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Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act of 2007

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

STEM CELL RESEARCH ENHANCEMENT ACT OF 2007 -- (Senate - April 11, 2007)


Mr. BROWNBACK. Mr. President, I thank my colleagues for the debate, and a good one, we are having on a very important topic. The differences in this debate remind me, though, of a proverb that says there is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death. Unfortunately, if we research on young human life, it puts that young human life to death and at the same time does not produce the results for cures that we had hoped would be taking place.

I respect my colleagues who are on another side of this issue who feel as though we should research on young human life. I do not feel that is right or ethical. I will discuss that aspect here today with some of the time I have, and I also wish to discuss the exciting breaking developments that are taking place even today on the adult stem cell area that continues to produce treatments for humans.

I ask unanimous consent to enter into the Record after my statement an article from the Chicago Tribune online edition.

The ACTING PRESIDENT pro tempore. Without objection, it is so ordered.

(See exhibit 1.)

Mr. BROWNBACK. It is dated today. It is about the latest diabetes treatments that have been taking place. A report came out from Northwestern University in the Chicago area about a new diabetes treatment developed at Northwestern University which has allowed some patients to stop taking insulin for more than 2 years. They have raised questions about this process. It was done in Brazil rather than in the United States. Thirteen of the fifteen patients in this adult stem cell study went off insulin for at least 6 months, as they note, prompting cautious excitement from some researchers who have seen the results. Dr. Gordon C. Weir, a diabetes researcher and head of a transplantation program at Harvard's Medical School, Joslin Diabetes Center, said this:

Their results look better than anything I have seen so far.

What an exciting development in the adult stem cell research area and field.

Questions have been raised about this trial and some of it taking place in Brazil. I have raised questions such as why is it we are seeing these breakthroughs taking place and we are having patients from the United States go to Bangkok, go to Portugal, and these treatments are being developed in Brazil rather than in the United States. I believe if we would put our funding here that we are using in the embryonic field, the $613 million that has produced no human treatments to date but has produced a lot of tumors in live animals, if we would put that in the adult field where we are getting results--we have invested in the adult field, but what if that $613 million were in the adult field today? Would these breakthroughs be happening here instead of Brazil, or by U.S. researchers in Brazil? Why aren't they being done in the United States? I hope my colleagues will look at that issue.

There is another point I wish to raise with my colleagues at this point in time. Let's presume they are successful in embryonic stem cell research. Let's presume, in a decade or 20 years, they are successful with embryonic stem cell research. That is going to lead to the necessity of us moving forward with human cloning because in the development of this technology, embryonic stem cell technology, if you are using an embryo and the genetic material doesn't match up, there is going to be rejection by my body or by some body. That is going to happen. That is going to take place. So we are going to have to move into human cloning. We are going to have to harvest women's eggs, develop human clones to develop the correct type of embryonic stem cells to use in an individual so that there will be a genetic match. I think we ought to talk about that, if we continue in the progression we are on.

I acknowledge that human cloning is not specifically addressed in S. 5, the embryonic stem cell bill. However, if embryonic stem cells can ever overcome their tumor-forming tendency--and that is a huge if--and they are used in humans, human cloning will be used in order to avoid immune rejection problems. Therefore, as is hopefully evident, the issue of human cloning needs to be raised.

To this end, I recently introduced the bipartisan Brownback-Landrieu Human Cloning Prohibition Act, which we introduced before the break with 26 other Senators who are cosponsoring this legislation.

This legislation would reaffirm that the United States places tremendous value on the dignity of each and every human person: from the young human embryo to vulnerable women who would be coerced into donating their eggs, at potentially great risk to their health. The legislation would make clear that the cloning of human persons is not something we as a society will accept.

The Brownback-Landrieu Human Cloning Prohibition Act has been endorsed by the President of the United States. It will bring the United States into conformity with the United Nations, whose General Assembly called on all member states ``to prohibit all forms of human cloning.'' It did not say we can do therapeutic but not reproductive. It said ``all forms of human cloning'' by a strong 84-to-34 margin vote in the U.N.

The problem with cloning human beings is that it violates human dignity on all sorts of levels. Cloning transgresses our heritage's most sacred values about what is good and true and beautiful. Western civilization indeed is built on the tenet that every human life has a measurable value. Human beings are ends in themselves. It is wrong to use any person as a means to an end. Upon this principle our laws are founded, and without it, laws have little basis. Human cloning--for whatever purpose--is wrong because it turns humans into commodities or spare parts.

In recent debate, human cloning has been referred to as ``therapeutic cloning,'' ``research cloning'' or simply SCNT. These are presented as contrasts to ``reproductive cloning.'' It should be noted that ``therapeutic,'' ``research,'' and ``reproductive'' are merely adjectives to describe what is done with the cloned human. SCNT, or somatic cell nuclear transfer, is the scientific description of the cloning process.

A CRS report for Congress notes:

A human embryo produced via cloning involves the process called somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT). In SCNT, the nucleus of an egg is removed and replaced by the nucleus from a mature body cell, such as a skin cell. In cloning, the embryo is created without sexual reproduction: There is no joining of egg and sperm.

Stem cell pioneer James Thomson has said:

If you create an embryo by SCNT cloning and you give it to somebody who didn't know where it came from, there would be no test you would do on that embryo to say where it came from. It is what it is. If you try to define it away, you are being disingenuous.

With ``reproductive'' and ``therapeutic'' cloning, human beings are turned into commodities or spare parts to be dissected in the laboratory, with the claim that someday they may be administered to other humans to provide a treatment. Treatments are certainly praiseworthy but not at the expense of the destruction of other members of the human family. We all want to treat people as people, and people should be treated as people. I want to find a cure for cancer. However, it is wrong to turn humans into a means to an end.

It is also wrong to exploit women for their eggs. Here I want to develop this thought about what will take place if human embryonic stem cell research is developed, is successful. We have to develop clones that meet the genetic type of the individual seeking the treatment. You are going to have to get eggs from somewhere and you are going to have to get these from people--from women. Also, it is wrong to exploit women for their eggs, and that is the other side of the human cloning story. SCNT cloning, as proposed by proponents of the technique, would require millions of human eggs. In all likelihood, poor and disadvantaged women would be particularly vulnerable to exploitation via financial incentives for donation. This is troubling because retrieving such eggs violates the dignity of a woman and may cause serious harm to her health.

The Brownback-Landrieu Human Cloning Prohibition Act is the only effective ban on human cloning. Any other ban is one that is allowing therapeutic cloning and even encouraging it but certainly not banning human cloning. Others would regulate what could be done with the human clones, normally requiring its destruction, but they do nothing to prevent the process of human cloning, which violates human dignity on many levels. We should take a stand against turning young human beings into commodities. We should not destroy human life for research purposes.

I will not be voting for cloning today, and I will continue to look for an opportunity to bring this legislation forward as an amendment to other bills. Again, I point out to my colleagues that is the route we are on with this--to promote human cloning so there will be genetic matches in the human embryonic stem cell procedures. I do not believe that is the path we should follow.

I want to address some of the thoughts several colleagues have brought up about what it is we are doing. Human embryos are being destroyed for research purposes and for stem cells. Some have referred to this as ``potential life,'' which strikes me as a bit like the debate we had on the issue of slavery, where we deemed a person three-fifths of a person at one point in time. That is a complete legal fiction. You are either a person or you are not. You are either life or you are not life. It is not potential life. Nowhere in the scientific literature is there a description of potential life. The embryo is a species at that stage of development in the life cycle. That is the scientific definition and information--the embryo is a species at that stage of development in the life cycle. We all have a life cycle. The embryo is the species at that stage. That is common sense. The embryo stage is a development stage, but it remains human life, not potential human life. It is alive and it is a life.

The embryo would continue along the life cycle continuum if we were not interfering in its normal development by keeping it in a freezer and destroying it for experiments. I think it is important that we not engage in wishful thinking or trying to define this away. A human embryo is a human life. We should not say it is a potential life. That is not a definition for what human life is. I noted in the debate earlier--I want to make this point at this time--that it appears as if at the current research rate it would take 100 or more human eggs per cloned embryo--100 you are going to have to harvest from young women to get this process to move forward with human cloning.

Mr. President, I will reserve the remainder of my time at this point. I yield the floor.


Mr. BROWNBACK. Mr. President, I thank my colleague from Florida and my colleague from Oregon as well. I want to address a couple of issues in response to some of the statements that have been made and also get us back to what we are discussing.

On S. 5, the central issue is, will we sanction the destruction of nascent human life with Federal taxpayer dollars? There is currently no prohibition
against embryonic stem cell research in this country. Any private group in Illinois or Kansas or Pennsylvania that wants to develop an embryonic stem cell line can do so. There is no prohibition. The question is, will we use Federal taxpayer dollars to destroy human life to develop additional stem cell lines? That is what S. 5 is about.

The second point is, if we want to talk about cures, which I believe that is what the debate should be centered on, is it appropriate to divert taxpayer dollars from adult stem cell research, from cord blood research, from placental research, from amniotic fluid research into these areas of highly speculative embryonic stem cell research that has not produced results to date and is unlikely to produce results in the near future, if at all. If it does produce results, it is going to lead us toward human cloning, because we are not going to have a genetic match on the embryonic stem cell line. You are going to need a genetic match so you will have to develop human cloning to get a genetic match to produce the cure you want.

Cloning is not on the table today, but that is what this moves us toward, because that is what is going to have to happen, if this will ever work. But it doesn't need to go that route. I want to get us back on those central questions.

Let's talk about the facts on these questions. We have invested heavily as a country in embryonic stem cell research. We have invested in adult stem cell research.

We have invested nearly $613 million on embryonic stem cell research. In total, since 2002, $613 million invested in embryonic stem cell research. So to say that we are not funding, we are not doing work in this area, is false. We have invested a considerable amount of work and effort in this field.

Now, individuals are saying: OK, yes, you have put money into this field, but the lines on which you allow research are contaminated. I wish to draw attention to this article from Nature magazine--excuse me. I want to get this one up. This article: ``Bush Stem Cell Line Contamination is Exaggerated.'' This is from a CEO of a stem cell company:

So the stuff you hear published--

I am reading the quotation--

--that all of these lines are irrevocably contaminated with mouse materials that could never be used in people--hogwash. If you know how to grow them, they're fine.

That is in an article where one of the key individuals, the CEO of a stem cell company, is saying that. So we have $613 million that is in human and nonhuman embryonic stem cell research. The idea that the lines are contaminated is hogwash. They are not contaminated. They are useful. They are being used. The research is taking place. So we have this. We have $613 million going into this area since 2002. One would reasonably expect we ought to have some results after over half a million dollars going into the field in this period of time and a lot of efforts from the scientific community. We have known about embryonic stem cells for 25 years.

Indeed, the magazine Nature in 2006 marked the 25th anniversary of the two papers reporting the first isolation of mouse embryonic stem cells--a 25-year celebration. So we have known about embryonic stem cells for 25 years and in humans for the last 10 years. We have been able to research on them in lab animals for the last 25 years. That is an exciting development which took place a quarter of a century ago. We have invested heavily--$613 million since 2002. We have put a lot of money into this. We put a lot of scientific effort into this.

What do we have? That should be a reasonable question all my colleagues would ask. All my colleagues would say: Well, OK. We have talked about this, we have put money in it, we have discovered it, and we have put a lot of our best scientific minds into this field. What do we have? The results for adult versus embryonic: We have invested more in adult than we have in embryonic, but it is not an inconsequential amount that we have put into embryonic--$613 million. This chart shows the current human applications in the two fields of adult versus the embryonic. For allergy and infectious disease, embryonic stem cell research and human applications: zero. We have 15 in the adult field. Cancer Institute: zero in ESCR, 26 in adult. Child Health Institute: zero here for embryonic, 8 in adult. Diabetes and Digestive: zero for embryonic, three in the adult field. Eye Institute: one adult, zero embryonic. Zero embryonic, zero embryonic, zero embryonic in each of those fields. You can see what we have been able to do in the adult field by the investment we have there.

So from just a sheer practicality standpoint--we have known about this for 25 years, and we have put $613 million into it. We have zero human clinical applications today taking place. We have over--and here I want to show an adjusted chart. I am sorry this is one we have had to paper over, but just yesterday we had juvenile diabetes on our board for adult stem cell application--one of the big ones. This affects a lot of people. It is one that a number of people in this body are strongly interested in, deeply interested in.

I just read to my colleagues this morning from the Chicago Tribune about this adult stem cell work treating juvenile diabetes where an individual with their own--this is type 1 diabetes--treating an individual with their own stem cells at Northwestern University. Here is a quote from a researcher who was reviewing it from Harvard Medical School:

Their results look better than anything I have seen so far.

Type 1 diabetes. We added it, gladly, to the board today. Seventy-three different human applications we have in adult stem cells. Cord blood. We don't have amniotic fluid yet developing, which I think we should start banking the amniotic fluid from the placenta because of the rich stores of stem cells, but we haven't quite started that yet today. So we have put in money in adult and we have put money in embryonic. We have a lot of results in adult.

I held this up for my colleagues yesterday, but I hope they get a chance to look at it again. This is the front page of the research findings in the adult fields we have. It is about a 4-inch binder. That was accumulated as of April 2006--last year. We did an addendum from June 2006 to March 2007. These are the findings. These are the successful results in the adult cord blood field that we have. I don't have my empty binder to show what we have on embryonic stem cell. It is a legitimate question, just a legitimate question about what we should be investing in that is yielding results in the adult versus embryonic field that is taking place.

There is the tumor problem. My colleague from Utah was saying we can get over this tumor problem which is taking place. Unfortunately, I have a stack--and I put it into the Record yesterday--of 10 research papers, and that was really just a sampling of the papers where the embryonic stem cells are producing tumors. This is real. It is significant. It is not going away, these tumor-formation problems with embryonic stem cells.

This is in a publication called ``Stem Cells'': ``The presentation of the insulin gene could be demonstrated only when the cells differentiated in

vivo into teratomas''--into tumors. These are tumors which are taking place. This is just one of a stack of research papers saying this is a problem. It is a difficulty we have.

Let's talk about patients again because, to me, that is what we really have to get to--the bottom line. We have to bring this back to the patients.

We now have this exciting development which is taking place with type 1 juvenile diabetes. Unfortunately, it is taking place in Brazil instead of the United States. I wish we were having the researchers doing this in the United States. I guess they--whether they are being attracted overseas to do adult stem cell work and not in the United States--but this was Northwestern University which was doing this in Brazil.

I want to look at Parkinson's. One of my colleagues raised the issue of Parkinson's, which is a very difficult, terrible disease that confronts and confounds us as a society and as individuals. I wish to point out to my colleagues an individual who came to testify in 2004 who was a Parkinson's patient and testified about his treatment with his own stem cells that was taking place, a Parkinson's patient, Dr. Dennis Turner, and he was Parkinson's free for a period of 5 years. We tried to get him in to testify a number of different times. We had trouble. He was out doing African safaris after his stem cell treatment as he was doing so well from it.

My point is that we have tried this. We have tried it aggressively. We have tried it ethically to say: OK, let's try embryonic stem cell work on lines where a life-and-death decision has already been made. That was the President's determination in 2001. He was saying: We don't know at this point in time where this science will lead us. Let's try it on these ethical lines because somebody has already made the life-and-death decision. Let's put money into it. Let's start in the nonhuman area first because we want to develop this in the animal models, which is clearly the right way to go. Let's invest heavily in it, which I noted in the earlier chart where I pointed this out, the amount of animal trials, the money that has been put into animal trials on embryonic stem cell work--in 2006 alone, $110 million; $481 million for 2002 through 2006--trying to find out: Is there a place? Is there a way? Can we make this work? We continue to have this tumor problem which keeps coming up in almost all of the studies. Yet we are saying: Let's try it on human embryonic and these lines that have already been developed, and we still are not getting the results. So why would we continue to fund in this area?

Now we want to expand the funding in this area and we want to expand the lines and we want to--not only go there, we want to cross the big moral divide that many of us have different opinions on but all of us have to say is a profound question: the use of taxpayer dollars to fund the destruction of young human life. We are all troubled about that. One way or the other, we are all troubled about that. That is the question on this particular bill and why it is so divisive. We all want cures. I think people are troubled about the lack of scientific results in one area and the fact that we are now at, in, 1,422 human clinical trials now going on, being recruited for or no longer recruiting for using adult stem cell work right now. So this is going on. It is going on well. We are not seeing any of it in the embryonic.

Now we want to take another step. We want to use taxpayer dollars. We want to destroy young human life. We want to create more embryonic stem cell lines. Never mind that it hasn't worked to date. Never mind that we are getting a lot of results in this other field. Never mind that a good portion of our electorate finds this ethically very troubling. We are going to do it. We are going to go with it. We think we ought to do it.

I don't think this is a wise move. I don't think it is wise practically. I don't think it is wise ethically in spite of the thoughts others might have. Ronald Reagan said: If you didn't know if somebody was alive or dead, you wouldn't bury them. If you weren't sure, you wouldn't bury them, just as a commonsense thought.

My colleague from Oregon did a very good discussion of the ethical issues here, yet I could even detect in his thoughts that this is a troubling question. It is a tough one. So if we are not sure if it is alive or dead, would you bury them? No, you wouldn't. And if we have a moral question about this and we have a route where we can use this $613 million to get treatments for people like Dennis Turner, whom I put up here, and where we have had some successes, if we can get treatments for diabetes that are being developed by Northwestern University--but for some reason, we are not having enough interest here to do them here, we are having to do them in Brazil. I want people to get treatments. I want Parkinson's treatment to take place. We have a route to do this. We are not unlimited on money resources in the health care field. I think we should invest more in the health care field. We have a route to go here. We have a route that can use the resources. If we are at 1,422 clinical trials now, my guess is there would be a lot more we could try.

I put up pictures of people here yesterday who are having to go to Portugal for spinal cord injury treatment. I want to put a picture back up here again. She wonders why we couldn't do this here.

I might also note to my colleagues that it is critical that this is done quickly. They are finding in these early research results that the sooner you can get the treatment for a spinal cord injury, the more likelihood of success. So how many people here can afford to fly to Portugal for the treatment, and how much better would it be if this were done in Chicago or in Kansas City where people could go in this country? This lady from central Illinois was having to go to Portugal.

We are finding this in the diabetes area. They are saying the sooner the treatment is taking place--and this is common sense to most of us as well--we know that the sooner you catch something, the more likelihood you have success if you get quick treatment. Should we be forcing people, then, to go to Brazil and Portugal and Thailand to get these adult stem cell treatments, many of which were developed in the United States, being done by U.S. researchers, and now are being conducted abroad? Why? I understand we are all after this goal of treatments, and I would hope--and I give that to my opponents, that is what they are after as well--they see this hope and promise.

I can't cross the ethical boundary they have been able to cross. I find that each of these lives--and here, I am not quoting from a religious source; I am quoting from a biology textbook, an embryology textbook, 1996 human embryology textbook that says this about when life begins, not talking about the theology but the biology. It says:

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

The Presiding Officer wouldn't be here if he was destroyed as an embryo. If we have somebody in the future who in this body--I want to show Hannah--who was in this body who was created--or, excuse me, was started in an IVF clinic, was a frozen embryo at some point in time, she is destroyed as a frozen embryo, she isn't going to be here as a U.S. Senator. This life is a continuum. We all know this. This is not something which is new to anybody. Here is man who is a snowflake baby, a frozen embryo, who was adopted. We have another route to go on these frozen embryos. We could really push an adoption technique. If she is destroyed at this early phase, she obviously isn't here at a later phase. We know that. We know what the embryology textbook says, and we know each of us started out as an embryo, so why would we do this? I understand people are saying: Well, because we want cures. And I do, too. We have an ethical route to go on the cures. We have a route which is producing enormous successful results and one which is producing no results.

Now, maybe it will, in a decade or two, over large U.S. expenditure, over a great ethical divide that we all are troubled about, and then we will expand into human cloning to be able to get a genetic match, because it will have to. Otherwise, if you do this with embryonic stem cells and implant them and the genetic type doesn't match up with that of the body, you are going to have to have immunosuppressants being used all your life. Is it likely we are going to continue that route? No. We are obviously going to have to do human cloning, develop young human clones that genetically match the individual being treated. You are going to have to harvest thousands, if not millions, or hundreds of thousands of women's eggs to get the human eggs to develop the clones.

Do we want to go there with women? You are probably going to have to incentivize and pay women in poorer countries to get the human eggs to develop the clones that genetically match so you can implant them. This leads down several paths we don't want to go. So why would we start down there if we don't want to go there and we have an ethical route in which to go?

I plead with my colleagues that we don't need to do this. We don't need to jump over this ethical divide, and we don't need to ignore this definition. We don't need to create a legal fiction that, yes, it is alive but it is not a life, which we are doing now with this discussion. We don't need to go back to the old debate of treating human life as property and that you can patent it and own it and manipulate it, and treat it for your own purposes. We have been there before. We have always regretted it. Why would we do that now? We don't need to go there. I say to my colleagues, let's not go there. Let's go this route we can all agree on. Let's do amniotic fluid banking. Let's do banking of those stem cells and create more treatments. Let's invest more heavily in the adult stem cell field so we can create and find those cures. Let's have treatments done in the United States and not force people to travel overseas to get these treatments. We don't need to go there.

We don't need to get women into a position to pay them to harvest their eggs. We don't need to go down the route of human cloning, creating life for our own purposes. We have done that before and have deeply regretted it.

This is a turning point for us. I have no doubt how the vote will come out today. It will be in favor of S. 5. I think that is regrettable. I believe the President when he says he is going to veto it. I hope he does. I will be strongly in support of him doing that. Instead of having a culture that looks at using life, let's have a culture that values life, that sees every life as dignified, beautiful, sacred, a child of a loving God, not to be used for other purposes but has dignity because of who it is, because of the beauty of who it is. What is wrong with that? Let's find cures, and we can do it.


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