The Senate will soon begin debate on a mammoth government spending bill: the Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations Act, 2008 (S.1710). The bill contains mixed news for pro-lifers and those committed to protecting the dignity of human life. The good news: the bill continues Hyde Amendment provisions which prohibit the federal government from funding abortions as a health care services option under Medicaid. The bad news: the bill also calls for a complete reversal of current federal policy regarding embryonic stem cell research (ESCR). Senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) inserted a provision into the bill that would allow the National Institutes of Health to fund research on embryonic stem cell lines created prior to June 15, 2007. Current policy, enacted by the Bush Administration in August 2001, allows NIH to only fund research on stem cell lines created prior to August 9th 2001. At the heart of this policy was the belief that financial incentives should not be an influence on decisions to create or destroy human embryos. Harkin’s provision would not only overturn the current stem cell policy, but would go further by providing financial incentives to conduct human embryo research — and require taxpayers to fund it. The President should veto this legislation not because the bill comes in almost $10 billion over his spending request – but most important, because the bill places the federal government in the position of sanctioning and encouraging the destruction of human life.
The Democrats continued obsession with embryonic stem cell research remains a curiosity. Doubtless, links to the abortion movement shed some light. Still, from a scientific perspective, the Democrats preoccupation with ESCR lacks a compelling logic. In addition to the obvious ethical considerations, ESCR is plagued by many problems not the least of which are genetic incompatibility (often resulting in the body rejecting the stem cells and the creation of tumors) and research results that have been less than promising. Fortunately, research in other such areas as adult stem cells and amniotic fluid-derived stem (AFP) cells bypass the ethical concerns and offer more promising research results than ESCR (For more information see: Stem Cell Research in North Carolina…What’s Really Going On?). Among many in the scientific community, it’s no secret whose research agenda is driven by politics.