Representatives and advocates on both sides of the embryonic stem cell research debate gave their opinions and findings to a House Government Reform Committee Tuesday.
“This debate is not about abortion,but about science and if we are to allow the breakthroughs of what we have found to be funded or not,” Rep. Henry Waxman (D-California) said in his testimony.
Other members of the committee,including Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Maryland),Rep. Mark Souder (R-Indiana),Rep. John Mica (R-Florida),Rep. Jo Ann Davis (R-Virginia),Rep. Janice Schakowsky (D-Illinois) and Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-New York),heard and gave their testimony concerning the issue of whether the federal government should allow public funding for research that uses embryonic stem cells.
Embryonic stem cell research,a procedure in which scientists use the stem cells of the embryo that has been formed through in-vitro fertilization process,has evoked emotion from many pro-life advocates,who say it destroys the embryo once the stem cell is extracted.
Waxman,Cummings,Maloney and other representatives said they support public funding to the research,stating that embryos are often in excess and would be destroyed regardless of whether they were frozen or used in experimentation.
They also said lack of public funding would send more scientists and information to the private sector,thus limiting the free flow of information.
“We know that top scientists believe that the embryonic stem cells may lead to breakthrough treatments for devastating disorders affecting countless American families,” Cummings said.
Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah),a strong pro-life supporter,agreed on the importance of using embryonic stem cell research,saying the research would be done under stricter ethical guidelines than through the private sector.
“Some hold out adult stem cell research as a good alternative,and by all means,we should continue adult stem cell research,” Hatch said. “But,I do not believe it would be wise to cut off support for embryonic stem cell research,since many eminent scientists believe this is the more promising avenue of research.”
Proponents against public funding for embryonic research argued the embryos are human beings and urged representatives to look at safer and more ethical alternatives,such as adult stem cell research.
“Adult stem cell research is an ethical path that takes in a whole new area of regenerative medicine,” Rep. Dr. David Weldon (R-Florida) said. “Scientists have yet to show a successful animal model using the embryonic treatment and adult stem cells have yielded as good or better results with less immune rejection.”
Adult stem cells can be taken from infants to adults,often taken from umbilical cords,fat tissues,the brain and liver,Weldon said.
In response to claims from stem cell advocates that embryos are used from excess supplies at fertility clinics,John Borden,parent of adoptive twins formed from frozen embryos,stood up with his 9-month-old sons and asked the committee,“which one of my children would you kill.”
Borden's wife,Lucinda,said the excess is far smaller than other claims made,with a reported 188,000 embryos currently in the United States. “Those testing are claiming that these embryos aren't human beings,but you can see right now that they are special individuals who deserve to have a chance at life and a family,” Borden said.
The first mother to adopt an embryo from another couple and have it implanted in her womb in 1997,Marlene Strege,said she couldn't stand for statements made by actress Mary Tyler Moore and representatives that her 28-month-old daughter,Hannah,was just a dot on paper.
“Hannah is an ambassador of a new generation of children that have yet to be born,and she is a survivor from the perils of freezing and implanting,” Strege said.
While embryonic testing is legal and practiced in the United States,there is currently no public funding options available. Chairman Souder said President George W. Bush,who has delayed,will have to soon make a decision.