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Pro-lifers should support expanded embryonic study

President Bush is poised to exercise his first veto in six years in office over an embryonic stem-cell research bill that has drawn bipartisan support in both the House and Senate.

Experts say embryonic stem-cell research carries the most promise to cure diseases, such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's, and heal spinal cord injuries that afflict millions of Americans. Only embryonic stem cells — as opposed to adult stem cells — have displayed the ability to develop in all tissues of the body.

The bill, which the House passed 238-194 last year and the Senate adopted Tuesday, would lift Mr. Bush's restrictions on funding for new research, which he limited in 2001 to only existing stem-cell lines. Mr. Bush has consistently threatened to veto the measure, likening embryonic research to abortion because the process of extracting the stem cells destroys a days-old embryo.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., a physician, was able to bring the embryonic stem-cell bill to the floor by appeasing opponents with debate on two other stem-cell-related bills. One encourages study on stem cells derived from sources other than embryos. The other bans so-called "fetal farming," the practice of developing fetuses and aborting them for strictly scientific purposes. Neither of those bills was controversial and both passed unanimously.

Many oppose the expanded study of embryonic stem cells because they believe the embryo represents a living human — at least potentially. The embryos are a product of in vitro fertilization, which allows many couples to have children who otherwise can't conceive.

But in reality, the in vitro process creates many excess embryos. After a couple succeeds in conceiving a child, the excess embryos are either frozen or destroyed.

Those excess embryonic stem cells likely hold the key to miraculous cures for millions of afflicted humans worldwide.

Researchers at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine this month published the results of a promising embryonic stem-cell study. They reported in this month's issue of Annals of Neurology that transplanted embryonic stem-cell-derived motor neurons in the spinal cord attached themselves to muscles and partially restored motor function in previously paralyzed animals.

The potential to cure disease, reduce suffering and postpone death is enormous. But, under current federal law, that potential remains not only untapped, but is actually destroyed rather than used for research.

Is that the true pro-life position?

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