Cardinal William Keeler has urged the U.S. Senate to support two out of three bills related to stem cell research, which he says respect both science and ethics. The cardinal also announced opposition to the third bill, which would force taxpayers to support the destruction of early human life.
In a letter to the Senate, Cardinal Keeler expressed support for S. 2754, the Alternative Pluripotent Stem Cell Therapies Enhancement Act, and S. 3504, the Fetus Farming Prohibition Act. He called on the Senate to reject H.R. 810, the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act, “in the name of sound ethics and responsible science.”
The Senate is expected to vote on all three bills during the week of July 17.
The Alternative Pluripotent Stem Cell Therapies Enhancement Act would fund efforts to derive and study cells which have the capabilities of embryonic stem cells but which are not obtained by destroying human embryos.
“Many studies suggest that stem cells from adult tissues and umbilical cord blood already have the versatility once thought to exist only in embryonic cells, or may acquire this versatility by various forms of ‘reprogramming’,” wrote Cardinal Keeler, who is Archbishop of Baltimore and Chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee for Pro-Life Activities.
The Fetus Farming Prohibition Act amends current federal law against abuses in the area of fetal tissue research. It would prevent the use of human fetal tissue obtained by growing human embryos in a human or animal uterus in order to provide such tissue. Some state laws, including one in New Jersey, could allow such “fetus farming” to harvest human body parts.
The Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act, however, violates a decades-long policy against forcing taxpayers to support the destruction of early human life, Cardinal Keeler said. “Federal funds would promote research using ‘new’ embryonic stem cell lines, encouraging researchers to destroy countless human embryos to provide more cell lines and qualify for federal grants,” the Cardinal said. “However, no alleged future ‘promise’ can justify promoting the destruction of innocent human life here and now, whatever its age or condition.”
According to the Washington Post, the Senate is expected to pass the later bill. But, President George Bush has promised to veto the measure and neither chamber of Congress has displayed the two-thirds majority needed to override it.
Bush reportedly supports stem-cell science but only if it advances without crossing moral and ethical lines.