July 24, 2006: In May 2006, the American Diabetes Association publicly urged the United States Senate to lift restrictions on stem cell research, and to pass the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act of 2005. It had been stalled in the Senate for over a year, despite strong bi-partisan support.
The bill is no longer stalled. This past Tuesday, the bill was passed by a 67-37 vote, again, with strong support from both parties. The next day, President George W. Bush vetoed the bill.
In the first ever veto issued by the President, after 5½ years in office, embryonic stem cell researchers and patients living with myriad diseases and debilitating conditions were disappointed in their quest for better federal funding for research.
Hours after the veto was issued, the House of Representatives convened to hold a vote to override. They fell 51 votes short of the 286 required to override the veto.
Surrounding himself with adopted babies born from frozen embryos, Bush announced his veto of the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act from the East Room of the White House. “These boys and girls are not spare parts,” he said. “They remind us of that is lost when embryos are destroyed in the name of research.”
“This bill would support the taking of innocent human life in the hope of finding medical benefits for others,” said President Bush.
Advocates for the bill ranging from patients and researchers to politicians on both sides of the political fence cried “foul,” Republican California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and former first lady Nancy Reagan among them, both of whom urged the president to reconsider his position.
According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the day after the veto, Governor Schwarzenegger authorized $150 million in loans to California’s stem cell agency, a move that quadrupled the amount of money the agency had previously had access to for their embryonic stem cell research.
Nationally, however, the sting has been deeply felt by those invested in embryonic stem cell research and the potential outcomes of better funding for it. “We’re just profoundly disappointed with the president’s decision,” said pathologist Leo Furcht of the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, president of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology. “The fact that legitimate prospects are there for treating terrible diseases with these cells makes it very troubling.” (USA Today: July 20, 2006)
In a 2005 survey of 2,200 people conducted by the Genetics and Public Policy Center, 67% of people polled responded that they “approved” or “strongly approved” of embryonic stem cell research, according to USA Today.
President Bush remained unmoved by public and political support for the issue. “It crosses a moral boundary that our decent society needs to respect,” said the President. “So, I vetoed it.”