FETUS FARMING PROHIBITION ACT OF 2006 -- (Senate - July 18, 2006)
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Mr. KENNEDY. Mr. President, I want to extend, as I think all of us in this body want to, appreciation to the Senator from Iowa, as well as the Senator from California and the Senator from Pennsylvania, for their long, continuing, and ongoing leadership in such an important area for families in this country.
This afternoon, the debate on stem cell research will draw to a close. For Senators, life will go on. Next week, the Senate will deal with other issues and other questions. But millions of Americans don't have that luxury. For them, the struggle against disease isn't something they think about for a few brief days. It is something they confront every day of their lives.
A child coping with endless injections of insulin and constant worries about blood sugar cannot simply turn away from this debate. Someone watching helplessly as a parent or a spouse succumbs to the tremors of Parkinson's disease cannot simply move on to other concerns.
For us, a vote on stem cell research may take only a few moments in a busy day. But for millions of Americans, the consequences of our vote may last a lifetime.
Should this lifesaving legislation pass through Congress, President Bush has said he will veto it. The President may believe that ends the debate, but it does not. This debate will continue as long as lives are diminished and cut short by diseases and injuries that stem cells might cure. This debate will go on as long as there are those of us who believe that rather than discard unwanted embryos, we should embrace them to bring fuller lives to millions of people.
For their sake our battle continues--tomorrow, next week, next month, and in the days ahead. To those who suffer and cling to hope, we promise that we will never give up. The promise of a better day that embryonic stem cell research brings cannot be denied forever.
I want to take a moment to address some of the arguments our opponents on this issue have made during this debate. Dr. Thomas Murray, one of the Nation's leading scholars in bioethics, has a simple saying: ``Good ethics starts with good facts.'' It is like John Adams, who said, ``Facts are stubborn things.'' Sadly, on this most important ethical issue we have heard some very questionable allegations.
We have heard that adult stem cells have conquered disease after disease and therefore our legislation is not needed, but the facts tell a different story. The Nation's leading scientific society, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, recently published an extensive study that disputes these claims. Contrary to the allegation of opponents of our bill, adult stem cells have not treated Parkinson's disease, cancer, lymphoma, brain tumors, multiple sclerosis, arthritis, lupus, sickle cell anemia, heart damage, spinal cord injuries, and many other conditions.
The Cancer Research and Prevention Foundation was so concerned about the misleading claims that adult stem cells are curing cancer that they sent Congress a letter setting the record straight. Their letter states that the studies used to support these claims are ``not extensive and by no means prove that adult stem cells are effective in treating these cancers.''
In fact, out of the hundreds of diseases and injuries that our legislation might address, only nine have shown promise for treatment with adult stem cells. Let's hope that in time this situation changes. If adult stem cells can cure cancer or Parkinson's disease or spinal injury in the future, we will all--all rejoice.
But we must not foreclose the chance of progress with embryonic stem cells while this possibility is tested. No matter how deeply held the convictions are of those who oppose our legislation, they cannot erase the facts. The objective evidence has convinced the Nation's leading medical experts that embryonic stem cell research has unique potential and unparalleled promise.
Our opponents have also said that because there have as yet been no cures from embryonic stem cells, we should continue to restrict the research. Is it truly a surprise that a discovery made only a few years ago has yet to move to the clinic, especially when NIH has been prohibited from funding the most promising areas of research?
Knowledge about the function of DNA is the foundation of modern medical science. It underlies the development of every major new drug and medical treatment today. In 1973, scientists discovered how to splice pieces of DNA together, the fundamental breakthrough that led to the biotechnology wonders of today. But there were no clinical trials or new cures based on that historic discovery for years that followed.
Human embryonic stem cells were discovered in 1998. Of course, they have not led to a range of new cures in the brief time since then, just as discovering how to splice DNA did not lead to immediate clinical breakthroughs. But it would be just as foolish to keep restricting stem cell research today as it would have been to stop basic DNA research in the 1970s because it did not produce instant cures.
The ethical debate surrounding stem cell research is not unique. Such debates have accompanied many breakthroughs and new therapies. It is essential for researchers to be bound by strict ethical guidelines, especially in the early days of a new science as we seek to understand its potential. Such controversy also accompanied other lifesaving and beneficial medical developments, such as DNA research and in vitro fertilization. But now, DNA research has saved lives and is alleviating suffering. And IVF has brought the joy of parenthood to couples across America. Would any of us turn back the clock and shun the new medicines that DNA research has brought? Would any of us deny the joy of children to those able to conceive only through IVF? Of course not.
In a few short minutes, the Senate will decide whether to open the extraordinary promise of stem cell research to millions of Americans who look to it with hope for new cures and a better day.
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Mr. KENNEDY. Two years ago I held a forum on stem cell research. One of the participants was Moira McCarthy Stanford from Plymouth, MA, whose 14-year-old daughter was suffering from juvenile diabetes. I received this letter from her:
For as long as I can remember, I've had to take a lot of leaps of faith. I've had to believe my parents when they told me taking four or five shots a day and pricking my finger eight or more times a day was just ``a new kind of normal.'' I've had to just smile and say I'm fine when a high blood sugar or low blood sugar forced me to the sidelines in a big soccer game; or into the base lodge on a perfect ski day; or out of the pool during a swim meet.
But when I watched, with my parents, President Bush's decision on Stem Cell research in the summer of 2001, I just could not accept it. You see the one thing that has helped me accept all I've had to accept these years is the presence of hope. Hope keeps me going.
That night, President Bush talked about protecting the innocent. I wondered then: what about me? I am truly innocent in this situation. I did nothing to bring my diabetes on; there is nothing I can do to make it any better. All I can do is hope for a research breakthrough and keep living the difficult, demanding life of a child with diabetes until that breakthrough comes. How, I asked my parents, is it more important to throw discarded embryos into the trash than it is to let them be used to hopefully save my life.
I am so happy to hear that the Senate is thinking of passing H.R. 810. I can dream again--dream of that great time when I write a thank you letter to the Senate, the House and everyone who helped me become just another girl; a girl who dreamed and hoped and one day, got just what she wanted: her health and future. That's all I'm really asking for.
Mr. President, in a few moments we will have the opportunity to answer her. I hope the answer will be in the affirmative.
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