Friday, July 21, 2006

President holds the line for life

On Wednesday, July 19, 2006, President Bush exercised his first veto of his administration. He sent back a fatally flawed bill passed by Congress dealing with embryonic stem cell research. This bill crossed the moral and ethical lines by allowing for the destruction of human life. The measure did not meet the publicly stated criteria announced by the White House five years ago. So the president, with the support of the pro-life community, acted to defend innocent human life and vetoed the bill.

During the last five years there has been a constant barrage from throughout the media attacking the pro-life movement and attempting to divide pro-lifers on the subject of embryonic stem cell research. In order to confuse the public, those elements within the media who are hostile to the pro-life movement have misstated, failed to report of otherwise confused the issue.

So, let us approach things quite simply and candidly by noting the following information:

The Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act passed by the Congress would have compelled all American taxpayers to fund questionable research that relies on the intentional destruction of human life (human embryos), through the derivation of embryonic stem cells. The current policy in place permits funding for research that uses embryonic stem cell lines that were created prior to August 9, 2001. Those human lives (human embryos) have been already destroyed. What the President was hoping that Congress would do was to pass legislation that would allow scientific research to continue without violating certain fundamental ethical principles. He directed in his speech at the East Room at the White House yesterday for Secretary of Human Services and the Directors of the National Institute of Health to find ways in which one could pursue scientific research without violating fundamental principles regarding the respect and the dignity of human life.

As the President stated, destroying human life violates fundamental principles upon which this country was founded. Further, the President believes that the Government has a responsibility to use the people's money responsibly in supporting important research that respects moral boundaries and recognizes that current research within those moral boundaries are acceptable. The work that has been done in advancing adult stem cell research and research involving cord blood are just two examples. Indeed, there is current research that supports studies that adult stem cells can mimic the properties of embryonic stem cells.

A current report from the University of Louisville announced that scientists have discovered that certain kinds of adult stem cells that can changes into brain, nerve, heart, muscle and pancreatic cells. This ability to take on the characteristics of other cells is the primary "selling point" for the consideration of using embryonic stem cells. Unfortunately, the use of embryonic stem cells requires of the destruction of unborn children in their earliest stages of life. Scientists from around the world are confirming the University of Louisville's breakthrough. Dr. Mariusz Ratajczak, a leader of the research team and director of the stem cell biology program at the University's James graham brown Cancer Center explained, "A lot of people report the presence of embryonic-like cells in adults." At the University of Illinois, researchers have identified similar embryonic-like stem cells in the umbilical cord. And the researchers in Germany, and the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, have also found similar properties.

As someone who attended the President's speech in Washington D.C., I found strong support within the scientific community to focus on those ethical approaches to stem cell research. I had a short conversation with Dr. Jorge Garcia, an ethicist from Boston College, who discussed the importance of focusing on these moral and ethical issues, and avoiding those questionable ethical scientific methods, which could lead the scientific community down a terrible slippery slope.

I also had the opportunity to talk with two gentlemen who were very much connected with the research being done on these VSELs (Very Small Embryonic-Like cells) that Ratajczak grew in his lab two years ago. It would appear that if the scientific community was to focus on this particular area there may common ground where both the pro-life community and the scientific community could agree..

When one considers the number of lives saved by the current adult stem cell research, one can ask the serious question as to why we should spend precious resources on speculative measures. Dr. Stephen Emerson, chief of hematology and oncology at the University of Pennsylvania, explained to reporters, that if the VSELs and the stem cells can act like the specimens they found in mice and other scientists can duplicate the process, the discovery goes from “very important to "incredibly important."

It is unfortunate that Senator McCain did not understand this, and voted in favor of SB-812. Unfortunately he was not alone. Senator Frist, Senator Hatch, and others failed to observe the important connection between avoiding this type of funding and focusing on funding which will advance and enhance the protection of human life. An appropriate letter to Senator McCain expressing your sentiments is very timely. It should also be phrased in such a manner as to encourage him to have his staff do more research into this area, so that he might correct his misunderstanding, and support legislation that will, in the long run, provide ethical opportunities for the scientific community along with the Federal Government to find cures for diseases which affect our human society.


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