Pro-abortion Catholic Senator Tom Harkin Leads Effort to Fund Life-Destroying Embryonic Stem Cell Research
By Lisa Correnti
On Thursday, September 16, 2010, Senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) chairman of the Labor, Health and Human Services and Education subcommittee of the Senate Appropriations Committee presided over hearings on the federal funding of embryonic stem cell research (ESCR). This discussion titled “The Promise of Human Embryonic Stem Cell Research,” was scheduled by a disapproving Harkin after U.S. District Chief Judge Royce Lamberth ruled the National Institute of Health (NIH) under the Obama administration violated federal law by funding embryo-destroying stem cell research and a temporary injunction was placed on further funding.
Prior to the subcommittee meeting Harkin stated, “I think the hearing this morning is going to show just how far we have come in embryonic stem cell research – and why ALL stem cell research should proceed.” This statement reveals Senator Harkin’s complete disregard for scientific fact and for Catholic teaching on embryonic stem cell research. Despite millions of dollars used for ESCR not a single cure has been documented while adult stem cell research accounts for widespread therapeutic treatments and cures.
In his opening remarks Harkin expressed frustration that he had to revisit this issue. He believed the federal funding of ESCR to be settled since President Obama signed an Executive Order in March 2009, expanding federal funding of ESCR to derive new stem cell lines. “We’ve come too far to give up now. If we don’t win this battle in the courts, we’ll take it up in Congress. This research must continue. The politicians and activist judges who oppose it need to respect the views of the overwhelming majority of the American people, who want this research to go forward.”
Senator Harkin’s statement that the majority of people across the country support embryonic stem cell research and want it to continue is misleading. A recent Rasmussen poll showed that the majority of Americans – 57%, oppose the government funding of life-destroying research. The majority of American voters support the current statutory ban implemented in 1996 by the Dickey-Wicker amendment which prohibits the creation or destruction of human embryos for research purposes. The current ban does not stop the research for ESCR using private funds.
Senator Roger Wicker (R-Mississippi), the co-author of the Dickey-Wicker amendment also testified in the hearing advocating for ethical adult stem cell research. He pointed to the advancements and cures through induced pluripotent stem cells (IPSC) which are adult stem cells that can be genetically reprogrammed to act like embryonic stem cells. Sen. Wicker questioned whether life-altering research should be financed through taxpayer money when so many Americans are ethically and morally opposed to it.
One week after Judge Royce Lamberth’s temporary injunction preventing the NIH funding of ESCR, it was stayed by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit on the request of the Obama administration. The Appeals Court ruled the funding could continue while the case is appealed. This Monday, September 20, a three-judge panel will rule whether to extend or end the temporary stay.
Another longtime proponent of ESCR, Senator Arlen Specter (D-Pennsylvania) who had previously chaired the same subcommittee also testified at the committee hearing. Conscious of the ruling set for Monday, Specter stated that he would propose legislation on Monday afternoon “to avoid giving a final say on the issue to a conservative Supreme Court.” Senator Specter called attention to a 60 Minutes program by Bob Schieffer which likened people who opposed stem cell research to people who opposed Galileo’s telescope based on religious dogma and belief.
Senator Specter’s implication that those who oppose ESCR on moral grounds are shortsighted shows his own occluded vision. In speaking about stem cell research Pope Benedict said, “Progress becomes true progress only if it serves the human person and if the human person grows: not only in terms of his or her technical power, but also in his or her moral awareness.”
The United States Catholic Conference of Bishops released a document in 2008 titled, On Embryonic Stem Cell Research which addresses the flawed arguments used to rationalize medical research using embryonic stem cells. The bishops remind us that human equality cannot be denied based on the “seemingly insignificance” of a human person and this was the purpose of the Declaration of Independence, “Our nation’s Declaration of Independence took for granted that human beings are unequal in size, strength, and intelligence. Yet it declared that members of the human race who are unequal in all these respects are created equal in their fundamental rights, beginning with the right to life.”
Pro-abortion Catholic Senator Patty Murray (D-Washington) who also serves on this Appropriations Subcommittee weighed in briefly to recognize Senator Specters contribution and pledged to carry on his work. Senator Murray is involved in a tough reelection battle. Abortion lobby groups have spent over $1 million advocating for her candidacy.
While Senator Specter will soon move to private life having been defeated in the Pennsylvania primary, Senator Harkin will remain (reelected in 2008 with 63%) and resolutely advocate for ESCR despite scientific evidence to the contrary. Senator Harkin has a solid anti-life voting record having voted against legislation supported by the National Right to Life – 54 times. He co-sponsored bills that would fund ESCR in 2006 and 2007 and introduced the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act in 2009. Harkin has no intention of giving up his quest. In today’s hearing he stated, “If we don’t win this battle in the courts, we will have to take it up in Congress.” Well Senator Harkin, if we don’t win this battle in the courts, we’ll have to take it up in the next election cycle!
Senator Specter says he will introduce legislation on Monday, September 20, 2010 to protect the ESCR funding.
Catholic Advocate Voice will have an Action Alert for our community when this occurs.
Senator Harkin has a 0% voting record on the Catholic Advocate Scorecard.