US Senate passes three stem-cell bills, House splits vote

.- The U.S. Senate and House of Representatives split a vote Tuesday on a bill that would have allowed researchers to pursue embryonic stem-cell research without the destruction of human embryos. The U.S. bishops and pro-life advocates had supported the Alternative Pluripotent Stem Cell Therapies Enhancement Act, saying that it would promote more alternatives and make embryonic stem cell research unnecessary.

The Senate approved the measure on a 100-0 vote, and the House unexpectedly voted on the measure late yesterday but failed to gain the full two-thirds majority necessary to send the bill to President George Bush to sign into law.

During the Senate debate leading up to the vote, pro-life Sen. Rick Santorum, a Pennsylvania Republican, explained the need for the measure.

"We are directing the NIH to invest money in developing alternatives to the destruction of the human embryo for the obtaining of pluripotent stem cells," Santorum said. "We're instructing the government to look at these particular areas and others.”

Santorum said 16 studies published already are looking at methods of obtaining embryonic stem cells for research which won't harm the human embryo, reported

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) also supported the bill and urged senators to approve the measure.

“The effort to explore all feasible avenues of research that do not attack human life is worth pursuing,” Cardinal William Keeler wrote in a letter.

“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, archbishop of Baltimore, head of pro-life activities for the USCCB.

Family Research Council spokesman Dr. David Prentice said the bill "does not violate ethical principles and such research is currently allowed. Senators should vote for this bill instead of the embryo destruction bill."

The National Committee for a Human Life Amendment, the Susan B. Anthony List and Christian Life Resources also supported the bill.

The Senate and House, however, united to unanimously pass the Fetus Farming Prohibition Act, which would ban implanting a human embryo in a woman or animal for the purpose of harvesting cells or tissue.

The U.S. Senate approved as well the controversial Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act, which would promote research using ‘new’ embryonic stem cell lines, encouraging researchers to destroy countless human embryos.  The House had already voted in favor of the bill.

President George Bush said he intends to sign the first two measures into law but has vowed to veto the third.

The U.S. bishops discouraged the approval of the third measure, “as it violates a decades-long policy against forcing taxpayers to support the destruction of early human life,” said Cardinal Keeler.

The vote was 63-37; four short of the 67 that would be needed to overturn the veto that could come on Wednesday. All but one Democrat voted for the bill, while 19 Republicans backed it and 36 opposed it, reported Reuters.

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