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Kaiser Daily Women's Health Policy Report Summarizes Editorials, Opinion Pieces On Federal Embryonic Stem Cell Research Bill, Amniotic Fluid Study

May 10, 2017

Editorials and opinion pieces respond to a House vote on Thursday to approve a bill (HR 3) that would expand federal funding for human embryonic stem cell research. Federal funding for embryonic stem cell research is allowed only for research using embryonic stem cell lines created on or before Aug. 9, 2001, under a policy announced by President Bush on that date. The White House in a statement on Thursday reiterated Bush's threat to veto the measure (Kaiser Daily Women's Health Policy Report, 1/12). The White House on Wednesday released a report highlighted the benefits of adult stem cell research. It also mentioned a study published in the Jan. 7 online edition of the journal Nature Biotechnology that found stem cells derived from human amniotic fluid appear to offer many of the same benefits of embryonic stem cells (Kaiser Daily Women's Health Policy Report, 1/11). Summaries appear below.

Baltimore Sun: The bill's passage in the House "underscores the importance of continuing research on all fronts," a Sun editorial says. According to the editorial, "the prospect of huge medical advancement through easily obtainable stem cells from amniotic fluid should not be allowed to divert the Democratic-led Congress from its promise to remove ... Bush's restrictions on federal research into the even greater potential of embryonic stem cells" (Baltimore Sun, 1/10).

Denver Post: Although the amniotic fluid stem cell study is "encouraging," it is "not a substitute for the continuation of embryonic stem cell research," a Post editorial says. "We hope Congress will deliver the stem cell bill with a greater margin than last year, and that the president will consider the benefits of this important medical research," the editorial concludes (Denver Post, 1/11).

Los Angeles Times: Using amniotic fluid stem cells might "be an impressive new medical tool," but it "also could be a convenient pretext for pushing embryonic stem cell research aside -- and that shouldn't be allowed to happen," a Times editorial says. It is a "shame" the House vote "falls short of the two-thirds needed" to override a veto, but "at least it vividly illustrates to the public -- which largely favors stem cell research -- exactly who is responsible for halting progress," the editorial concludes (Los Angeles Times, 1/12).

New York Times: It "would be a mistake" to use research on amniotic fluid stem cells "as another excuse for hobbling embryonic stem cell research," according to a Times editorial. "At this point it is important to explore all approaches," including research using adult stem cells, amniotic fluid-derived stem cells and embryonic stem cells, which are "the most versatile cells of all," the editorial concludes (New York Times, 1/10).

Opinion Pieces
Charles Krauthammer, Washington Post: "Once we have taken the position of many stem cell research advocates that embryos are discardable tissue with no more intrinsic value than a hangnail or an appendix, then all barriers are down," Post columnist Krauthammer writes an opinion piece. Krauthammer writes that he "applauded" Bush's "insistence that some line must be drawn, that human embryos are not nothing and that societal values, not just the scientific imperative, should determine how they are treated." According to Krauthammer, the amniotic fluid stem cell study might be the "turning point in the evolution of stem cell research from a narrow, difficult, delicate and morally dubious enterprise into an uncontroversial one with raw material produced unproblematically every day" (Krauthammer, Washington Post, 1/12).

Yuval Levin, National Review: "[A]rguments for overturning the Bush policy and using taxpayer dollars to encourage embryo destruction have fallen apart" in recent years, and the potential for a "consensus solution to this battle has emerged," Yuval Levin, a fellow at the conservative organization Ethics and Public Policy Center, writes in a National Review opinion piece. According to Levin, the leaders of the campaign to reverse the president's embryonic stem cell research policy "have opted to ignore the facts. They would prefer a political rallying point over a scientific way forward." He concludes, "Let us hope the Congress as a whole does not make the same choice" (Levin, National Review, 1/10).

Clyde Stauffer, Cincinnati Inquirer: "Given the current budget climate" and that NIH might have a "no-growth" budget for 2007, "[d]oesn't it make more sense to stop pouring dollars down the 'dry hole' of embryonic stem cell work and put them into the proven, productive area of adult stem cell research?" Stauffer, an independent consultant and former biochemist, writes in an Inquirer opinion piece. "Such a re-allocation would be helped by more-even handed reportage by the media, talking to actual working scientists and forgoing emotional pleas by movie stars," he concludes (Stauffer, Cincinnati Inquirer, 1/9).

"Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork. You can view the entire Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, search the archives, or sign up for email delivery at kaisernetwork/dailyreports/healthpolicy. The Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report is published for kaisernetwork, a free service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation . © 2005 Advisory Board Company and Kaiser Family Foundation. All rights reserved.