Senator Hatch takes a bold and independent stand on stem cell bill
For Utahns accustomed to cringing when their congressional representatives make national headlines, Sen. Orrin Hatch’s unwavering support of federal funding for stem cell research has elicited a rarely felt source of pride. This week, even in the wake of President George W. Bush’s veto of the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act, Hatch continued to voice his support for the needed legislation.
H.R. 810, which had strong bipartisan support in Congress, would have expanded the pool of embryonic stem cells eligible for federally funded research. Currently, researchers hoping for federal support can only use stem cells gathered prior to 2001. The bill that Hatch and an impressive group of bipartisan congressmen finally managed to agree on last week, however, would have allowed researchers to use extra embryonic stem cells created for patients who have undergone in vitro fertilization. As part of that process, extra pre-embryos are produced in case the first attempt to become pregnant is unsuccessful. If those embryos are not needed, the patients, though, may choose to have them frozen or discarded. The bill also contained important safeguards to ensure no one could produce embryos for financial gain and to ensure the cells would only be used for research with the patients’ consent.
But according to Bush, the use of embryonic stem cells for research "crosses a moral boundary." He also said he opposes using taxpayers’ money to "promote science which destroys life in order to save life."In his response to Bush’s myopic veto, Hatch called that argument "a paper tiger" adding "spare IVF embryos are slated for destruction anyway."
In an eloquent rebuttal to the president, Hatch said, "The hope offered by stem cell research is too great to ignore." According to the medical community, those hopes include cures for Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and spinal-cord injuries, among other diseases.
In light of the potential benefits to be derived from this research, Hatch explains that it is not at all contradictory to be both pro-life and pro-stem cell research and his efforts to convince other senators and representatives to expand the pool of eligible stem cell sources have been enlightened and carefully considered.
On this issue, Park City Democrats, Republicans and unaffiliated voters should be proud to call Orrin Hatch their senator and they should waste no time in expressing their disappointment in Bush’s decision to put the brakes on scientific progress.
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