If you’re a stem cell research advocate and if someone asks you “Who restricted embryonic stem cell research in the United States?” I’ll bet that the first person that comes into mind is former U.S. President George W. Bush. This is probably true if you’re part of my generation–the generation that matured during George W. Bush’s presidency. Right now, I’m 23 years old, and Bush’s presidency started when I was going through puberty (more or less) until I graduated college and moved away from home.
It’s a well-known fact that Bush wasn’t, and most likely still isn’t, a supporter of embryonic stem cell research. During his presidency two years ago, he used his veto power for the first time to veto the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act, which would have allowed federal funding of embryonic stem cell research. Way before this bill was introduced, in 1995, President Bill Clinton signed into law the Dickey Amendment (Section 128 of P.L. 104-99), which forbade any type of federal money to fund embryonic stem cell research. (Using the language for its time, it restricted using federal money to create or destroy human embryos for research purposes.) George W. Bush lifted some of these restrictions. On August 9th, 2001, he announced that federal funds may be awarded for research using human embryonic stem cells only if certain criteria were met, one of which was that the stem cell line must have been derived before 9:00 P.M. EDT on August 9, 2001.
The Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act would have allowed the use of stem cells from human embryos discarded from fertility clinics. The Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act was introduced on February 15, 2005. It was reported by the Committee four months later. The House passed it on May 24, 2005, then the Senate passed it on July 18, 2006. On moral grounds, President Bush vetoed it the next day. The House failed to override the veto, so the bill never came to law. Embryonic stem cell research supporters weren’t happy that day, also on moral grounds.
A similar bill with the same name was reintroduced a year later on January 4, 2007. After passing through the House and Senate, Pres. Bush vetoed it, again. Neither the House nor Senate attempted an override. Embryonic stem cell supporters weren’t happy that day, either.
Why weren’t they happy? If the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act was passed, it would have allowed the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and National Institutes of Health (NIH) to use federal money to research studies involving human embryonic stem cells. (Most research money comes from the NIH, which is funded by the HHS. No passing of the bill meant no public money for this type of research. Understandably, embryonic stem cell research supporters were anticipating a presidential candidate that wouldn’t use his power to veto bills like the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act.
Almost as soon as George W. Bush left the oval office and President Barack Obama entered it, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the world’s first human clinical trial of cell therapy using embryonic stem cells on January 23, 2009.
To Be Continued…
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