WASHINGTON (May 25, 2005)-- Yesterday the House of Representatives approved two bills on stem cell research. One bill, H.R. 2520, will increase access to life-saving treatments by establishing a nationwide public bank for umbilical cord blood stem cells; the other, H.R. 810, will force taxpayers to fund stem cell research which requires the destruction of human embryos. President Bush has promised to veto the embryo research bill, which fell short of a veto-proof margin by over 50 votes.
"This was a David and Goliath story," said Richard M. Doerflinger, Deputy Director of the USCCB Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities. "The pro-life movement and its allies in Congress went up against the combined resources of Hollywood celebrities, the research establishment, and a wealthy for-profit biotechnology industry, and fought them to a standstill. The bill to promote killing of human embryos for their stem cells will not become law. Yet the floor debate showed an appalling degree of ignorance and confusion on the issue among those voting for this bill, indicating the educational challenge to be addressed before the House votes on this issue again. Some even said that embryonic stem cells have a proven ability to cure patients and that adult stem cells do not, whereas exactly the opposite is true.
"The good news," said Mr. Doerflinger, "is that the House of Representatives voted nearly unanimously to encourage the broader use of cord blood stem cells in research and treatment, an ethical and exceptionally promising field. This bill also has strong bipartisan support in the Senate and President Bush's strong support. It should be enacted into law without delay, so it can begin helping patients with devastating disease."
According to a nationwide poll commissioned by the USCCB Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities in May 2005, H.R. 810 runs counter to the opinion of a majority of Americans. Fifty-two percent of Americans in the poll opposed federal funding of stem cell research that requires destroying human embryos. When given a choice between funding all stem cell research, or only research which does not require destroying human embryos, respondents favored funding only the latter by 60 to 22 percent.
"It is always wrong for government to promote the destruction of innocent human life," said Mr. Doerflinger. "Society must focus its efforts on promoting medical research that all Americans can live with."