Search Form
First, enter a politician or zip code
Now, choose a category

Public Statements

Hope Offered Through Principled And Ethical Stem Cell Research Act--Continued--

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC



Mr. BROWNBACK. I want to introduce to the body, into the discussion, a gentleman I had a chance to meet who came in front of a Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Subcommittee--Keone Penn. I have a picture of this young man here. I want to share his story. He was cured of sickle cell anemia. We use that term advisedly, but clearly, cured of sickle cell anemia through cord blood adult stem cell treatment--cured.

I want to do part of this to encourage other people out there who might by chance be listening or know somebody else who has sickle cell anemia who has not yet been able to get treated; to talk about cures using cord blood. We have cord blood banking. That is taking place. Cord blood is the blood between the mother and the child when the child is in the womb, and the use of it, which we have now banked--10,000 units roughly have been banked and used throughout the country for many types of illnesses and sicknesses. I want to talk about curing sickle cell anemia in some cases using cord blood.

Sickle cell anemia is a disease that afflicts more than 70,000 Americans and a disproportionate number of African Americans. Keone tells the story the best so I will just highlight what he stated in front of a Senate science subcommittee hearing that I chaired. He said:

My name is Keone Penn. Two days ago I turned 17 years old. Five years ago they said I wouldn't live to be 17. They said I'd be dead within 5 years.

I was born with sickle cell anemia. Sickle cell is a very bad disease. I had a stroke when I was 5 years old. Things got even worse after that. My life has been full of pain, crises, blood transfusions every 2 weeks, and more times in the hospital than I can count.

The year before I had my stem cell transplant I was in the hospital 13 times. I never was able to have a normal life. My stem cell transplant was not easy, but I thank God that I'm still here. I will graduate from high school and I want to become a chef because I love to cook. I think I'm pretty good at it.

Sickle cell is now a part of my past. One year after my transplant I was pronounced cured. Stem cells saved my life.

Many have heard of Keone's amazing story on previous occasions, and the effectiveness of cord blood stem cell research for such diseases rightly gives hope to millions.

Keone's story is yet another of a great litany of adult stem cell successes.

I want to focus now on the cord blood stem cell successes and why we should not be directing research dollars down other paths, such as embryonic stem cell and human cloning that have not produced these sorts of cures or these sorts of treatments, when we could do a lot more with treatments in the cord blood field.

As I noted, we started a cord blood banking program. We now have cord blood banking taking place in several places. I hope people are doing more of this across the country. As I stated, we have distributed nearly 10,000 units of this to get to matches in various places, in various individuals across the country. We need more cord blood donated because you have to match a series of six factors and at least four of those factors must match to be able to use the cord blood in a particular individual such as Keone. Therefore, you need to have a broad cross-section of cord blood in the banking supply so people can possibly find a match.

In many places it has been used as a substitute for bone marrow and the difficult collection process that takes place sometimes with marrow. We need more in the cord blood field so we can get more people treated like Keone Penn. I think that is a key avenue for us, in stem cell work, in producing the results.

Next step, the next field we need to go to is amniotic fluid. I want to show this to my colleagues. Some of them would have seen this issue. We started a cord blood banking program to get this, so we could get more matches across the country and could get a broader cross-section of individuals who have contributed from various types of blood so we could get matches.

The next area we need to bank in, I believe, is amniotic fluid. The fluid that surrounds the child as the child is in the womb is also a rich source of stem cells. It would be my hope that in this year's appropriations bill we would not only study, I hope we will begin the collection and funding of collecting amniotic fluid.

Now I urge my colleagues on all sides of this issue to say: Here is another one we can agree upon in moving forward in the stem cell field. I wanted to cite to this, because it is an exciting breakthrough of news.

This article appeared in JAMA, Journal of American Medical Association, February 28 of this year, on amniotic fluid. Amniotic fluid-derived stem cells can be coaxed to become muscle, bone, fat, blood vessels, nerves, and liver cells. It might be capable of repairing damaged tissue resulting from conditions such as spinal cord injuries, diabetes, Alzheimer's disease, and stroke.

My reason for pointing this out is this is one we can agree upon. This is one we can move forward with. The amniotic fluid is discarded after the pregnancy, is not collected. It can be collected. It could be collected. We should see about collecting this and move forward on these treatments, and some of the $613 million we spent on embryonic stem cell research could go into this field, and likely you are going to be producing results very quickly. If the amniotic fluid some people are talking about, as well as the placenta, being able to collect stem cells from the placenta and other rich sources of stem cells--if we can take some of this $613 million that has produced zero human clinical trials to date and put it into fields that are producing or have a high potential here in a near-term basis to be able to produce treatments or possibly even cures--no ethical problem, no ethical issues; this would be clearly a key one to go forward with.

I also want to further develop the thought about embryonic stem cells leading inevitably to human cloning. I want to put out some numbers on this, follow with the discussion on this. People certainly will understand it. If we are to collect and develop additional embryonic stem cell lines, we get these embryos from IVF clinics around the country, and you start these lines, the genetic match will not take place. That genetic material will not match anybody, because it is unique genetic material, so as soon as it is implanted into somebody else, there is going to be a rejection by the body taking place. That individual is going to have to be on immunosuppressive drugs for the remainder of their life, because the body is rejecting this foreign material.

Therefore, the answer is to move forward, saying, well, okay, we have developed this science, we can do human embryonic stem cell work, it works, but we are getting the rejection taking place. Therefore, we are going to need to do human cloning, but it is not going to be real human cloning, it is going to be SCNT--somatic cell nuclear transfer, that is the scientific name for human cloning--and we are not going to clone, because we will create the clone, we will harvest women's eggs, we will then create the clone, and we are not going to allow the implementation of it. Therefore, we can say it is not cloning because it is not going to result in a full-scale child, by all definitions. We are going to clone a person, we are going to start human life, then we are going to purposefully kill it for its stem cells, that genetic match.

That is the process this will inevitably lead to if we are successful in this science that I believe highly doubtful, given the tumor formation. But let's say we are successful in the next couple of decades, we can develop the science, the tumor issues somehow we are able to deal with, over that period of time, we get over that hurdle, we can develop it.

We have an immunosuppressant problem, so therefore now we have got to move into human cloning. Where do we get those human clones? We get them from people. We have to have an egg we get from women. We will get the genetic material from the person who needs the embryonic stem cells; that is not a problem. But we are going to have to harvest a lot of eggs.

I want to go through some of those numbers from different individuals who have looked and thought about this. I would hope my colleagues, even if they are on the other side of this, would think about where does this take us, which is a real question about the idea of doing massive amounts of human cloning, massive amounts of harvesting of women's eggs to do human cloning that is going to take place. Because you do not get a one-for-one match, you get the one human egg, you are not going to get it to necessarily take as a human clone, it is going to take a number of attempts to take place--I believe the numbers I have heard are somewhere around 200 eggs are necessary to get one clone to take.

Now, maybe we are able to develop that technology better into the future. But if we develop this line, you are probably going to look at the need for hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of embryos needed to pursue this speculative embryonic stem cell research. And for this application, you are going to need millions of eggs and millions of human clones--excuse me, I cannot call them clones--SCNT products, that is the scientific name for human clones, SCNT clones. These embryos are going to have to be developed that way to obtain sufficient embryos for this speculative research science, that will turn to human cloning, which will exploit women for their eggs, because where are we going to get hundreds of thousands of eggs? Are we going to have women in this country be willing to voluntarily go through the process, a difficult process? It can be damaging to their bodies.

Maybe we will get some to do that. Probably more likely we will be going abroad to recruit people to give eggs. It is unlikely they will give them, it is more likely they will be paid for those eggs to take place, and to go through this difficult, painful, and potentially harmful problem.

Is that the route we want to go, or would we be wiser to work with amniotic fluid, the cord blood, the placenta collection that is taking place,
and take some of this money and develop that field? I

think the route forward is pretty clear.

I also want to discuss the idea we were talking about, a disposable medical infrastructure, the frozen embryos. I want to put back up a chart of one of those embryos we have here, and talk about this from a standpoint. I ask my colleagues to think about this for a second.

I believe everybody is wrestling with the notion that the human embryo is alive. We all agree it is alive. Some of us will give it the status of a life; others would not. Others would call it a potential for human life. I do not believe that is the scientific term, but some would call it a potential for human life.

It is a human embryo. Here is a picture of a human embryo. That is actually a child who was adopted as a frozen embryo and implanted and grew. This is, of course, what we are looking at as a physical entity. It is human. It is in the human species. We know that. All of us are having some level of difficulty with using taxpayer funding to destroy that young human life. Well, why are we having that level of difficulty with destroying something that looks like this? I think it is because in our own being, and the natural law that resides in each of us, we believe in dignity for every human being, period. We believe everybody who is here, who is listening or watching this, is a dignified person and worthy of respect and worthy of recognition as a person. That is why when we have people on death row and facing execution, we do not say, let's go and harvest their organs. When we hear that term, we are appalled by it, because we are saying: That is wrong.

Well, why? Because the person is going to die. They were convicted of a heinous crime. Why not harvest their body parts and save some lives? Because we certainly could. That way we could save a number of lives by harvesting the organs of a person who committed a terrible crime. They are guilty. Despite the number of people having difficulty with the death penalty--and I have difficulty with the death penalty--why wouldn't we go ahead and harvest the organs? We are going to throw them away, right? We are going to dispose of them, right?

Well, but something within us says, that doesn't feel right; that seems as if that is the wrong thing to do. And it doesn't seem as if it is right because it is not the right thing to do. It violates their human dignity, that individual, even though they have committed that crime, is a dignified human being and worthy still, even though they have committed the heinous crime, is worthy of us treating them with some level of respect, and not harvesting their organs. If they decide to voluntarily give them up, that is their choice, but they are worthy of that respect. So why, when we are looking at human life here, that all of us agree is human, alive, would we say: Well, callously, we can throw them away because they do not look like us.

Well, the child at this stage starts to look like us, but it is pretty small. You can say it doesn't look much like us. Can we do it at that stage too? Then if we are uncomfortable with doing it in the early phase, or we are comfortable with doing it in an earlier phase, or when Hannah is born, can we research on her then? She cannot do a whole lot at that point in time for herself. If we leave her by herself, she will die. She can't care for herself at that point in time. So why not research on her at that point? Well, no, because she is a dignified human. So, okay, she is here. At what point? Here? Probably so. At that point? Here?

Well, I don't think so. I agree she is human. I agree she is alive, but I am not willing to give her any dignity status as a human.

What divides those? Some would say place, placement. If it is placed in a womb, it is. If it is not in the womb, it is not. Location has not determined personhood in our past. I would suggest it doesn't determine it in our future or presently. There is a natural revulsion toward this idea that we would take life from somebody for their body parts for somebody else, and here we are having difficulty saying, well, yes, but the possibilities are so promising we are going to go ahead and do it anyway.

I quarrel with the possibilities being that promising, and I have gone through this at length with my colleagues and discussed that. Even if it were, what about the human dignity of each of us? When we have an alternative that is working, and when we have more possibilities we can fund in the amniotic fluid developing, and the placenta research, why not go those avenues, where we are actually getting some possibilities, we are actually getting people treated, and we have no ethical questions, and we can go forward aggressively and happily about it?

I am pro-life and whole life. I believe life is sacred. I believe life is sacred in the womb and I believe life is sacred wherever it is. I believe a child in Darfur is sacred, I believe that person even on death row is sacred, and should be treated with dignity. I believe the youngest phase that people are is sacred and should be treated with dignity. I do not think we have to go there. And if we do go there, it leads down a path we do not want to follow in human cloning, and that we should agree with as a society.

Mr. President, I want to also note to my colleagues we can spend a lot of time on this bill. I do not believe it is going to become law because of the divide in this country, because the President is going to veto it. We will see if there are votes to sustain that veto or to override that veto. I do not think this is going to become law. So why would not we then look at this as a chance for us to work together on areas that we know have high potential for cures and treatment and that unite us? There are plenty of things that divide us. There are clearly things in areas that unite us, there are clearly future areas of things that we can work on to unite us and to provide cures. Why would that not be a better approach? Are we so locked into a division here that we cannot find a way forward? I would submit we can find a way forward, and that we can work on these topics and provide cures so none of us is the poorer for it. We are moving forward. Unfortunately, too much of the work is happening overseas in the adult stem cell work and our people are not getting good access to it. I have cited several examples--that should not be happening overseas; it should be readily available here--of treatments that are developed here but are actually being practiced in places overseas
because of either lack of interest or support that we would have here. I urge my colleagues to vote against S. 5. I urge my colleagues to work with me and others on developing this promising field in amniotic fluid. I urge others to work with me as we work in the areas of adult stem cell and cord blood that are currently treating and curing people and that we can do more of that and we can do that together and happily together and unite our country on an important topic instead of constantly dividing.


Mr. BROWNBACK. This first one is the list of 72 current clinical applications using adult stem cell therapy. No ethical problems on these. Actually, the list now is 73. I will cover that in just a minute, but I want to get that in.

I want to back this letter up, or this statement up, with a letter that appeared in the magazine Science, January 19, 2007, that was refuting the article--that was a letter put forward by other individuals questioning this level of adult stem cell therapy and treatment.

Then this letter which was in the Journal of Science was backed up by the third document we have here, which is a list of 14 pages of the peer-reviewed scientific articles on adult stem cell therapies and the benefits those have produced.

Then the final document we have here in this stack that I will be putting forward is the article that just appeared out even today from JAMA, the Journal of American Medical Association, on Type 1 juvenile diabetes being treated with the use of adult stem cells. The results--I am just going to

[Page: S4360]

read these, because they are just so phenomenal, from

this JAMA article: During a 7- to 36-month followup, 14 patients became insulin free; one for up to 35 months with this treatment.

This was an adult human stem cell treatment. One patient was not able to become insulin-independent.

The reason I cite that is it is such an exciting set of results. People have been talking on the floor a great deal about curing diabetes. Here we have a JAMA article, as I have noted to my colleagues earlier. The unfortunate thing is the actual test took place in Brazil instead of the United States even though it was designed and much of it was done by U.S. scientists at Northwestern University and other places. The work should be being done in the United States.

Point one being, we don't have to go there with the taxpayer funding destroying this young human life. I would hope my colleagues would say that in and of itself is enough information for me to say we do not need to cross this ethical boundary. The ethical boundary we are talking about yet again is using taxpayer dollars to fund the destruction of human life so we can research on these entities. Some would refer to it as potential for human life; that is human life, so we can research on it.

Do we want to cross that ethical boundary that has everybody in somewhat of a question of whether they want to do this or not? I would submit, No. 1, we do not need to; we have routes to go that work. No. 2, we should not do that in researching on human life because of the respect we have and the dignity afforded to each and every human life at all stages, at all places, for the human existence this individuals has.

Proverbs tell us this: There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death. There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.

That would seem to really highlight this debate--the way that seems right to a man. Let's just research on these embryos; they are going to be disposed of anyway. Why not do it instead of throwing them away? Why not do it instead of having them being adopted? Why not do it? Why not research on someone who is on death row? Why not?

There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death. Well, we shouldn't because it does continue that continuation of us breaching human dignity--at a very early stage, granted, but nonetheless human by all definition of what a human species and an individual is. It does breach that, and we should not go there with taxpayer dollars.

As I have noted to my colleagues, it is legal to do in the United States. States can fund it, private individuals can fund it. I have noted to my colleagues that private individuals are not funding it. They are not funding it because it is speculative, it is not producing results, and it is producing tumors.

I have entered into the Record previously a large set of different studies in various areas done by various groups. These embryonic stem cells are producing tumors. That is what is taking place. There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is death. Do we want to put tumors in individuals? Is that the route we are going forward with? I don't think so. I don't think we should.

I emphasize as well to my colleagues that we have another route to go on this that we can work on together. I would hope we could work on the amniotic fluid and banking of amniotic fluid. I think that would be an important key route for us to work together.

I am disturbed that at this point in time in the legislative session, the first half of the year after an election, we are spending this amount of time on a topic that is going to be vetoed--S. 5 is going to be vetoed; unlikely that the veto override is going to occur; maybe it is going to be able to happen but unlikely--when we have other routes we can work on that will work and will produce results. Are we going to continue this effort for division? It is all about dividing. It is all about causing a fight and somebody scoring some political points, when we have a hopeful route that is producing results that we can work on together, that we can get more funding for, and everybody wants cures and we can get more funding for this route which is working, and we can start a new area in amniotic fluid and placenta or we can go along with my colleagues from Georgia and Minnesota on a route upon which we can agree.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator has 1 minute remaining.

Mr. BROWNBACK. I think we can do those things. Yet we continue down this route of division. Why would we do that when in the balance sit patients in this country and around the world who seek our help? I have shown you many pictures of those who have gotten help but need more and are having to travel overseas for these treatments. Let's not force them to do that.

Let's stop the politics of division. Let's start working together and have a culture that respects human dignity. We can do that. Reject S. 5.


Mr. BROWNBACK. Mr. President, I want to give two numbers to my colleagues: 613 and zero--$613 million spent on embryonic stem cell research since 2002 and the number of human treatments we have to show for it, which is zero, 613 to zero. I think those are two important numbers to remember when what we are after is cures, and we have cures to show. We have cures that are working, and we can take the next $613 million and invest it in places that are getting cures, such as adult stem cells, cord blood, and amniotic fluid.

Do we want to spend another $613 million and use Federal taxpayer dollars to destroy young human life in the process--an ethical boundary we have not thought wise to cross before? Do we want to cross that boundary and spend more money and still not get results, when we have a proven route we can take?

I urge my colleagues to reject and vote against S. 5 on two grounds. No. 1, ethical grounds. Embryonic stem cell research, even if presented in supposedly ethical terms, remains unethical, with the destruction of human life. No. 2, practical grounds. We don't have an infinite budget, and in the stem cell field, we need to put our money into areas where we are getting real results--the adult field--and not divert them to the speculative embryonic stem cell field. Let the private sector or the States do it. If they want to go into these areas, they can do so.

Let me discuss ethics. Will we sanction the destruction of nascent human life with Federal taxpayer dollars? That is the central question surrounding S. 5. Those voting for it would say yes. I say no. I respect my colleagues who look at this differently, but those are the facts.

No. 2, individuals should be treated with respect, whoever they are, wherever they are located, at whatever age or stage of life they are in. We should avoid prejudices. Each individual has an inalienable right to life.

Claims that embryos are merely ``potential life'' are not supported by the science. From biology textbooks, we learn:

Although life is a continuous process, fertilization is a critical landmark because, under ordinary circumstances, a new, genetically distinct human organism is thereby formed. .....

It takes place in the beginning. The embryo is not ``potential life,'' it is human life at that particular stage of development in the life cycle continuum. That is not SAM BROWNBACK; that is biology. The embryo would continue along the life cycle continuum if we were not interfering in its normal development by keeping it in a freezer or destroying it for experiments.

With the scientific fact in hand, we evaluate the facts in light of our ethical framework. For instance, we know the human embryo is a human life, so how should we treat it?

Human life has immeasurable value--we can all agree on that--from the youngest to the oldest. Human beings are ends in themselves. It is wrong to use any human as a means to an end, period. That has happened in human history before. It has always been regretted. Our value is intrinsic. Yes, we want to help and treat people with medical conditions, but we must not trample upon any human to achieve such a good end.

Treatments. There remain no embryonic human treatments or applications despite 25 years of embryonic work in animal models and a decade of work with human embryonic stem cells, and $613 million has been invested since 2002 at the Federal level. That doesn't include States, private, and other governments.

What we have learned about embryonic stem cells is that these cells form tumors when implanted. The scientific literature abounds with such stories. If you read this article from ``Stem Cells,'' you will find this:

The expression of the insulin gene could be demonstrated only when the cells differentiated in vivo into teratomas.

Those are tumors.

Moving from the ethical to the practical, should we put millions or billions of dollars into speculative research on these tumor-forming embryonic stem cells or should we put our money where we are already getting strong results with adult stem cells?

I have this. It is the front page of the research journals on adult and cord blood stem cell research and the successes since 2002. Are there similar files for embryonic stem cells? No, there are none. Adult stem cells have no ethical strings attached. You can get them from an adult without causing the patient harm; you can harvest them from rich cord blood, and, as noted in the Journal of the American Medical Association on March 7 of this year, they can be obtained from amniotic fluid without causing harm to the unborn child.

When we started this debate yesterday, we were aware of at least 72 peer-reviewed, real human treatments and applications using adult stem cells. Now, with the breaking news yesterday on juvenile diabetes from Northwestern University in Chicago, worked on in Brazil, we are at 73. Again, there remain no embryonic stem cell applications.

I say to my colleagues, remember Jacki Rabon, a lady from Illinois, a constituent of the Senators from Illinois, who has spinal cord injuries. She had to go to Portugal to be treated. Do not divert funds away from successful adult stem cell treatments and force your constituents to go to Portugal at great personal expense. Vote against S. 5 and put the money into adult stem cell research.

Remember David Foege. For your constituents who have heart disease,

[Page: S4371]

do not divert funds away from successful adult stem cell treatments. Do not force your constituents to go to Bangkok at great personal expense. Vote against S. 5.

Remember Dennis Turner. For your constituents with Parkinson's, don't divert funds away from successful adult stem cell treatments. Let us provide these treatments here in America. Vote against S. 5.

Remember the 13 diabetes patients whom we learned about yesterday who have gone 3 years insulin-free using a treatment with their own adult stem cells. Don't divert these funds away from this area. Vote against S. 5.

Mr. President, the Proverbs tell us that there is a way that seems right to man, but its end is the way of death. That seems right to some people. I respect their opinion and I respect them, but its end is the way of death. Killing young human life harms us as a culture, when we treat human life as property. We have done that, and we don't like the history associated with it.

These embryonic stem cells form tumors. Tumors remind me of death. Do we want to go that way, even though it may seem right? These embryos are going to be destroyed, so why not? Somebody on death row is going to be destroyed, so why not? Because they have dignity, and they remain dignified. We should treat them with dignity, as we should here. Vote against S. 5.


Skip to top

Help us stay free for all your Fellow Americans

Just $5 from everyone reading this would do it.

Back to top