Thursday, May 26, 2005

A Successful Failure

"Defying President Bush's threat to impose his first veto, a broad swath of House Republicans voted with an overwhelming number of Democrats yesterday to repeal his restrictions on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research and plunge the government deeper into the controversial science that supporters say could lead to cures for debilitating diseases.

"The 238 to 194 vote, unusual because 50 Republicans broke with Bush and top House leaders, followed a highly personalized, occasionally tearful debate in which a parade of lawmakers recounted medical tragedies that had afflicted their families, while opponents contended that the science is built on destroying human lives.

"The legislation, which has strong support in the Senate, would make federal money available for research on embryonic stem cells extracted from frozen embryos donated by couples who no longer need them for fertility treatments. It would lift a restriction imposed by Bush nearly four years ago that limits federally funded research to fewer than two dozen embryonic stem cell colonies, or lines."

"Bush said last week that he would veto the bill. With the debate underway at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue, he underscored his opposition by holding an East Room ceremony surrounded by children whose families had adopted them as embryos. The same families had appeared several hours earlier on Capitol Hill, with parents and children alike sporting stickers that said 'Former Embryo.'"

"Opposing the bill, House International Relations Committee Chairman Henry J. Hyde (R-Ill.) drew scattered applause when he compared the legislation to the failure of a former generation to recognize the humanity of Dred Scott, the slave whose suit for his freedom led to a landmark Supreme Court ruling.

"'For the first time in our national history, taxpayers' dollars are going to be spent for the killing of innocent human life,' Hyde said. 'We're going to pay a terrible price for not recognizing the humanity of these little embryos.'

"The small, vigorous group of opponents lobbied instead for more research on stem cells that are harvested from bone marrow and other organs, such as the pancreas or liver, and perhaps the umbilical cords of newborns.

"House leaders paired the Castle-DeGette bill with legislation promoting research on stem cells derived from discarded umbilical cord blood. Cord blood cells have cured dozens of diseases, but those achievements have been limited to diseases of the blood. That bill passed 431 to 1." ...

George W. Bush: "The children here today remind us that there is no such thing as a spare embryo. Every embryo is unique and genetically complete, like every other human being. And each of us started out our life this way. These lives are not raw material to be exploited, but gifts. And I commend each of the families here today for accepting the gift of these children and offering them the gift of your love."

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