The unanimous bi-partisan support for passing an umbilical cord blood stem cell bill by Congress is seen as one of the major pro-life victories of the year.
The new law, which President George W. Bush will sign in a Tuesday morning ceremony at the White House will provide a way to gather stem cells proven to be useful for treating over 67 diseases including leukemia and sickle cell anemia which affects mostly African-Americans. The bill passed in the House with a vote of 413-0.
"Unlike the empty promises of embryonic stem-cell research, cord-blood stem cells provide patients with real treatment and cures," said Wendy Wright, Executive Vice President for Concerned Women for America, "Thousands of patients will have more than just their hopes realized their lives will be saved and suffering relieved, because this law will make ethical cord-blood stem cells available to them.
Cord blood stem cells are seen by pro-life advocates as an ethical alternative to embryonic stem cell research. Since 1998 when research began on embryonic stem cells, no cures have been found.
Embryonic stem cell research is controversial because it involves harvesting stem cells from a fertilized egg that that is in the early stages of development to becoming a fetus. Pro-life groups oppose the research for the same reason that they oppose abortion since conception is considered the starting point of life.
The Senate signed the bill on Friday after a brief delay when some Senators considered holding back the cord blood measure because an embryonic bill was not attached, a move which drew fierce but quick criticism from pro-life groups. However it passed unanimously.
"We are grateful for the persistence of congressmen who stood up to the bullies who tried to hold hostage real cures and treatments for patients, in order to push their unethical political agenda, said Wright.
Family Research Council President Tony Perkins had also blasted some Senate Democrats for the delay as a political ploy over unsuccessful and ethically challenged embryonic stem cell research, adding that the bill would be particularly beneficial to the African American community which is most commonly affected by sickle cell anemia.
The measure itself will appropriate $265 million for stem cell therapeutic therapy, cord blood and bone marrow treatment. The cord blood cells will go into a databank funded by an additional $79 million that will help to collect an estimated 150,000 units of stem cell inventories. According to Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), bill HR2520 will help to serve to treat the 90 percent of patients who need cord blood stem cell therapy.
We will now be able to turn medical waste - umbilical cords and placentas - into medical miracles for huge numbers of very sick and terminally ill patients, said Rep. Smith after Congress passed the bill. The current hospital infrastructure does not allow for the proper widespread collection of the cord blood stem cells.
Bill HR 2520 is known as the Stem Cell Therapeutic and Research Act of 2005.