202 in House Urge Stem Cell Funds

July 28, 2001; Washington, D.C. (AP) -- More than 200 members of Congress, including 40 republicans, have sent a letter to President Bush urging him to support Federal funding of embryonic stem-cell research. "You have the lives of millions of our - and your - constituents in your hands," the 202 congressmen wrote." Circulated by Reps. James Ramstad (R-Minn) and Diana DeGette (D-Colo) the letter cites reports that a private lab has created human embryos for stem-cell research as evidence that Federal supervision is needed. "The only way to ensure that embryonic stem-cell research is conducted with strict ethical and legal guidelines is to provide Federal funding and oversight," the letter states. The lawmakers also note the research's potential to find cures for diseases.

White House Spokesman Scott McClellan said the President is still weighing "all of the scientific and ethical issues involved." "This is a decision the President takes very seriously," McClellan said.

Last week, 59 senators sent Bush a letter supporting the research. More than a dozen Republican senators are on record urging Bush to support the research, including Bill Frist (R-Tenn), the Senate's only physician, who opposes abortion.[ Editor's Note: Senator Arlen Specter (R, Penn) believes that 75 senators would vote to support Federal funding of stem-cell research.]

Other abortion opponents are against the research because embryos would have to be destroyed to conduct the research.

Some scientists say embryonic stem-cell research could benefit more than 100 million patients with such ailments as Alzheimer's Disease, Parkinson's Disease, diabetes, and spinal cord injuries.

Most of the Republicans who signed the letter, including Ramstad, support abortion rights. "With my own Mother totally debilitated by Alzheimer's Disease, a First-Cousin who died from diabetes and several close friends suffering from Parkinson's Disease and spinal cord injuries, I plead with you to give hope to my loved ones and 100 million other Americans suffering from these cruel, deadly diseases," Ramstad said.

The anti-abortion lawmakers who signed the letter include Phil English (R-Penn), Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-San Diego, Calif), and John J. Duncan, Jr. (R-Tenn.).