Duckworth Asks Roskam If New Stem Cell Technology Will End His Opposition To Promising Research
Sixth District Congressional Candidate Tammy Duckworth today asked her opponent, Peter Roskam, if new developments in embryonic stem cell research would persuade him to drop his opposition to such research, which holds out hope for thousands of families suffering from chronic diseases and spinal cord injuries.
The issue has emerged as a major distinction between the two candidates. Duckworth strongly supports stem cell research and would vote in Congress to override President Bush's veto of federal support for that cause.
"As you no doubt know, scientists at Advanced Cell Technology announced within the last week that they had successfully generated human embryonic stem cells using an approach that does not harm embryos," Duckworth wrote Roskam.
"Given the fact that this new process essentially allows for the extraction of cells from an embryo without affecting its viability, I am writing to ask whether you support this form of embryonic stem cell research," Duckworth's letter concluded.
As state Senator, Roskam has led the fight in Springfield against embryonic stem cell research - whether publicly or privately funded:
In May, 2004, he opposed legislation that would have established a state policy that research using embryonic stem cells and adult stem cells would be permitted, subject to review by an institutional review board. (SB 3589, Amendment 4, 5/12/2004)
In November 2004, Roskam voted against "The Ronald Reagan Biomedical Research Act." At the time, the Chicago Tribune described that bill as a largely symbolic measure supporting "privately-funded stem-cell research" (Tribune, 11/24/04; SB 3589, Amendment 7, 11/18/2004).
In 2005, Roskam voiced opposition to a proposed state ballot initiative establishing the Illinois Regenerative Medicine Institute. This year, Roskam was among a group of state Senators who threatened to block passage of the entire state budget if it included any funding for stem cell research.
Duckworth has won support from local advocates of stem cell research, including Republican Tom Bowler of Glen Ellyn, whose son Joshua suffers from a spinal cord injury that has left him a quadriplegic.
The full text of Duckworth's letter to Roskam follows:
Dear Senator Roskam:
As you no doubt know, scientists at Advanced Cell Technology announced within the last week that they had "successfully generated human embryonic stem cells using an approach that does not harm embryos." This shows, "for the first time, that human embryonic stem cells can be generated without interfering with the embryo's potential for life." (Advanced Cell Technology Announces Technique to Generate Human Embryonic Stem Cells that Maintains Developmental Potential of Embryo, 8/23/2006)
These advancements would allow important scientific research to move forward without crossing what President Bush defines as "a moral boundary." Or, to put it another way, this cutting-edge technology would allow for embryonic stem cell research without asking anyone to, as you have characterized it, "pit one life against another."
Embryonic stem cell research holds out hope for thousands of people in the Sixth Congressional District who suffer from diseases or conditions such as diabetes, Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease or spinal cord injuries. The vast majority of scientists and medical researchers contend that embryonic stem cells are far superior for these purposes than either adult or umbilical stem cells, because of the special properties of embryonic cells. While some politicians have tried to fudge this issue, it is beyond scientific dispute.
Given the fact that this new process essentially allows for the extraction of cells from an embryo without affecting its viability, I am writing to ask whether you support this form of embryonic stem cell research. Voters across this district, particularly those suffering from medical problems and their loved ones, deserve to know your position on this important development.
I look forward to your response.