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House Passes Stem Cell Research, Challenging White House

I'd be curious to hear what TalkingDonkey readers would think about this rare challenge to the President, that could set up the first Presidential veto.

Key questions abound in this space and it seems to be the rare issue that crosses party lines and even pro-life pro-choice lines as you can see by the support of pro-life advocates like Spector and Strom Thurman.

The Post wrote: "The bill includes what would be the first federal ethics rules for human embryonic stem cell research. Scientists could study only cells from embryos created for fertility treatment and donated by the parents, without compensation and with full knowledge of how the cells would be used.

The bill would not allow federal funding of research on embryos made expressly for research by cloning or any other means, a far more contentious issue."

I have my own opinion, which I'll share later, but first I'd love to hear folks who have links to good on-line arguments both for and against the research...

Here is the full story on the Times:

"The House of Representatives voted today to ease restrictions on federal financing for embryonic stem cell research, thus setting up a showdown with President Bush, who has vowed to veto the measure because he says it would promote destruction of life.

The 238-to-194 vote in favor, far short of the 290 needed to override a presidential veto, sends the issue to the Senate, where an identical measure is pending. Stem cell research has considerable support in the Senate as well. Its chief sponsor is Senator Arlen Specter, Republican of Pennsylvania, who heads the Senate subcommittee that controls federal financing for medical research.

Most Democrats in the House voted in favor of the bill today, and most Republicans against. The House's action, and the likelihood of approval in the Senate as well, sets the stage for the first veto to be cast by President Bush, who reiterated his opposition this afternoon to the current legislation.

Proponents of the research, including the former first lady Nancy Reagan, argue that embryonic stem cell study could lead to cures for such diseases as Alzheimer's, which afflicted President Ronald Reagan, and Parkinson's and even spinal cord injuries.

The legislation that Mr. Bush has vowed to veto would reverse the president's ban on using federal money to conduct new embryonic stem cell research. The embryonic stem cells, the starting point for every tissue in the human body, would come from live human embryos scheduled to be discarded at fertility clinics. The co-sponsors of the bill are Representatives Michael N. Castle, Republican of Delaware, and Diana DeGette, Democrat of Colorado.

House passage of the embryonic stem cell bill was a rare direct challenge to President Bush, who has consistently threatened to veto any legislation that tried to widen federal support for research using stem cells from human embryos."
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5/24/2005 04:25:00 PM

From Sojo.net:

"We are compelled to end suffering. While there are no guarantees of positive results, stem cell research represents the best hope to find cures for some of the most debilitating diseases facing us. Life does not begin at conception and end at birth. Slotting this issue neatly into an abortion box does not fit.

If you already support in vitro fertilization, then you have no grounds for opposing the harvesting of stem cells. It is exceptionally rare for an infertile couple to make use of all the embryos that result from the procedure. The rest are eventually discarded. As my ally Orrin Hatch (shudder—I was hoping it would sound better the more I used it) says, "Why shouldn’t embryos slated for destruction be used for the benefit of humankind?"    

5/25/2005 10:08:00 AM

From the Journal of Lutheran Ethics:


"For both camps, pro and con, then, there is yet another location to consider, one that is raised when we invoke the sanctity of life principle in this debate. Where do you locate yourself on the question of when life begins? This is the centuries old question so central to the endless debate over abortion. The varieties of answers given throughout the tradition of Christian moral reflection represent a broad spectrum to say the least. Indeed, so varied has been the array of religious and philosophical positions on the matter that Roe v. Wade concluded that abortion must remain a matter of personal choice until the time of viability when the state then had a legitimate interest in that fetal life. However, when it comes to matters of public policy in research with embryos, which does not involve a woman's right to privacy in any obvious way, the moral/legal status of nascent life in its various stages gains renewed attention.

Are religiously driven convictions that life begins at conception an imposition on the workings of secular government or do they represent a genuine expression of at least a major segment of the body politic? What are the alternatives? For some proponents, embryonic stem cell research is not a compromise of the sanctity of human life, because embryonic life does not have the moral status of personal human existence whatever its potential. For still others, even conceding the fact that embryonic life is human life deserving of respect, our normal moral obligations to extend protection to nascent life are overridden by the urgency of addressing the suffering of those who might benefit from embryonic stem cell research now and in future generations. Some may even say that this is the true way to respect the sanctity of life.

The social statement does not deal with the moral status of pre-implanted embryos such as those discarded in the process of in vitro fertilization. This gets us closer to the heart of the issue at present since the existing 60 embryonic stem cell lines are drawn from excess embryos created in the in vitro fertilization process. There is no church consensus on this as yet. The "life in all phases of its development" phrase in the abortion statement could be construed to mean life begins at conception and thereby settle the issue. However, an endnote on embryology tells us that 40-75% of the zygotes resulting from conception in normal intercourse spontaneously fail to implant. Do the unused embryos of the in vitro process simply mimic nature, albeit with intentionality, thereby placing them in a morally different category from implanted embryos? Furthermore, the document also states that, "Although abortion raises significant moral issues at any stage of fetal development, the closer the life in the womb comes to full term the more serious such issues become." Does the morally "less significant" (?) status of pre-implanted embryos make them more susceptible to use in research for therapeutic benefit? (Interestingly enough, here in Ohio where we have a law against research on aborted fetal tissue, the question of pre-implanted embryos and stem cell research is now open for debate.)

These questions will obviously be a part our moral deliberation as a Christian community."    

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