The Corner

Stem Cells

In addition to voting on the bill to provide federal funding for research that kills human embryos, Congress is voting on whether to fund research into ways of deriving pluripotent stem cells without killing human embryos. The Senate has been expected to pass this second piece of legislation with substantial Democratic support. But now Mike Castle, the Republican sponsor of the House version of the embryo-killing bill, is urging his colleagues to vote against funding those alternatives (see the e-mail below).

Castle argues that the alternative methods of derivation are “highly speculative.” But the lines of research he favors are speculative, too, although there has been more time to develop them. He says that some of the alternatives have been “deemed unethical by the President’s own Bioethics Council and . . . may violate current law because embryos will be destroyed with federal dollars.” These claims are untrue. Members of the council have raised concerns about some of the alternatives, but the council has not called any of them unethical. Members were concerned that some alternatives require the donation of eggs and that women could be exploited in the process. They raise the exact same concerns about research cloning, which Castle supports. None of the alternatives involve the destruction of human embryos–athough the notion that Castle sincerely objects to this possibility is laughable.

Castle says that the bill “takes focus away from advancing cures through federally funded embryonic stem cell research from excess IVF embryos.” But why should the focus be there, if cures can be found in less ethically troublesome ways? Castle isn’t saying that he wants funding for his preferred kind of research in addition to funding for the alternatives. He only wants funding for research that kills human embryos.

This seems perverse to me, but Castle might succeed. The House is taking up the alternatives-funding bill tonight under “suspension” rules, which require two-thirds support. If Castle’s opposition makes Democrats see an opportunity, he can defeat this bill.

Ramesh Ponnuru — Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg View, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.

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