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Slow down, Dems, on stem cell bills

The U.S. Senate and the New York Legislature may have edged closer in recent days in allowing taxpayer funds to clone human embryos in their well-meant enthusiasm for the promises of stem cell research.

Neither body has yet done this, mind you. New York's budget bill pretty much leaves it up to the governor how $600 million will be spent on human embryonic stem cell research.

And here, the Senate overwhelmingly approved House-passed legislation to allow an unspecified amount of federal money to be spent on research using "new" lines of human embryos.

It's an issue meandering across politically invisible lines. So politicians, when compelled to comment, push things close to the edge of accuracy.

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., said the vote would lift President Bush's "ban" against human embryonic stem cell research. There is no such ban. President Bush, who cannot stop private research, said he will veto legislation requiring all Americans to pay for it.

Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., said a vote against the bill is "a vote against science." Well, not exactly. Schumer's alma mater, Harvard University, is a leader in embryonic stem cell research using private research grants.

The federal government already spends literally billions on stem cells, including studies on lines of human embryo cells already in use. The Senate bill, nearly identical to one passed in January by House Democrats, would let Uncle Sam pay for studies on new lines of human embryos now kept in deep freeze.

These are cells intended for in vitro fertilization to create an individual human being: A boy. A girl. The research requires the destruction of these human embryos.

This unpleasant fact has not stopped some institutes in the United States and worldwide from offering thousands of dollars to women for their unfertilized eggs. It's as legal as donating blood, for women to sell these products of their bodies for research.

Critics of the bill, S. 5, primarily from the pro-life community, note that similar programs in New York and California, along with the unleashing of federal money, will create a demand for human embryos that existing lines and back-door sales can't possibly fill.

Realizing this, research institutes are already working on ways to clone human embryos for medical studies and for profit. Industry can patent and own research done on human embryos. It cannot necessarily profit from research from adult stem cells, particularly those taken from individual patients' tissue.

So far, nearly a decade of research on human embryos has produced mainly tumors in animals in which they have been implanted. By contrast, adult stems have produced many cures.

Last week, the American Medical Association reported success in Brazil in treating diabetes with adult stem cells.

For ideological Democrats, issues involving the destruction of human embryos were settled two decades ago when the party's platform embraced the legalization of abortion.

Yet, should it be just Republicans and religious people who worry about creating an environment where the government itself will wind up paying for human cloning?

Stripped down, S. 5 is a taxpayer handout to the drug industry that already makes enough money to spend $4.5 billion a year on U.S. consumer advertising.

Democrats who run Congress should slow down and draw some lines before they shove us into a brave new world that nobody really wants.


Don Imus and his white male audience believed that the advancement of African Americans and women over the last 40 years did not happen or shouldn't have. Like most bullies, Imus never knew what hit him.


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