeekInCongress, June 8, 2007.
  10. Robert McElroy, "Managing America: Health," TheWeekInCongress, June 8, 2007.
  11. Michael A. Fletcher and David Brown, "Bush Moving to Bolster Stem Cell Alternatives, Embryonic Harvesting Remains Off-Limits," Washington Post, June 20, 2007.
  12. Laurie Kellman. "More measures on stem cells expected," Associated Press (via The Houston Chronicle), June 21, 2007.
  13. " Bush vetoes bill aimed at promoting stem cell research," Associated Press (via CNN), June 20, 2007.
  14. Catherine Larkin. "Castle won't surrender on stem cell legislation," Delaware Online, June 20, 2007.
  15. Michael A. Fletcher. "Bush Vetoes Stem Cell Research Legislation," The Washington Post. June 21, 2007.
  16. Laurie Kellman. "More measures on stem cells expected," Associated Press (via The Houston Chronicle), June 21, 2007.
  17. Laurie Kellman. "More measures on stem cells expected," Associated Press (via The Houston Chronicle), June 21, 2007.
  18. "THOMAS page on S.51," THOMAS.
  19. "THOMAS page on S.51," THOMAS.
  20. "THOMAS page on S.51," THOMAS.
  21. "THOMAS page on H.R. 332," THOMAS.
  22. Robert McElroy, “Managing America: Health,” TheWeekInCongress, April 13, 2007.
  23. Robert McElroy, “Managing America: Health,” TheWeekInCongress, April 13, 2007.
  24. Robert McElroy, “Managing America: Health,” TheWeekInCongress, April 13, 2007.
  25. [1] Star Tribune.
  26. Jeffrey Young. "Senate passes stem cell research bill," The Hill. April 11, 2007.
  27. "The Coalition of Americans for Research Ethics," Do No Harm.
  28. "Federal Stem Cell Research: What the Taxpayers Should Know," The Heritage Foundation, May 24, 2005.
  29. Life Issues Institute: Embryonic Versus Adult Stem Cells? It’s Really No Contes
  30. "Egg Harvesting For Stem Cell Research," Medical News Today, August 14, 2006.
  31. Bioethics Defense Fund
  32. "Federal Stem Cell Research: What the Taxpayers Should Know," The Heritage Foundation, May 24, 2005.
  33. "Federal Stem Cell Research: What the Taxpayers Should Know," The Heritage Foundation, May 24, 2005.
  34. "Federal Stem Cell Research: What the Taxpayers Should Know," The Heritage Foundation, May 24, 2005.
  35. "Federal Stem Cell Research: What the Taxpayers Should Know," The Heritage Foundation, May 24, 2005.
  36. Bioethics Defense Fund
  37. KC Wildmoon, “Scientists, senators testify on stem cell research,” CNN.com, July 18, 2001.
  38. KC Wildmoon, “Scientists, senators testify on stem cell research,” CNN.com, July 18, 2001.
  39. Robert McElroy, “Managing America: Health,” TheWeekInCongress,] April 13, 2007.
  40. “Ethics of Embryonic Stem Cell Research,” The Book of Resolutions of The United Methodist Church, 2004.

External resources

External articles