DEMOCRATIC RESPONSE: Good morning. This is Congresswoman Diana DeGette of Colorado.
Scientists agree: we are on the brink of cures for diseases that affect hundreds of millions around the world. Imagine the heartache we can save the world if we were to eradicate diabetes, Parkinson's or Lou Gehrig's disease. And the most exciting recent breakthroughs — the discovery of embryonic stem cells — may allow us to do just that.
Opponents of stem cell research often point to adult stem cells as a suitable alternative. However, legitimate scientists disagree. Dr. Harold Varmus, the former head of our National Institutes of Health, said, "Compared to adult stem cells, embryonic stem cells have a much greater potential, according to all existing scientific literature."
Because of this great potential, Congressman Mike Castle and I introduced legislation to expand embryonic stem cell research. This narrowly-drawn legislation would allow couples who have undergone in- vitro fertilization techniques to donate the excess embryos left over for ethical medical research.
Let me be clear: these are not embryos that would be used for in-vitro fertilization or donated to other couples. These are excess embryos that would have been discarded as medical waste. It makes more sense to allow them to be donated to give life and health to people in need.
Fortunately, most members of Congress understood the great potential of this research, and refused to become distracted by the distortions of stem cell research opponents. Both Houses of Congress supported our legislation, with strong bipartisan majorities. The bill received the support of prominent Americans like Nancy Reagan, Michael J. Fox and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist. Almost three out of every four Americans support this research.
But, on Wednesday, the president exercised the first veto of his presidency on this law. President Bush has signed bills to give subsidies to "big oil," to give tax cuts to the wealthiest few, and subsidies to HMOs, but he could not find it in his heart to give hope to America's families, proudly boasting that he was protecting America from crossing a "moral line."
I, too, want to talk about morality. A moral society has an ethical imperative to help cure diseases that affect 110 million Americans and their families. We owe that to the child with Type I diabetes, the brother with Parkinson's, the police officer paralyzed by a criminal's bullet.
I am tempted to point out the obvious — the president's veto had nothing to do with morals. It had everything to do with cold, calculated, cynical political gain — the kind of politics that snuffs out the candle of hope, and that condemns the disabled and the sick.
The president's veto is a sad sidebar in a debate that has been about ethical scientific research and hope. The veto has backfired already, putting the spotlight on his stubborn resistance to facts. This last-gasp effort to stop stem cell research will be viewed by historians as a sign more of the weakness of the opponents than a roadblock to progress.
The time for this research is at hand. Public support for ethical stem cell research will only grow. This issue will be a top priority in upcoming elections. Americans remember the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. who said, "We are tied together in the single garment of destiny, caught in an inescapable web of mutuality."
If someone is ill, then we must heal. If someone is paralyzed, then we must help that person become mobile. If someone is losing his or her memory, we must fight to save it. We cannot stand back and ignore a valuable research tool that might work medical miracles. We won't turn our backs on those in need. We will pass this bill.
This fight is just beginning.
This is Congresswoman Diana DeGette of Colorado. Thank you for listening.