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Senate to Consider Stem Cell Bills

The US Senate will begin debate on two bills related to stem cell research today. The first, known as the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act of 2007, was already passed by the US House of Representatives during Rep. Nancy Pelosi’s (D-CA) first 100 hours as Speaker. This bill, which is similar to the bill that passed through Congress but was vetoed by President Bush in 2006, would allow federal funding for research on embryos that were created for fertility treatments and were voluntarily donated by patients. If this bill passes, White House Spokesperson Tony Fratto said that there is “no question” that Bush will veto, according to Kaiser Daily Women’s Health Policy Report. Senate Democrats fear that they will fall one vote short of the 66 votes needed to override a presidential veto, the New York Times reports.

The second bill, called the Hope Offered Through Principled and Ethical Stem Cell Research Act, aims to achieve a compromise between advocates and critics of stem cell research by encouraging research only on stem cells from embryos that have died from natural causes during fertility treatments. This compromise bill would also create banks for stem cells taken from amniotic fluid and placentas, Reuters reports. President Bush supports this alternate bill, though it has drawn criticism from many who feel that the bill severely limits the ability of researches to make progress. Sean Tipton of the American Society of Reproductive Medicine told the Times Online that President Bush’s bill “is not a compromise — it’s pointless. There are no lines of stem cells currently in existence that would become available for research as a result of it.”

In 2001, President Bush allocated $250 million in federal funding for 61 stem cell lines already in existence. Today, scientists say that all of those lines are unusable, Times Online reports.

Sources:

Reuters 4/10/07; Kaiser Daily Women's Health Policy 4/6/07; New York Times 4/10/07; Times Online 4/10/07; AP 4/10/07

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