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

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Republican leader.

Mr. McCONNELL. Mr. President, the issue of stem cell research, when those stem cells are derived from human embryos, is one of the most profound of our time. Confronting this issue means confronting a dilemma, one I am sure every one of my colleagues has grappled with as much as I have.

On the one hand, many scientists believe that research using stem cells holds the promise of one day curing diseases. But we must also remember that the embryos from which these stem cells are derived are human life. Extracting the stem cells destroys the embryo and ends that life's possibility. The moral boundaries this research crosses is greatly troubling to me, and to many others.

But what is too often missing from this important debate is a simple fact of modern science: Encouraging medical research and protecting the sanctity of life are not mutually exclusive goals.

I have always believed that biomedical research must be conducted in an ethical manner that respects human life. Now I am pleased to report that new scientific research tells us that view is more possible than ever.

This promising new research points the way out of the moral dilemma that embryonic stem cell research has always thrust us in.

Alternative methods for research and the potential for cures are often simpler and more efficient and don't require the destruction of life.

They have scientific advantages over the older method as well. That means that everybody who wants to find a cure for any of man's most devastating diseases, and find it fast, should support this form of research wholeheartedly and enthusiastically.

With our votes, this Senate can advance this promising research through the power of Federal funds, and we can happily provide those funds without fear of offending the principles of millions of Americans.

I thank my good friend from Minnesota, Senator Coleman, and my good friend from Georgia, Senator Isakson, for sponsoring this bill and giving the Senate this opportunity. I also commend Senator Specter and Senator Brownback who have led the debate on the competing measure upon which we will also be voting shortly.

The Coleman-Isakson bill, S. 30, the HOPE Act, is a solution Senators from both parties can embrace and a solution that the President will sign into law.

We should leave behind the heated debates of the past, pitting the hope for a cure to end human suffering against the need to protect life at all its stages, including its earliest.

Last year, a minority of Members in the other body voted to block legislation promoting newer methods of research, such as the methods this bill will support. I don't understand that. The only explanation would be that they value the political clash and debate more than finding common ground--and more than the hope this research can bring.

But this Senate can and should move forward united on the HOPE Act, and I urge my colleagues to support it.

I want to stress to everyone just how much the possibility of finding cures for these life-altering diseases means to me personally. I have known what it is like to feel the shadow of a debilitating disease draped over one's life. As a child, I suffered from polio.

When I was 2 years old, I came down with an infection that felt a lot like the flu. But after the fever passed, my left leg had gone lame.

The only reason I am able to stand here today unaided is because of the heroic efforts of my mother. She was not a doctor or a nurse, but she fought as hard as she knew how to save her only son from being trapped forever in a leg brace.

For 2 years, my mother put me through a physical therapy regimen taught to her by the doctors at Roosevelt Warm Springs Institute for Rehabilitation, which was, of course, founded by President Roosevelt. That was over in Warm Springs, GA. From age 2 to 4, I was not allowed to walk or to run.

But after 2 years of my mother's care, I was able to have a normal life. A lot of kids at that time in the 1940s were not so lucky. Some were paralyzed for life. Some were sentenced to an iron lung. Many died.

So believe me, Mr. President, when I say I understand the urgency to find cures for the afflictions that are today's polio. I remember when the prayers of my mother and mothers across the country were answered when Dr. Jonas Salk developed his polio vaccine in 1955. To prove the new vaccine was safe, Dr. Salk administered it to himself, his wife, and their three children. As he did so, he was asked how he could dare his and his family's lives on his new treatment. He replied:

It is courage based on confidence, not daring--and it is confidence based on experience.

Dr. Salk's wisdom ought to guide us today. The daring path is the one that asks us to destroy a life for the possibility that we might save another. If we go down that route, we are daring to ruin America's long and proud record of upholding the highest moral and ethical standards as we seek out new solutions, new cures, and new hopes.

Then there is the path of confidence--the confidence that, thanks to new technologies and new methods of research, scientists can explore the promise of embryonic stem cell research without destroying the human embryo.

Like Dr. Salk's, this confidence is based on experience--the experience of America's best scientists who are pursuing these new methods of research.

The next Dr. Jonas Salk is out there. Providing the money for these methods of research through this bill is how this Senate can help.

I am a believer in the power of science and technology to improve people's lives. I saw it firsthand as a young boy.

Like all of my colleagues, I have great hope for the cures that we will one day find. The Coleman-Isakson bill is something Senators of both parties can support. I hope that they will. Millions of Americans with loved ones in need hope that they will. And I look forward to the successful passage of this bill so America's dominance in medicine and medical technology can continue to move forward.

Mr. President, I yield the floor.

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