Republican leaders in the U.S. House of Representatives will vote in a few months on legislation that would relax President George W. Bush’s policy on stem cell research.
If it passes through the House and U.S. Senate, the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act would let researchers use federal funds to study stem cells from embryos donated by fertility clinics. It would not allow federal funds for research on embryonic stem cells developed through cloning.
Bush’s current policy allows for federal funding of approximately 20 embryonic stem cell lines that were derived before August 2001. Private funds, not federal funds, have been used to study embryonic stem cells from fertility clinics.
Jeffrey Kahn, the University’s Center for Bioethics director, said it is uncertain whether the legislation will be enacted.
“It’s movement,” he said. “The question is whether it’s enough movement to change the policy.”
The agreement of Republican leaders to vote on furthering Bush’s existing policy shows a genuine difference in opinion among leaders, Kahn said.
“This is an issue that seems to cut across party lines,” he said. “There are some Republicans that favor more expansive funding of stem cell research and more permissive policy.”
Kahn said advancements in stem cell research are causing policy-makers to rethink current guidelines.
Susan Keirstead, a professor of medicine and University Stem Cell Institute faculty member, said the United States is already behind other countries because it does not permit federal funding for the creation of new stem cell lines.
Stephanie Westcot, a second-year law student and Pro-Life Law Society member, said she does not agree with researchers using embryonic stem cells donated by fertility clinics.
She said using the embryos objectifies women by using their eggs for scientific means.