1st July 2001
The Associated Press
CHARLESTON -- U.S. Sen. Strom Thurmond, R-S.C., says he supports medical research that uses stem cells from embryos, an issue anti-abortion forces strongly oppose.
''Stem-cell research could potentially treat and cure such maladies as multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, heart disease, various types of cancer, and diabetes,'' Thurmond said in a statement Friday.
''I am encouraged by this pioneering science and support federal funding for its research.''
Thurmond, who opposes abortion except in cases of rape, incest or when pregnancy threatens a mother's life, is one of several lawmakers about to sign a letter from Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., that urges President Bush to allow federal funds for the controversial research.
Bush will make a decision on the matter next month. A spokesman this week said that the president's guiding belief is that ''life should not be destroyed to save or make another life.''
The National Institutes of Health says the research ''has the potential to revolutionize the practice of medicine and improve the quality and length of life.''
Stem cells have the ability ''to divide for indefinite periods in culture and to give rise to specialized cells,'' according to the institute.
Abnormal cell specialization and division are blamed for cancer, birth defects and other serious medical conditions.
''A better understanding of normal cell processes will allow us to further delineate the fundamental errors that often cause these often deadly diseases,'' the agency says.
The Christian Coalition says proponents are ''trying to legitimize the killing of living human embryos for the sake of scientific research.''
''If the U.S. government were to place its stamp of approval on this destructive research, it would be the first time that our government has declared that a non-consenting human being may be exploited and killed for experimental research purposes,'' the coalition says.
Thurmond said he supports research that uses stem cells derived from embryos that were created for in-vitro fertilization, ''but were not used and will be discarded.''
The 98-year-old senator also said he opposes cloning and the creation of embryos for research purposes.
''I am disappointed those issues have been injected into the debate over federal funding for stem cell research,'' he said.
Rep. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who is running for Thurmond's Senate seat next year, has not yet taken a position on the matter.
''The home run would be some alternative that would accomplish the same research without having to invade the embryos,'' Graham said.
Rep. Henry Brown, R-S.C., ''It's a pretty emotional thing. I would hope the stem cells would be the last resort. I don't support it at this point.''