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Stem Cell Research without Sacrifice

Location: Washington, DC

Stem Cell Research without Sacrifice
By Congressman John R. Carter

Washington, DC, Jan 11 - One of the most controversial issues facing Americans today is stem cell research. The promise of finding cures for life-threatening diseases such as Parkinson's disease, cancer, and diabetes is exciting and has drawn a lot of interest. Advancements in adult stem cell research and concerns about the morality and destruction of human embryos in the name of research make this a complicated issue. This moral debate has been on the front line of political dialogue for years, and with the advancements in medical research moving faster than political debates in Washington, it is vital for members of Congress to do their research and be informed of the medical advancements before casting their votes.

I support stem cell research, but this week, I voted against H.R. 3, a bill that would mandate federal funding for research that requires the killing of human embryos. H.R. 3 would require government funding of research projects using stem cells taken from human embryos who are alive today, and who would be killed by the very act of removing their stem cells for the research.

One of my colleagues told a story that helps explain why I voted against this bill.

Imagine a settler in the 1800s going far out into the woods alone with his rifle in search of a deer to feed his starving family. After waiting patiently for hours, he notices movement in the brush 50 yards away. It's a deer. In a flash, he takes aim and prepares to fire.

Then he hesitates because something about the deer's movement suggests that it might not be a deer, but another hunter. Alone and miles away from any settlement, the odds of seeing another human are slim to none, but not impossible. Remember, his family is starving. If you were that hunter, would you shoot?

Even when the stakes are high and the odds are long, basic respect for human life compels us not to shoot. The same is true for stem cell research.

While the argument can be made that stem cell research has the potential to cure life-threatening diseases, we must ask ourselves is this potential worth the cost of human life? Where are our moral and ethical boundaries?

The Democratic leadership forced a vote that would mandate federal funding for stem cell research; however, they failed to consider the new breakthrough that would allow for amniotic stem cells to be used in place of embryonic cells. These cells have been scientifically proven to have the ability to grow into brain, muscle and other tissues that could be used to treat a variety of diseases, much like many hope embryonic stem cells can do. These cells can be used without the cost of harming anyone or destroying life at any stage.

This type of cell floats freely in the amniotic fluid of pregnant women and is easily retrieved during routine prenatal tests, are easier to maintain in laboratory dishes than embryonic stem cells, and, according to researchers, because the cells are a genetic match to the developing fetus, tissues grown from them in the laboratory will not be rejected if they are used to treat birth defects in that newborn. Scientific research has found a way to improve our quality of life and extend life expectancy, while respecting the sanctity of life at the same time. Congress is obligated to give this type of research serious consideration.

Unfortunately, the Democrats moved their bill without allowing any discussion and consideration. Instead, they took this bill to the floor, without as much as a committee hearing to consider the new scientific breakthroughs.

I believe very strongly that life begins at conception, and that we must respect all human life. I am willing to reach across the aisle and work with my Democratic colleagues when they have the morality of Americans in mind; however, they have proven that the only thing that matters this Congress is their political agenda, despite the cost of American lives. Let's hope our Senators and the President will be more thoughtful.

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