Two new bills related to stem-cell research have been approved by the U.S. House of Representatives one promoting non-destructive methods and the other supporting research resulting in the death of unborn children.
The Stem Cell Therapeutic and Research Act of 2005 (HR 2520) which would increase the use of umbilical cord blood stem cells in research for the treatment of diseases and reauthorize the National Marrow Donor Program was passed by a vote of 431-1.
Congress was urged to to support the legislation by Cardinal William Keeler of Baltimore and chairman of the U.S. bishops' Committee for Pro-Life Activities.
The cardinal said that despite embryonic stem-cell research raising grave moral objections, and remaining speculative in terms of medical benefits, the bill relates to an area of stem-cell research and treatment that is indisputably acceptable on moral grounds and remarkably promising in terms of clinical benefits, the use of umbilical cord blood retrieved immediately after live births.
The Catholic Church opposes embryonic stem-cell research because it requires the deliberate killing of the embryonic unborn child, and many Americans support this view. A recent poll indicated that 77 percent of Americans surveyed opposed in particular, the cloning of human embryos for research purposes.
Reports in the New England Journal of Medicine on the successful use of umbilical cord blood to treat two devastating neurological diseases in children, Hurler's syndrome and infantile Krabbe's Disease, were mentioned by the cardinal.
Cardinal Keeler said that what is preventing far broader use of umbilical cord blood is not an ethical concern, or any lack of evidence of clinical benefits, but simply a lack of funding and access, and by helping to establish a nationwide public cord blood bank, the legislation will save more lives almost immediately.
Tony Perkins, president of Family Research Council, praised the House action on cord-blood stem cell research and said the legislation promotes very effective stem cell research while preserving the basic ethical norms involving human life.
Perkins however, noted that on the same day, the House also passed the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act of 2005 (HR 810) by 238-194, which is a law that would federally fund research that requires the killing of unborn children that were not used in the in vitro fertilization process. If passed, the law would counteract President George W. Bush's executive order in 2001 that ruled out federal funding of such research.
Perkins regrets that the House also passed HR 810 because it creates a financial incentive to destroy human embryos.
He said, "millions of Americans should not be made to pay for research that they find morally abhorrent".
President Bush has promised to veto HR 810 if it reaches his desk.