Culture: July 2006 Archives

From the Wall Street Journal:

Lost amid the veto politics this week was the fact that Congress also moved in other ways on ethics and medical research. Mr. Bush signed a bill passed unanimously by the House and Senate that outlawed "fetal farming," or the practice of raising and aborting fetuses for scientific research. The Senate also passed legislation that would have encouraged greater research into exploiting the stem cells scientists need without destroying embryos, as well as research into adult stem cells. That bill failed in the House, mainly because Democrats think they can use stem cells as a political issue against Republicans this fall.

The bill, S. 2754, passed the Senate unanimously, but for some reason needed a two-thirds vote to suspend the rules and pass the bill in the House. The vote was 273-154, with nearly all Republicans voting in favor, and two-thirds of the Democrats voting against.

Only stem cells from non-embryonic sources have found therapeutic uses. Pro-Life Blogs has a list of recent stories about adult stem-cell breakthroughs.

From an e-mail alert from Tony Lauinger, chairman of Oklahomans for Life:

On Tuesday, July 18, the Senate will vote on H.R. 810, a bill that would force taxpayers to fund research using stem cells obtained by killing human embryos. This bill, which is strongly opposed by Oklahomans For Life and National Right to Life, would overturn President Bush's pro-life policy against federal funding of any research that requires the killing of human embryos.

The Senate will vote the same day on two good bills, S. 3504 and S. 2754.

S. 3504, the Fetus Farming Prohibition Act, would make it a federal offense for a researcher to use tissue from a human baby who has been gestated in a woman's womb, or an animal womb, for the purpose of providing such tissue. Some researchers have already conducted such "fetus farming" experiments with animals -- for example, by gestating cloned calves to four months and then aborting them to obtain their kidney and heart tissues for transplantation.

S. 2754, the Alternative Pluripotent Stem Cell Therapies Enhancement Act, would require the National Institutes of Health to support research to try to find methods of creating pluripotent stem cells (which are cells that can be turned into any sort of body tissue) without creating or harming human embryos.

Please urge Senators Jim Inhofe and Tom Coburn to vote against H.R. 810, and in favor of the ban on fetus farming (S. 3504) and the ethical-alternatives bill (S. 2754). Tell your senators that you are in favor of research, but not the kinds of research that require the killing of human embryos.

The NRLC has a Legislative Action Center page to make it easy to communicate with your U. S. Senators, or you can call the Capitol switchboard at (202) 224-3121.

I'm happy to see one bill (S. 2754) with a positive focus on stem cell research that doesn't involve destroying embryonic human life. All the breakthroughs in the therapeutic application of stem cells have involved stem cells derived from adult tissue or umbilical cord blood, not from embryos.

I'm fairly confident that Coburn and Inhofe will do the right thing on these bills, but there are some ostensibly pro-life Republican senators (like Majority Leader Bill Frist) who have been seduced by the celebrity supporters of the destruction of embryonic human life. They need to hear from us.

It's worth remembering, too, that the issue is one of funding. Embryonic stem cell research is legal, but adult stem cell research has been more successful at attracting private funding because it has shown the most promising results.

MORE on the issue, found via Pro-Life Blogs:

Buried toward the end of a pro-embryo-destruction story in the July 24 issue of Time:

The good news for all sides is that over the course of this long argument, researchers have learned more about how stem cells work, and the science has outrun the politics. Adult cells, such as those found in bone marrow, were thought to be less valuable than embryonic cells, which are "pluripotent" master cells that can turn into anything from a brain cell to a toenail. But adult cells may be more elastic than scientists thought, and could offer shortcuts to treatment that embryonic cells can't match.

Researchers have discovered that many tissues and organs contain precursor cells that act in many ways like stem cells. The skin, intestines, liver, brain and bone marrow contain these stem cell-- mimicking cells, which could become a reservoir of replacement cells for treating diseases such as leukemias, stroke and some cancers. "Brain stem-cells can make almost all cell types in the brain, and that may be all we need if we want to treat Parkinson's disease or ALS," says Dr. Arnold Kriegstein, who directs the University of California at San Francisco's Institute for Regeneration Medicine. "Embryonic stem cells might not be necessary in those cases." When it comes to treating heart disease, "if you could find a progenitor cell in the adult heart that has the ability to replicate," says Douglas Melton, co-director of the Harvard Stem Cell Institute, "then it's likely easier to start with that cell than begin with an embryonic stem cell, which has too many options."

Cheerleaders for adult stem-cell research point to progress on everything from spinal-cord injuries to diabetes. Scientists at the University of Minnesota have used umbilical-cord-blood stem cells to improve some neurological function; in a paper published last month, Dr. Carlos Lima in Portugal wrote about restoring some motor function and sensation in a few paralyzed patients. At a recent conference of researchers from around the world, a team from Kyoto University in Japan reported success in taking a skin cell, exposing it to four key growth factors and turning it into an embryo-like entity that produced stem cells--all without using an egg. The Kyoto group has submitted its work for publication, after which it will be open to the scrutiny of the scientific community. If successful, it could turn stem-cell science from a tedious, finicky process into a relatively straightforward chemistry project.

(Found via Pro Ecclesia.)

Here is how House members voted on H.R. 810. All four Oklahoma Republicans voted against; lone Democrat Dan Boren voted for the bill.

Joe Carter at Evangelical Outpost reports that supporters of H.R. 810 are trying to achieve Clintonesque moral hair-splitting:

Congressional bill H. R. 810 seeks to codify the Clinton workaround by circumventing the Dickey Amendment. They don’t want to have the blood on their hands (hence their refusal to fund embryo destruction) but once the human has been killed, they’ll fund the subsequent research.

The fact that so many legislators can be duped into believing that ESCR will ever lead to cures is simply astounding, and shows the paucity of intellect and discernment on Capital Hill. Ignorance, however, is excusable; cowardice is not. If the “party of death” (which includes 93% of the Democratic party and 21% of the GOP) truly believes in this research, then they should at least have the courage to sign the death warrant for the humans being destroyed.

Columnist Michael Reagan sums up the state of embryonic stem cell research (ESCR):

Far from curing everything from Alzheimer’s Disease to spinal cord injuries, and a whole host of other medical problems as proponents promise, all ESCR has produced thus far is cancerous tumors in lab animals. And even top ESCR scientists now admit that any progress in the field is 25 years away, after they stop killing lab animals, that is....

The ESCR community based most of their inflated claims on the work of South Korean scientist Huang Woo-suk, who claimed to have created the world's first cloned human embryos and extracted stem cells from them, raising hopes of cures for diseases like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. Dr. Huang was widely acclaimed as a world-class stem cell pioneer and treated as a hero until investigations disclosed that he had fabricated key data in two papers published in the U.S. journal, Science. He has now admitted the fraud and has been indicted along with five of his associates.

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Culture category from July 2006.

Culture: May 2006 is the previous archive.

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