FETUS FARMING PROHIBITION ACT OF 2006 -- (Senate - July 18, 2006)
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Mrs. CLINTON. Mr. President, I welcome this vote on such an important piece of legislation, the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act. As we have heard eloquently from my colleagues on both sides of the aisle, stem cell research holds the promise of new cures and treatments for countless diseases and millions of Americans with chronic, incurable conditions.
The wide range of applications for stem cells may lead to unparalleled achievements on behalf of research concerning Alzheimer's disease, as my friend and colleague, Senator Mikulski, so passionately described with respect to her own family and her own experience; spinal cord injuries, like my dear friend Christopher Reeve; diabetes, and other conditions.
For example, in my State of New York, research at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center has shown real promise for the use of stem cell research in bone, cartilage, and muscle replacement therapies. At Columbia University researchers have shown that stem cells can develop into neurons, special nervous system cells that would allow us to actually treat vision loss. Other scientists at Columbia University and at the University of Rochester Medical Center are working to cultivate stem cells into spinal cells that control motor function as possible treatments for ALS, otherwise known as Lou Gehrig's disease.
And researchers from Rockefeller University, also in New York City, have explored ways in which stem cells can be used to develop dopamine-producing cells which could help Americans living with Parkinson's disease who experience a decline in these types of important cells.
A broad consensus in New York and across our country has brought us to this debate and vote. There has been an upsurge of demand. It has crossed every line we can imagine, certainly partisan lines, ethnic, racial, geographic lines. People in every corner of our Nation are demanding that we in Washington open the doors to this promising science.
It is long overdue, but finally we are at this point. My friends, Christopher and Dana Reeve, whom we have lost in the last several years, were eloquent, passionate advocates for this research. Christopher, from his wheelchair, performed his greatest role. He may have been Superman in the movies, but he was a super human being after his accident which paralyzed him, consigned him to a wheelchair to help with his breathing and respiratory functions. But he never gave up.
He launched his greatest battle to try to bring our Nation to the point where we would take advantage of the science that is there. He worked and struggled on behalf of all who might benefit from stem cell research and other scientific breakthroughs.
His brave, beautiful wife Dana, who passed away just this past March, showed a devotion to her husband and her son that was just inspirational. She, too, continued Christopher's work through the Reeve Foundation. And I know that both of them are looking down upon this debate and so pleased and relieved that this day has come.
As I travel around New York, I run into constituents who speak to me about this issue. They are living with type I diabetes or their children are. They are suffering from Parkinson's. They have a relative who is struggling with Alzheimer's. They are paralyzed from an accident, as Christopher was. And they believe that this holds promise for their lives, for their futures, and if not for them in their lifetimes, certainly for their children and their grandchildren.
Yet we know that the work of researchers in New York and across our country has been stymied, has been held back by the ban on certain kinds of scientific research. In 2001, when President Bush put a stop to all Federal funding for this type of research, it was limited to using already existing stem lines, which has proven to be a barrier to scientific advancement. We only have 20 lines, not 70 as was advertised, that scientists can use. And the utility of these lines has been outstripped by the scientific advances made in the past 5 years.
But the ban still stands, and we have to pass this legislation. The House already did. We are now joining with the House. We need to have additional stem cell lines in order to pursue the promising avenues for research. I am worried the President has signaled he intends to veto this legislation, the first veto he will use since he has been President.
This research is not standing still around the world. We are looking at other countries putting billions of dollars into supporting stem cell science. They are creating establishments of all kinds, centers of research, special clinical centers because they know they can attract scientists from the United States who will come to pursue this research. We are losing ground instead of doing what Americans do best, leading the world in innovation, ingenuity, new ideas.
We can send this legislation to the President's desk, as I anticipate us doing after our vote this afternoon. And then the President has a decision to make: Will he support the scientific community at this moment of unequaled optimism and discovery or will he set us back?
I am going to support the other two bills that are going to be before us as well because I think we have to clearly put an ethical fence around this research, send a very clear message about what is permitted and what is not.
Right now we have no Federal laws prohibiting the worst of some of this research. That is one of the results of the fact that we have an Executive order, but we don't have any legal prohibitions on some of the worst things people might decide to do. I think it is important that we have a strong ethical stand, a strong legal stand, strong prohibitions and penalties for people who don't pursue research in the way that we set forth.
But we cannot make the progress that we need to make for the sake of new treatments, new discoveries, and new hope for countless millions of people who are alive today and are suffering, for those born with diseases and conditions that could be ameliorated or even cured.
This is a delicate balancing act. I recognize that and acknowledge it. I respect my friends on the other side of the aisle who come to the floor with grave doubts and concerns. But I think we have struck the right balance with the legislation we will vote on this afternoon. I think we will make a serious mistake if the President vetoes this measure and sets this research back.
Mr. President, I hope we will pass it with a large margin, and I hope that the President will allow it to become law so we can, once again, stand for those who need this help to face the suffering that they encounter while living day-to-day.
I yield the floor.