HealthLawProf Blog

Editor: Katharine Van Tassel
Concordia University School of Law

Monday, October 24, 2005

Stem Cell Debate Pushed Back

The New York Times reports that no review of the current ban on federal funding for stem cell research will occur this year.  According to the Times,

A Senate debate over whether to ease federal restrictions on stem cell research will be put off until next year, an influential senator seeking to relax the rules said Friday.

The lawmaker, Senator Arlen Specter, Republican of Pennsylvania and chairman of a subcommittee that oversees spending on health issues, said the majority leader, Senator Bill Frist of Tennessee, had agreed to make consideration of a measure governing stem cell research a priority when Congress reconvenes in 2006.

That pledge led Mr. Specter to drop his threat to use a health spending bill to try to lift the ban on federal financing of stem cell research involving destruction of human embryos.

"It would be a logical spot to remove it," Mr. Specter said of his previous plan, "but it would cause a multifaceted controversy" at a time when the Senate has an abundance of other issues to deal with.

Mr. Specter and some fellow Republicans including Senator Orrin G. Hatch of Utah had joined Senate Democrats in pushing for a vote before the end of this year despite opposition from other Republican lawmakers, the Bush administration and conservative activists. They had believed that they gained new momentum when Mr. Frist, a physician, broke with the administration in July and endorsed the concept of legislation passed by the House that would allow government financing of research on embryos that are in frozen storage at fertility clinics and due otherwise to be discarded.

But on Friday, Mr. Specter bowed to the crush of events that have crowded the Senate agenda with spending legislation, bills related to Hurricane Katrina and a second Supreme Court nomination. He said the stem cell measure would get fuller attention next year.


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