Thursday, August 24, 2006

US may lift ban on federal funding for stem-cell research

The Times of London
US may lift ban on federal funding for stem-cell research
By Catherine Philp in Washington

THE breakthrough made in a small Massachusetts laboratory could put American embryonic stem-cell research back on track by removing the key objection that has stood in the way of federal funding.

American scientists have been unable to use government money to create new stem-cell lines since 2001, when President Bush ordered a ban on federal funding for research on embryos created after that date.

All their publicly funded work has been confined to the 61 stem cells already in existence at that time when, as Mr Bush said, a “life-or-death decision had already been made”.

Last month, Mr Bush vetoed a Bill lifting that ban on the ground that he opposed the use of public funds for projects involving the destruction of human embryos.

It was the first time in his presidency that Mr Bush had refused to sign into law a Bill approved by Congress. “It crosses a moral boundary that our decent society needs to respect, so I vetoed it,” he said, flanked by families with children who were born using “unwanted” embryos left over from fertility treatment that could otherwise have been used in the research.

“This Bill would support the taking of innocent human life in the hope of finding medical benefits for others. Each of these children was adopted while an embryo. These boys and girls are not spare parts.”

Polls, however, suggest that most Americans back the research, and many within Mr Bush’s party were angered at his move. Although he has consistently opposed embryonic research on moral grounds, it is hard to see how he could oppose it with the issue of embryo destruction resolved.

Pressure has been building for a loosening of restrictions, led by campaigners such as Nancy Reagan.

Several individuals, including Michael Bloomberg, the Mayor of New York, and Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft, have donated billions to keep stem-cell research alive.

Some states, including California, under the Republican governorship of Arnold Schwarzenegger, have brought in legislation to free state funds for the research.

A resolution of the issue may also deprive Democrats of a hot election issue for the mid-term congressional polls in November. Many leapt on Mr Bush’s veto as evidence of his pandering to conservatives and of his losing touch with ordinary American people.


“It crosses a moral boundary that our decent society needs to respect”

George Bush

“Embryonic stem-cell research has not produced a single human cure. All it has yielded is tumours, rejection and mutations”

Mel Gibson

“Any treatment which claims to save human lives, yet is based on human life in its embryonic state, is logically and morally contradictory”

Pope John Paul II


“I remain committed to advancing stem-cell research in California, in the promise it holds for millions of our citizens”

Arnold Schwarzenegger

“The fear that therapeutic cloning will lead inevitably down the “slippery slope” to reproductive cloning is an absolute falsehood”

Christopher Reeve