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Nomination of Priscilla Richman Owen to be United States Circuit Judge for the Fifth Circuit--Continued

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Location: Washington, DC


NOMINATION OF PRISCILLA RICHMAN OWEN TO BE UNITED STATES CIRCUIT JUDGE FOR THE FIFTH CIRCUIT--Continued -- (Senate - May 24, 2005)

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EMBRYONIC STEM CELL RESEARCH

Mr. BROWNBACK. Mr. President, I rise to speak about an issue that has been worked on in the country for some period of time. Soon, a House vote will take place on embryonic stem cell research. The issue that will soon be voted on in the House--and may come before this body--is whether to allow the taxpayer funding of destruction of young human life.

This legislation being considered in the House of Representatives would take young human embryos, would provide taxpayer dollars to destroy these embryos and conduct research on the stem cells derived from them. I believe we all have a duty to protect innocent life. We have a duty and a responsibility to look out for the downtrodden, those who do not have a voice. These are the youngest of human lives; they should be protected, and they should not be researched on.

We have at times in the past in the United States researched on other human beings. Whenever we have done so, at the moment in time when it was done, people did it on the basis that we need to know, or we need to be able to conduct this research, or this research will provide a cure for something. Yet in every instance--either in this country or others--when it has been done and the society at large has allowed it, we have always, always regretted it later. It has always been wrong for one group of humans who are in a more powerful position to research on somebody in a lesser position. That has always been true, and it remains true today. We should not use taxpayer dollars to fund research on the youngest of human lives. It is wrong, it is not necessary, and it should be stopped.

I am pleased that the President has promised to veto this legislation. However, I also intend to not let this piece of legislation make it forward, to move to the President's desk. If others choose to bring this destruction of human life--taxpayer-funded destruction of human life--in front of this body, I intend that we are going to talk about it for a long time and address a whole series of issues, whether it be human cloning, which is associated with this human destructive legislation, or the creation of human-animal crosses for research purposes. We are going to spend a lot of time discussing this because young human lives are at stake. I will not sit idly by and acquiesce in their tragic destruction.

If this human destructive legislation, or a Senate counterpart, comes before this body, I will use all means available to impede its progress. At the very least, we should have a lengthy debate on this issue before taking any action. The reason is that young human lives are at stake. I believe the very nature of our culture--whether we will have a culture of life or not is at stake. Will we honor human life because it is sacred per se, or are we going to use it for a research apparatus for the benefit of others? We have always regretted that when we have done it before. Today is a similar type of discussion.

Some are saying this doesn't really look like a human life; it is so small, so microscopic in some cases, that some say it really cannot be human life. Yet, according to the biological and scientific definition, this is young human life. If allowed to be nurtured, it becomes you, me, or anybody watching. Life has to be nurtured at all stages. It is no different biologically at that stage versus at a later stage. It has the same biological components, or ``software,'' if you will, or DNA structure. It needs to be nurtured, and it matures into an adult human. If we are going to proceed on this, I think we are really hurting ourselves as a society.

I also point out that some people are saying we need to do this to find cures. I want to find cures, also--cures for people with cancer, Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, spinal cord injuries, or juvenile diabetes--and I have been working on that. The thing is, we have a route to find these cures that is ethical and moral.

The House is also considering a cord blood bill from Congressman Smith today, and there are also adult stem cells. We have had this discussion before, but I think people hear ``stem cells,'' and they say: I am for it. We need to be clear that there are different types of stem cells: There are cord blood stem cells in the umbilical cord, there are embryonic stem cells, where you have to destroy the embryo itself to get the stem cells, and there are adult stem cells in my body and yours and anybody watching. These adult stem cells are a kind of repair cell that goes around the body fixing different parts of the body. We have been able to take adult stem cells out and grow them outside the body to the point that, today, over 58 different human diseases are being treated in human patients. There are published clinical studies using adult stem cells--the stem cells from one's own body.

A Parkinson's disease patient, treated with his own adult stem cells, continues to exhibit relief of 80 percent of his symptoms more than 6 years after the surgery. I had the man come in himself, who was treated with his own adult stem cells taken from the base of his nose, grown outside the body, put in the left-hand side of his brain, with a substantial improvement on the right-hand side of his body. That is purely ethical research. It is working and getting the job done.

Spinal cord injuries. Dr. Carlos Limas treated 34 patients in Portugal with their own adult stem cells. I had two of them in to testify at a hearing last year--one is a paraplegic and one is a quadriplegic--and they are walking with the assistance of braces and their own adult stem cells.

Also, umbilical cord blood cells were used to treat a South Korean woman who had been paralyzed for 19 years. She had not walked for 19 years, and she can now walk with braces.

What about juvenile diabetes? This disease affects a lot of people. This is one that has vexed a lot of people. We all want to find a cure for juvenile diabetes.

Dr. Denise Faustman at Harvard is a leading diabetes researcher. She has completely reversed end-stage juvenile diabetes in mice and has FDA approval to begin human clinical trials using adult stem cell therapy.

My point in mentioning these 3 of the 58 different areas is that we have an ethical answer. We have an answer that does not involve the destruction of human life, and it is right before us. We can do it. We can fund it, and we can move forward with it. We do not have to destroy young human life to do this, and it is wrong if we do.

There is going to be a big discussion. We are going to have a lot of debate about this issue on the floor or in committee or other places if people decide to move this legislation forward. This is not about banning human embryonic stem cell research. This is about taxpayer funding of human embryonic stem cell research. Embryonic stem cell research is legal. It is being conducted in this country. It is being funded by the Government of the United States on a limited set of lines. The President had the discussion and put forward the guidelines--a limited set of lines that were identified, on which a life-and-death decision had already been made prior to funding. That research continues and goes on today.

The House bill would expand that and say we can kill young human life today for research on embryonic stem cells, and we want to do it with taxpayer funding. That is what I am saying I am opposed to is the taxpayer funding where a life-and-death decision has not been made, and we involve the destruction of young human lives. The House bill should not move forward.

Mr. President, there are two statements that the President has put forward saying that he would veto such legislation if it comes forward. I ask unanimous consent to print these statements in the RECORD.

There being no objection, the material was ordered to be printed in the RECORD, as follows:

Statement of Administration Policy--May 24, 2005

H.R. 2520--STEM CELL THERAPEUTIC AND RESEARCH ACT OF 2005
(Rep. Smith (R) NJ and 78 cosponsors)

The Administration strongly supports House passage of H.R. 2520, which would facilitate the use of umbilical-cord-blood stem cells in biomedical research and in the treatment of disease. Cord-blood stem cells, collected from the placenta and umbilical cord after birth without doing harm to mother or child, have been used in the treatment of thousands of patients suffering from more than 60 different diseases, including leukemia, Fanconi anemia, sickle cell disease, and thalassemia. Researchers also believe cord-blood stem cells may have the capacity to be differentiated into other cell types, making them useful in the exploration of ethical stem cell therapies for regenerative medicine.

H.R. 2520 would increase the publicly available inventory of cord-blood stem cells by enabling the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to contract with cord-blood banks to assist them in the collection and maintenance of 150,000 cord-blood stem cell units. This would make matched cells available to treat more than 90 percent of patients in need. The bill would also link all participating cord-blood banks to a search network operated under contract with HHS, allowing physicians to search for matches for their patients quickly and effectively in one place. The bill also would reauthorize a similar program already in place for aiding the use of adult bone marrow in medical care. There is now $19 million available to implement the Cord Blood Cell Bank program; the Administration will work with the Congress to evaluate future spending requirements for these activities. The bill is also consistent with the recommendation from the National Academy of Science to create a National Cord Blood Stem Cell Bank program.

The Administration also applauds the bill's effort to facilitate research into the potential of cord-blood stem cells to advance regenerative medicine in an ethical way. Some research indicates that cord blood cells may have the ability to be differentiated into other cell types, in ways similar to embryonic stem cells, and so present similar potential uses but without raising the ethical problems involved in the intentional destruction of human embryos. The Administration encourages efforts to seek ethical ways to pursue stem cell research, and believes that--with the appropriate combination of responsible policies and innovative scientific techniques--this field of research can advance without violating important ethical boundaries. HR 2520 is an important step in that direction.

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STATEMENT OF ADMINISTRATION POLICY--May 24, 2005

H.R. 810--STEM CELL RESEARCH ENHANCEMENT ACT OF 2005
(Rep. Castle (R) DE and 200 cosponsors)

The Administration strongly opposes House passage of H.R 810, which would require Federal taxpayer dollars to be used to encourage the ongoing destruction of nascent human life. The bill would compel all American taxpayers to pay for research that relies on the intentional destruction of human embryos for the derivation of stem cells, overturning the President's policy that supports research without promoting such ongoing destruction. If H.R 810 were presented to the President, he would veto the bill.

The President strongly supports medical research, and worked with Congress to dramatically increase resources for the National Institutes of Health. However, this bill would support and encourage a line of research that requires the intentional destruction of living human embryos for the derivation of their cells. Destroying nascent human life for research raises serious ethical problems, and many millions of Americans consider the practice immoral.

The Administration believes that government has a duty to use the people's money responsibly, both supporting important public purposes and respecting moral boundaries. Every year since 1995, Congress has on a bipartisan basis upheld this balance by prohibiting Federal funds for research in which an embryo is destroyed. Consistent with this provision, the President's policy permits the funding of research using embryonic cell lines created prior to August 9, 2001, along with stem cell research using other kinds of cell lines. Scientists can therefore explore the potential application of such cells, but the Federal government does not offer incentives or encouragement for the destruction of nascent human life.

H.R 810 seeks to replace that policy with one that offers very little additional practical support to the research, while using Federal dollars to offer a prospective incentive for the destruction of human embryos. Moreover, H.R 810 relies on unsupported scientific assertions to promote morally troubling and socially controversial research. Embryonic stem cell research is at an early stage of basic science, and has never yielded a therapeutic application in humans. It is too early to say if a treatment or a cure will develop from embryonic stem cell research.

The Administration believes that the availability of alternative sources of stem cells further counters the case for compelling the American taxpayer to encourage the ongoing destruction of human embryos for research. Researchers are continually exploring alternative ways to derive pluripotent stem cells. And alternative types of human stem cells--drawn from adults, children, and umbilical-cord blood without doing harm to the donors--have already achieved therapeutic results in thousands of patients with dozens of different diseases.

Moreover, private sector support and public funding by several States for this line of research, which will add up to several billion dollars in the coming few years, argues against any urgent need for an additional infusion of Federal funds which, even if completely unrestricted, would not approach such figures. Whatever one's view of the ethical issues or the state of the research, the future of this field does not require a policy of Federal subsidies offensive to the moral principles of millions of Americans.

H.R. 810 advances the proposition that the Nation must choose between science and ethics. The Administration, however, believes it is possible to advance scientific research without violating ethical principles: both by enacting the appropriate policy safeguards and by pursuing the appropriate scientific techniques. HR 810 is seriously flawed legislation that would undo those safeguards and provide a disincentive to pursuing those techniques.

Mr. BROWNBACK. Mr. President, we will have much discussion of this issue if it comes before this body. I am going to be working aggressively with a number of individuals to see that we continue this stem cell work in an ethical manner, but not where it involves the destruction of human life.

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