- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 4, 2001

Congressional Republicans are divided over whether the Bush administration should continue to prohibit federal funding of embryonic stem cell research.
A group of pro-choice House Republicans yesterday sent a letter urging President Bush to proceed with a Clinton administration plan to fund experiments on cells taken from days-old human embryos. Sen. Orrin G. Hatch, Utah Republican, likewise has encouraged Mr. Bush to move ahead with the plan.
"We urge you to keep the guidelines in place and allow federal funding for this life-saving research," wrote the 60-member Republican Main Street Partnership. "Stopping federal support could set promising disease research back by decades. It should continue under sound and ethical standards."
Rep. Nancy L. Johnson, Connecticut Republican and a leader of the group, signed the letter with other Republicans such as Reps. Ralph Regula of Ohio and Amo Houghton of New York.
Mr. Houghton said the research "offers hope to millions of families facing the loss of a loved one from an incurable disease or injury."
But House Republican leaders on Monday sent a letter to the pro-life president calling on him to uphold the current ban on funding such research.
"It is not pro-life to rely on an industry of death, even if the intention is to find cures for diseases," wrote Majority Leader Dick Armey, Majority Whip Tom DeLay and Republican Chairman J.C. Watts Jr.
The administration is also divided on the issue. Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy G. Thompson supports the research, but senior political strategist Karl Rove is opposed, concerned with alienating pro-life supporters of the administration.
Scientists at the National Institutes of Health say the research could result in treatments or cures for diseases such as Parkinson's, Alzheimer's and diabetes. Pro-life groups say the embryos are human life and should not be used for experimentation.
Mr. Bush supports only research that uses stem cells from spontaneous abortions or from adults, a policy the Republican Main Street group said "will impede progress."
"Tissue from spontaneous abortions is seldom usable due to the genetic abnormalities that caused the miscarriage," they wrote. "Secondly, we don't know if adult stem cells have the same potential as embryonic stem cells."
They said embryonic stem cells "cannot independently become embryos. Because of this, stem cell research shouldn't be considered an abortion issue.
"Embryonic stem cells are extracted from embryos that are only a few days old. These embryos are produced during in vitro fertilization, a process that creates many more fertilized eggs than are implanted into women trying to become pregnant. Unused embryos are placed in storage and eventually destroyed ending any potential for life."
But the House Republican leaders said medical research "must advance the cause of life without sacrificing some lives to better others."
"The federal government cannot morally look the other way with respect to the destruction of human embryos, then accept and pay for extracted stem cells for the purpose of medical research," they wrote.
"We can find cures with life-affirming, not life-destroying, methods that are becoming more promising with each passing day."

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