Embryonic Stem-Cell Bid Passes House, Moves to Senate

The battle over embryonic stem-cell research moved to the Senate Tuesday as House representatives passed a controversial measure that would lift limits on a practice which opponents view as akin to abortion.

House members approved the embryonic stem cell bid by a 238-194 vote despite President Bush’s veto threat. On Tuesday, Bush – who placed a ban on federal funding for such research in August 2001 – vowed to veto the bill if it passes.

"This bill would take us across a critical ethical line by creating new incentives for the ongoing destruction of emerging human life," Bush said Tuesday. "Crossing this line would be a great mistake."

The house vote falls short of the two-thirds majority needed to block a presidential veto.

Nonetheless, supporters of embryonic research pushed further for such a measure to be placed on the Senate floor.

“The American people cannot afford to wait any longer for our top scientists to realize the full potential of stem cell research," said Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), according to the Associated Press.

Backers of the measure say they may have enough votes to break a presidential veto in the Senate.

However, opponents of embryonic research, including Senate Majority leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.), said no such bill has been scheduled for the Senate floor.

Most pro-life Christians across denominational lines oppose embryonic stem cell research because the practice entails the destruction of embryos for the sake of a yet-to-be-proved science.

“There is no doubt that this is a bad bill, but what is even more troubling is that it is actually the first step toward the cloning of human embryos for stem cell research,” said Richard Land, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberties Commission in a May 23 email alert. “After all, it is an easy next step from destroying embryos that are to be ‘discarded’ to making clones of them that will also be destroyed.”

Bush, Land, and most other opponents of embryonic stem cell research support two other forms of stem cell research – adult and umbilical – that would not discard embryos as a by-product.

Also on Tuesday, a bill supporting umbilical cord blood research passed nearly unanimously, clearing the way for national studies on stem cells derived from adults.