Reproduction and Fertility is an open-access, peer-reviewed journal
Page URL: https://www.bionews.org.uk/page_90342

US Senate approves measures to ease stem cell research

17 April 2007
Appeared in BioNews 403

The Senate has passed two pieces of legislation designed to relax the restrictions on stem cell research in the US. It has approved a much-anticipated bill to ease current restrictions on human embryonic stem cell (ES cell) research, allowing for federal funding to be used for research on 'spare' embryos donated by couples after undergoing IVF. The Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act 2007 was passed by 63 votes to 24, falling short of the two-thirds majority needed to override a presidential veto, making it unlikely to become law. President Bush voted an almost identical bill last year and has vowed to do the same again.

In a statement following the vote, President Bush said that the approved legislation 'crosses a moral line that I and many others find troubling. If it advances all the way through Congress to my desk, I will veto it'. Senator Tom Harkin, one of the sponsors of the bill, urged the President to reconsider his position. 'There are some 400,000 leftover, unwanted embryos in fertility clinics across America. All we are saying is, instead of throwing those leftover embryos away, let's allow couples to donate a few of them, if they wish, to create stem cell lines that could cure diseases and save lives', he said.

Under current law passed on 9 August 2001, federally-funded stem cell scientists are only permitted to conduct research on the 21 human ES cell lines created prior to that date. It is believed that there may be 50 or 60 new lines currently out of reach for federal researchers due to these restrictions.

The Senate was also asked to consider the so-called HOPE Act, which allows for federal research on 'naturally dead' embryos. The term is ambiguous but it is thought to include frozen embryos that would not survive the thawing process, and ones that are not able to develop further. Cell-lines derived from amniotic fluid may also come under this scope of this bill. The legislation was passed by 80 votes to 70, with largely Republican support.

Of the HOPE Act, President Bush said: 'I strongly support this bill, and I encourage the Congress to pass it and send it to me for my signature, so stem cell science can progress, without ethical and cultural conflict'. However, critics have doubted the science behind the bill and say there is no consensus on the term 'naturally dead'. 'We find this to be an absolutely bizarre bill because the presumption upon which it is based is flawed,' said leading stem cell researcher John Gearhart, of the John Hopkins University.

The two bills will be sent back to the House when they return after the Spring recess before they make their way to Bush's desk.

SOURCES & REFERENCES
Senate Approves Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act, HOPE Act
Kaiser Network |  12 April 2007
Stem Cell Bill Clears Senate, and Bush Promises a Veto
New York Times |  11 April 2007
US Senate passes stem-cell bill - again
Nature |  12 April 2007
US Senate votes to lift US stem cell restrictions
New Scientist |  12 April 2007
RELATED ARTICLES FROM THE BIONEWS ARCHIVE
29 September 2008 - by MacKenna Roberts 
Both candidates in the race for the US presidency - Republican John McCain and Democrat Barack Obama - have released misleading stem cell policy radio advertisements. Although both campaign ads were technically true, Obama misrepresented McCain's current views in support of the research and McCain misrepresented the opposition of...
23 April 2007 - by Sam Berger and Professor Jonathan Moreno 
It appears that once again the US Congress will be unable to override President Bush's expected veto of legislation to loosen federal restrictions on human embryonic stem (ES) cell research. In light of this political stalemate, as well as efforts in states like California, New Jersey, and New York to...
26 March 2007 - by Antony Starza-Allen 
The director of the US National Institutes of Health (NIH), Elias Zerhouni, has said that he supports the removal of the current restrictions on federal funding for human embryonic stem (ES) cell research imposed by President Bush in 2001. 'From my standpoint, it is clear today that...
29 January 2007 - by Antony Starza-Allen 
As the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act 2007, passed in the House by 253 votes to 174 earlier this month, makes its way towards the Senate, leading US stem cell researchers - including a high level National Institutes of Health (NIH) official - have voiced their opposition against President...
15 January 2007 - by Antony Starza-Allen 
The US House of Representatives has voted in favour of legislation to expand federal funding for human embryonic stem (ES) cell research. The Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act 2007 was passed by 253 votes to 174, but fell short of the two-thirds majority needed to override a...
13 November 2006 - by Antony Starza-Allen 
By Antony Blackburn-Starza: There's a feeling of change in relation to embryonic stem (ES) cell research in the US following the mid-term elections, which saw the Democrats capturing both the Senate and the House of Representatives from the Republicans. In the state of Missouri, where ES cell research was a...
20 July 2006 - by Dr Kirsty Horsey 
US President George Bush has vetoed a bill passed by Congress that would have removed restrictions on federally-funded human embryonic stem (ES) cell research in America. The bill - known as the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act of 2005 (HR 810) - was debated alongside two other bills...
HAVE YOUR SAY
to add a Comment.

By posting a comment you agree to abide by the BioNews terms and conditions


Syndicate this story - click here to enquire about using this story.