Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Stem Cell Bill

Today the U.S. Senate voted to expand federal support of medical research using stem cells. Unfortunately the vote, 63 to 37, was 4 votes short of the number needed to prevent President Bush from vetoing the bill (which he has already said he will do).

If Bush does veto the Bill this will be a gross injustice to those who could benefit from this important medical research. The NY Times has the scoop here. Here are some highlights from the Times story:

The issue has deeply divided Republicans, many of whom support expanded research on medical grounds, political grounds or both. Backers of the bill, including some members of Mr. Bush’s party, pleaded publicly with the president to reconsider his promise of a veto, with Senator Gordon H. Smith, Republican of Oregon, recalling the suffering of members of the mother’s side of his own family as they struggled with Parkinson’s disease.

“I appeal to my friend, President Bush, in the name of my Udall ancestry to please do not veto this bill,” Mr. Smith said. “To watch people die of such a malady is to instill in one’s heart a desire to err on the side of health, hope and healing, to find a cure if a cure can be found.”

Mr. Smith is a member the Udall family; Morris K. Udall, the Arizona representative who died of Parkinson’s disease in 1998, was his cousin. Three of the Udalls, including the congressman, Mr. Smith’s grandmother and an uncle, had the disease.

If Bush does veto this important legislation lets hope that American voters will respond (loudly!) in this year's congressional elections.


UPDATE: Bush has vetoed the Bill. That story is here. It's amazing that, despite the fact that both the House of Representatives and the Senate supported the Bill, and 70% of the American population support embryonic stem cell research, Bush still decided to veto it.

The CNN report notes that Bush remarked: ""It [stem cell research] crosses a moral boundary that our decent society needs to respect. So I vetoed it." Unfortunately Bush fails to see that we have a moral obligation not only to support this important medical research, but to respect democracy itself. I guess he believes that he (and he alone) is the guardian of moral decency. Utilising the veto to derail democratic law-making must be backed-up by a very weighty moral justification. Bush has not done this, and failing to do so is perhaps the greatest threat to decency. The irony that a President who espouses exporting democracy abroad cannot show respect for that process in his own country!