A Bit on the Senate
A Bit on the Senate
The Senate vote on the embryonic stem cell research package is scheduled for next Tuesday, and a Newsweek story on MSNBC discusses how the issue might be a “silver bullet” for Democrats. Senator Chuck Schumer of New York says that Republicans are coming over to the Democratic side because they don’t like where the Republican part is heading. Besides stem cell research, he cited creationism in schools and the government intervention in the Terry Schiavo case as issues that are giving some Republicans pause. Republican representatives responded by saying the issue doesn’t have the strength of other issues, such as immigration or taxes.
Several people are hoping to get 67 Senators to vote for the bill, which would be enough to override the promised presidential veto in the Senate. Senator Sam Brownback of Kansas, an opponent, thinks that some of his colleagues might vote for it to show pro-embryonic stem cell research on their record while at the same time feeling assured that the bill will be vetoed. The passage in the House was not by enough votes to override a veto. The article also discusses specifically some of the Congressional election races in which stem cells are figuring heavily, such as in Missouri, Pennsylvania, and Ohio, among others.
There was one interesting comment from Republican Senator Norm Coleman: “I’m pro-life, but I also want to be pro-science,” he said. “What I would do is take the line the president drew (Aug. 9, 2001) and move that line to today. There are hundreds of lines of stem cells already out there. You don’t have to spend a dime on the destruction of the human embryo.”
This seems to me like a good compromise position for a period. It is I am sure not what researchers would want, because it is still limiting, but it increases the availability of stem cell lines for federal funding significantly. There would still be issues such as those I discussed yesterday where researchers might want to create stem cell lines to study diseases that are specific to or more frequent in particular racial groups, but overall it would allow science to move forward.
A key thing, I think, is making sure that the research is not criminalized. Researchers are not working on stem cells to create a master race; they are working on them to alleviate suffering. There is plenty of pain and misery in the world, let’s not stand in the way of anything that could reduce it. Imagine if all the money and energy being expended by embryonic stem cell research opponents went instead to helping war refugees, or providing improved sanitation in developing countries, or medical care for the uninsured. The WHO reports about cholera: “For example, in the aftermath of the Rwanda crisis in 1994, outbreaks of cholera caused at least 48 000 cases and 23 800 deaths within one month in the refugee camps in Goma, the Congo.” Don’t those 23,800 people, or people like them, count more than a few hundred cells?