Lawmakers kill stem cell research bill

The House voted 149-147 Wednesday to kill a bill urging Congress to foster stem cell research as a chance to cure dozens of diseases and wasting conditions.

More than 100 lawmakers missed the close roll call, but supporters are asking for reconsideration when attendance is better.

The debate hinged on changing the measure so it would support “embryonic” stem cell research. Opponents kept that one word out, then narrowly scuttled the entire bill. The initial Senate legislation included the word “embryonic,” but the full Senate deleted it in a mostly party-line vote. A House subcommittee put the word back in, and the full committee took it out again. Some House supporters of embryonic stem cell research preferred killing the legislation in a form they found toothless.

Rep. Kris Roberts, D-Keene, drafted the committee minority report saying the bill is not about abortion. He noted that 100,000 human eggs fertilized in vitro each year go to waste, and they should advance the cause of medicine instead.

“No matter when one may believe life begins,” Roberts wrote, “this bill is not about destroying life. It is about giving hope.”

President Bush issued an executive order in August 2001 denying federal research money for all but 22 stem cell lines in existence at the time. American foundations and corporations still fund research on newer lines, but the original 22 have become contaminated.

Hundreds of medical groups and patient advocacy groups across the country have urged Congress to let U.S. scientists compete on a level playing field with countries like Korea, Australia and Britain that pay for research using in vitro cells.

Dr. Susan Lynch, the state’s first lady, testified at the recent House hearing that American researchers are falling behind for lack of tissue to work with.

“While embryonic stem cell research presents ethical issued we must continue to grapple with,” she said, “the fact is we cannot legislate an end to the process of discovery. Our rigorous research safeguards are lacking in places like Korea, where fraud was exposed recently.”

A dozen people testified in favor of using embryonic cells at public hearings in both Houses. Several paraplegics and parents of afflicted children asked lawmakers to give them hope for wellness.

Jane Babin, a former professor at Plymouth State, said her the ALS – also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease – with which she was diagnosed two years ago forced her to leave teaching.

“It traps a cognitively healthy person in an increasingly paralyzed body,” she told lawmakers. “Some victims have compared the disease to being trapped in a glass coffin.”

Tracy Carrier of Bedford warned of “a nightmare scenario if multinational corporations get exclusive patents in the area.”

New Hampshire Right to Life and the Catholic Diocese of New Hampshire opposed the bill, urging the use of stem cells from adults, cadavers, umbilical fluid or miscarried fetuses. Peter Cataldo, a spokesman for Bishop John McCormack, said the extraction of embryonic cells requires taking apart the fetus, and the embryo dies. – CHRIS DORNIN/GOLDEN DOME NEWS

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