An official with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB)  along with numerous pro-life groups have reacted to yesterday evening’s vote by the U.S. Senate to approve legislation (S. 5) promoting the destruction of human embryos for federally funded stem cell research.

The Senate voted for the bill 63 to 34. At the same time, S. 30, a bill to promote alternative ways to pursue stem cell research without harming human embryos, was also approved, 70 to 28.

Richard M. Doerflinger, Deputy Director of the USCCB Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities, said: “With enactment of S. 5, millions of taxpayers would be forced to promote attacks on innocent human life in the name of scientific progress. Americans have not been required to assist in such direct exploitation of vulnerable human life in the past.”

“Because the President has promised to veto this bill, and opposition to it in Congress is sufficient to uphold his veto in both House and Senate, we expect that this terrible burden will not be placed on the American people now,” Doerflinger added.

“Many members of Congress remain dazzled by irresponsibly hyped promises of ‘miracle cures’ from the destruction of human embryos, although experts in the field increasingly admit that treatments from this avenue may be decades away,” said Mr. Doerflinger. “This debate continues to divert attention and resources away from the demonstrated therapeutic promise of morally sound research using adult and cord blood stem cells. Not only embryonic human beings, but suffering patients and their families, are victims of the Senate’s fixation on destructive research.”

Meanwhile, Kimberly Zenarolla, Executive Vice-President of the National Pro-life Action Center on Capitol Hill called the Sentate’s decision “a travesty,” claiming that that the Senate has implicated the American people in its quest to destroy human life for the very remote ‘potential’ benefit of embryonic stem cell research.”

The National Pro-life Action Center called on congress, “to examine the practice of in vitro fertilization that continues to freeze human beings, exposing them to every sort of manipulation, including death by dismemberment.”

“The fertility industry in America is one of the most unregulated worldwide,” Zenarolla added. “As a country, we need to look at policies such as those employed in Italy and Germany that forbid the freezing of embryos. This inhumane practice must stop.”

“Over the past six years, more than $130 million in taxpayer dollars has been devoted to human embryonic stem cell research consistent with the President's policy.”

President Bush responds

President George W. Bush, who has already promised to veto the bill, also reemphasized his reasons for utilizing his veto power yesterday.

“Scientists believe that stem cells have the potential for medical breakthroughs in treating debilitating medical diseases and disorders,” the president said in a statement. “However, the advancement of science and medicine need not conflict with the ethical imperative to protect every human life. I am a strong supporter of scientific research -- which is why I authorized the first federal funding for research on embryonic stem cells, under careful safeguards, starting in 2001.”

Bush noted that his previous funding for stem cell research refused funding for the creation of new human embryos, for the purpose of destroying or harming them for science.  “The Senate today voted in support of legislation to overturn these safeguards,” the president added. “I believe this will encourage taxpayer money to be spent on the destruction or endangerment of living human embryos -- raising serious moral concerns for millions of Americans.”

The president reaffirmed that if Senate Bill 5 is also passed by the U.S. House, he will veto it.

The U.S. leader also noted the tremendous scientific advances that have been reported over the last few years, with the use of ethically acceptable “adult” stem cells.  He offered his strong support for Senate Bill 30, “the Hope Act,” which “builds on this ethically appropriate research by encouraging further development of these alternative techniques for producing stem cells without embryo creation or destruction.”

“I strongly support this bill,” the president concluded, “and I encourage the Congress to pass it and send it to me for my signature, so stem cell science can progress, without ethical and cultural conflict.”