HealthLawProf Blog

Editor: Katharine Van Tassel
Concordia University School of Law

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

House Passes Embryonic Stem Cell Bill

The N.Y. Times reported today that the House of Representatives passed two bills that would allow federal funding of embryonic stem-cell research (click for the roll call votes on H.R. 810 and H.R. 2520).  This legislation will reverse President Bush's ban on using federal money to conduct embryonic stem-cell research on new (post-8/9/2001) stem-cell lines.  (H.R. 2520 would promote contracts with cord-blood banks to promote stem-cell therapies.  It passed by a 431-1 vote.)  If H.R. 810 becomes law, embryonic stem-cells would come from live human embryos scheduled to be discarded at fertility clinics.  Even though President Bush has already said he will veto this bill if necessary (see previous post), 50 House Republicans broke with him and voted with 187 Democrats.  The House vote fell short of the 290 votes needed to override a presidential veto.  The issue will go to the Senate where an identical bill is pending. 

The Times article also states that President Bush has said that despite the potential for medical breakthrough, the use of human embryos in the studies was too high a cost to pay.  According to the Washington Post, one of his supporters, House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.), said that the "bill would force taxpayers to finance 'the dismemberment of living, distinct human beings'."  Many members -- Democrat and Republican alike -- indicated their intention to vote for both bills, saying that together they represented hope for the largest number of people with illnesses or conditions that might be treated with stem-cell therapies. 

In a commentary for MSNBC, Arthur Caplan criticized President Bush's position on stem-cell research.  He stated that President Bush and his supporters have made a mockery of the moral issues involved and that his policy makes little ethical sense to most Americans.   He criticizes the president's moral reasoning as inconsistent, since he claims embryo destruction is wrong but still would permit research on embryos destroyed before August 2001 and has done nothing to prevent the daily destruction of embryos in fertility clinics.  Rep. Mike Castle (R-Del.) is a proponent of the stem cell research bills and has collected a lot of commentary on the issue on his "Stem Cell Research and Resource" page[tm]

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