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

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC



Mrs. CLINTON. Mr. President, I welcome the vote on this important piece of legislation, the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act of 2007.

Stem cell research holds great hope of providing cures for chronic, incurable conditions from which millions of Americans suffer. But unless we act, the Bush administration will continue to meet this unparalleled moment of scientific discovery with unbridled ideology--and the American people and scientific community will pay the price.

The President's stem cell ban amounts to a ban on hope for millions of Americans. It's time this Congress put an end to the Bush administration policy which is holding science back and holding our Nation back in the race to new medical treatments and discoveries.

We all expect that this bipartisan legislation will pass both the Senate and the House. There is a broad consensus in the Congress, among medical experts, scientists, and patient advocacy organizations, and among the American people, demanding that we open the doors to scientific innovation--instead of barring those doors shut.

Even within the Bush administration, there is a desire to pursue stem cell research. The Director of the National Institutes of Health, Doctor Elias Zerhouni, has gone on record supporting expanded access to new lines of embryonic stem cells.

I am deeply concerned, however, that we have been down this road before a road that begins with the promise of new cures and ends, not with discovery, but with ideology and a veto by the President.

The promise of stem-cell science is crystal clear--and already being demonstrated. Embryonic stem cells develop into a variety of more specialized types of cells--like nerve cells or muscle tissue that could be used to replace or repair tissue lost or damaged from illness.

In New York, researchers at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center have been using embryonic stem cells to develop bone, cartilage or muscle replacement therapies. And in 2006, a team of researchers from Columbia University and another team from Cornell published research on new ways of turning embryonic stem cells into treatments for Parkinson's disease.

These are just several examples, but the work of these scientists and scientists around the world is inspiring hope for millions in New York and the country living with chronic diseases, or caring for a loved one with these conditions.

In fact, New York is leading the way--letting science, not politics, guide research. My State will soon invest $600 million in stem-cell and regenerative medicine research over the next decade. Thanks to this stem cell funding plan, New York researchers will benefit from expanded resources for all types of stem cell research, including embryonic stem cells, adult stem cells, and somatic cell nuclear transfer. And our economy will benefit as well, as we draw great American scientists and innovators pursuing the next great American scientific innovations.

This is encouraging news for New York, but as a Nation, the leadership vacuum under the Bush administration has left the scientific community holding its breath. The Bush administration has put a ban on certain kinds of research, prohibiting Federal funding for any research on stem cell lines created after August 9, 2001.

Federally-funded scientists are limited to less than 20 stem cell lines, instead of the 78 lines advertised. And not all of these lines are even suitable for research. Some may be contaminated with mouse cells, which can increase the risk of creating strains of diseases which can more easily pass to people. Other problems because of the ban include genetic instability, which is associated with formation of tumors, and practical issues associated with using so few lines--preventing scientists from collecting evidence they need.

While American scientists are being held back, other countries are racing ahead, putting billions of dollars into stem cell science--creating research institutions, clinical centers, and investments of all kinds to attract scientists from the United States and elsewhere who will come to pursue this research.

We are losing ground instead doing what Americans do best: leading the world in innovation, ingenuity, and new ideas. The Bush administration's stem cell policy is impeding science and compromising America's ability to remain at the forefront of biomedical research.

At the same time, the Bush ban is a ban that affects more than 100 million Americans who suffer from Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, diabetes, muscular dystrophy, cancers as well as for their friends, families, and caregivers.

These are real people I meet every day in New York and across the country. It's an adult with type I diabetes--or a mom whose son or daughter has the disease. It's a senior citizen struggling with Parkinson's disease or a son or daughter with a parent struggling with Alzheimer's.

These are Americans crossing every divide imaginable--hopeful if not for themselves or their children, then for their grandchildren and great grandchildren. My dear friends Christopher and Dana Reeve, whom we lost in the past several years, were eloquent, passionate advocates for this research. Christopher, from his wheelchair, performed his greatest role after his accident, to try and bring the best of American ingenuity to bear on the worst kinds of illnesses and diseases.

I respect my friends on the other side of the aisle who come to the floor with grave doubts and heartfelt concerns. This is a balancing act and we must never lose sight of our ethics and values. But we can strike that balance--and I believe we have in this bill.

When the promise of embryonic stem cell research became apparent in the 1990s, the Clinton administration, working through the National Bioethics Advisory Commission and the NIH, examined the ethical and medical issues involved with such research.

In September 1999, the National Bioethics Advisory Commission released its report, ``Ethical Issues in Human Stem Cells Research.'' In this report, it recommended that research using cells from embryos created, but not used for, infertility treatment, should be eligible to receive Federal funding.

By August of 2000, the NIH had released guidelines for research using stem cells. These guidelines would have allowed funding for research from lines derived from embryos voluntarily donated which would have otherwise been discarded. These recommendations are followed in this bill, which also includes funding for non-embryonic stem cell research, such as work with stem cells derived from amniotic fluid.

As we wade into these new scientific waters, we must always be steered by our values and morals, which is why I have stood against, and voted to ban, human cloning. We must make a strong legal and ethical stand, but we cannot simply stand still as scientific opportunity passes us by and new cures remain just out of reach.

I applaud the leadership of Senators HARKIN, SPECTER, and KENNEDY on this bill. I am hopeful that we can send the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act to the President, and end the ban on research and hope for Americans looking to us to fund the next great medical discoveries.

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