FETUS FARMING PROHIBITION ACT OF 2006 -- (Senate - July 18, 2006)
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Mr. KERRY. Mr. President, I want to begin by thanking the Senator from Iowa, Senator Harkin, for his long leadership on this and other issues of importance to research and to people with disabilities.
For each of us, and for millions of Americans, this is a very personal issue. It is impossible to separate it from our own experiences. I have heard colleagues on the floor talking about grandparents and other members of their family and the experiences they have had. I will never forget, personally, almost 2 years ago standing in an amphitheater in Denver, talking to many people--many of them in wheelchairs, many who had lost loved ones to disease, many who knew a cure would never come in time for them--who held out hope, nevertheless, that stem cell research might save a loved one, might save someone else in similar circumstances.
What they wanted, above all, was leadership. They wanted someone back in Washington to fight for them. I promised them that I would do all that I could, and I will never forget the look of yearning and hope in their eyes, the pleading, if you will, that people would come to a place of common sense. They placed enormous hope in all of us in the Congress.
When I think about them and I think about people all over the country who are so personally invested in this issue, I am deeply troubled to see that today we find ourselves in a place of division, where we could have been united. We are divided principally by the promise of President Bush to veto a bipartisan bill that funds stem cell research.
In more than 5 years, President Bush has not vetoed a single bill--not one. He signed 1,129 bills into law, without raising his pen to veto one--not a bill that overspent, not a bill that moved in any other direction that he disagreed with. Now he wants to use the first veto of his Presidency to stomp on the hopes of millions of Americans suffering from devastating illnesses.
A veto now would send a profound message to all Americans that, on crucial issues, our differences are greater than our shared convictions. It would also tell the world that America no longer wants to be the country that leads the world in scientific knowledge and discovery.
The bipartisan legislation before Congress shows that Congress has found a way to take the politics out of the debate on stem cell research. It is time that the White House does the same.
Our current policy is eroding America's national advantage on stem cell research. We are tying our scientists' hands. We are holding back our doctors. We need a policy that is not driven by a narrow view but, rather a broader, consensus-driven approach to life and to science itself. We need a Federal policy that builds on the advances being made in our States, in our universities, in our private foundations, and research centers. I believe that Senate passage of H.R. 810, with vetoproof majorities, can put us on that path.
What a tragedy it would be if the first veto of the Bush Presidency were used as a political wedge. This is something that Washington and the rest of America overwhelmingly supports, regardless of political party. It is a promise that offers hope to millions and could put America on the path to leading the world in the discovery of cures. This is not a wedge issue. This is about common sense and about people's lives.
For all of us, the issue of stem cell research is personal, as I mentioned. Yes, it does raise profound moral questions and nobody should skip by those questions. I am not seeking to. But I do believe that any legitimate examination of conscience and any legitimate examination of the moral questions about life that are at stake can be resolved in a way that respects life and that properly puts morality on the side of the decision we are making.
When it comes to stem cell research--and all scientific research--we ought to demand no less than that kind of effort. I acknowledge, yes, there are those moral and ethical issues. But I believe the legislation that was passed by the House of Representatives with bipartisan support does provide strong ethical guidelines, strong ethical safeguards, and it limits what this research would do in a way that does respect those moral questions that are at issue.
First of all, federally funded research with respect to embryos would only go to, or be limited to, those that are donated by in vitro fertilization clinics, so you don't create some new business or create some disrespectful effort that is outside the effort of reproduction and of life itself.
Second, they would only be permissible when created specifically for fertility treatment--which is going to occur anyway, which does occur anyway--and which is in keeping with our efforts to respect life.
In addition, we live in a situation today where those embryos that are created in the context of in vitro fertilization are either going to be used for the purpose of creating life or those numbers that are in excess are going to be discarded. That is the fact. That is what is going to happen. So this legislation limits the use of those embryos only that are donated by treatment-seeking individuals who provided written and informed consent and who were not offered financial inducements in order to do so.
As the Los Angeles Times editorialized 2 years ago:
The moral decision is between putting those few so-called embryos in the trash or using them to possibly bring back lost memory, keep people out of wheelchairs or free them from the life of insulin injections. It is not a simple decision, but it is also not a close call.
Growing numbers of conservatives, from JOHN MCCAIN, BILL FRIST, and ORRIN HATCH to Nancy Reagan, have looked carefully at the scientific facts and searched their own consciences and arrived at the same conclusion: Opposing stem cell research, with the restrictions and the appropriate ethical guidelines that have been put in place, is the opposite of a pro-life policy. In the Senate and across the country, Americans are approaching an ethical consensus that bans human cloning while protecting stem cell research.
The stakes could not be higher. More than 100 million Americans suffer from illnesses that one day might be cured with stem cell therapy. Stem cells could replace damaged heart cells or cells destroyed by cancer. They could offer a new lease on life to those with a diagnosis that once came as a death sentence. Research has the potential to slow the loss of a grandmother's memory, calm the hand of an uncle with Parkinson's, save a child from a lifetime of daily insulin shots or permanently lift a best friend or a colleague from a wheelchair.
There is a young woman on the floor of the Senate who shares this hope. Her name is Beth Kolbe. She is a summer intern in my office, and she has followed the stem cell research debate very closely over the years and especially this week. Beth has spent the last 2 days watching the debate on the Senate floor, and her presence now is a silent, powerful reminder of what is at stake.
At the age of 14, Beth was in a car accident and suffered a terrible spinal cord injury. In that instant, she was paralyzed from the chest down. After two neck surgeries, 2 weeks in intensive care, 2 months as an inpatient in a rehab hospital and 2 years as an outpatient in physical therapy, she is now living a very full life. She just told me that she is in the Paralympics as a swimmer, and she lives her life and loves her life as a junior at Harvard, studying biology and health care, navigating the campus in her wheelchair. But she told me also that it would be a lie to say that there are not challenges that she would like to have overcome.
She wants more, not just for her but for others. Here is what she said:
Since that day 6 years ago, my family and I have been following stem cell research because it can help so many people. I'm just one of the millions who can be helped. As a person in the disability community, I've met so many people whose main goal is just to get better, and stem cell research is their one opportunity to find a cure. I hope to be a face that the Senators can see, so that they can see what they are voting for.
Beth is here because she wants to see the Senate vote for hope. Some of the most pioneering treatments and miraculous cures could be at our fingertips, right around the next corner, but because of politics they could remain beyond reach. Every day we wait, more than 3,000 Americans die from diseases that might someday be treatable because of the discoveries made through stem cell research.
Americans have been presented with a false choice between the sanctity of human life and the scientific knowledge that can save it.
The President's veto rests on the false assumption that we have to choose between our dreams and our principles. I believe we can have both and we can protect both.
We can support our scientists, help the sick, and ensure that our legal and ethical boundaries continue to reflect our unshakable sense of human dignity and the value of human life.
If we get votes from 72 out of 100 Senators--then we can send the President a vetoproof message. Stop tying our scientists' hands, put down your veto pen, stop being part of the problem and become a part of the solution.
The American people believe in stem cell research for many of the same reasons as a remarkable woman I met at a town hall meeting on stem cell research.
She stood up in the back of the room. I will never forget it. Her body was shaking. She was petrified, but her body was also shaking because of the disease she had. She pleaded, with tears, for her government to embrace stem cell research.
It was the moral clarity of her message that will stay with me forever. Many Americans know a woman like her--maybe it's a grandparent with Alzheimer's or a friend in a wheelchair. ``It's too late for me,'' she said, ``but we need to do this for those who still have hope.''
It's too late for my and TOM HARKIN's friend, Christopher Reeve, who passed away in 2004. But it's not too late for this President to change his mind before tying the hands of doctors, scientists, and ethicists with a preemptive veto. Chris would agree that it's not too late to give millions of Americans what they want most of all, which is hope.
And in closing, I want to share one more story. It's from Lauren Stanford of Plymouth, MA. She is 14 years old and has suffered from juvenile diabetes for 9 years. She and her mother, Moira McCarthy, came down to Washington, DC each year as citizen lobbyists in support of stem cell research and finding a cure for diabetes.
I want to read you a few passages from an essay she wrote as follows:
For as long as I can remember, I've had to take a lot of leaps if 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 smile at the world and say I really don't mind wearing the insulin pump that's now connected to my body 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Yes, in my nine years of life with Type 1 diabetes, I've learned to accept a lot of it is and the way it things as ``just the way it is and the way it has to be.''
But when I watched, with my parents, President Bush's decision on Stem Cell research in the summer of 2001--and his vows now to veto the bill--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.
When I feel like I might just scream if I have to live another day fighting this endless disease, I think about all the researchers out there working to help me be cured. Now, it might seem corny to think of a teenage girl dreaming about researchers in labs, but that's what kids who have incurable diseases do.
Stem cell research could mean I can go to college without a machine attached to my belly keeping me alive. It could mean I can have children just like anyone else; not with teams of doctors working with me daily just to make it happen. ..... It might mean my children won't even know what diabetes was.
President Bush talks about protecting the innocent. I wonder, what about me? I am truly innocent in this situation. I did nothing to bring my diabetes on. ..... How, I ask 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--and to give me back a life where I don't have to accept a constant, almost insane level of hourly medical intervention as ``normal?'' How could my nation do this to me?
Her hopes are here today, and I hope the Senate will do the right thing.
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