Americans oppose taxpayer funding for embryonic stem cell research

Rep. Phil Roe Contributor
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Media reports have indicated that Democrats may bring legislation to the House floor that allows taxpayer funds to be used to conduct embryonic stem cell research — that is, research on stem cell lines derived from the destruction of human embryos.  This issue has resurfaced in the wake of a district court judge’s decision to suspend federal funding for embryonic stem cell research on the grounds that the President’s executive order allowing this research violates the law prohibiting taxpayer funding from being used in the destruction of human embryos.  Ensuring that the law restricting the use of taxpayer dollars for embryonic stem cell research remains intact is the moral obligation of this Congress.

There are some in both the political and scientific communities who portray embryonic stem cell research as the solution to all diseases. But the evidence simply does not support that notion. In fact, embryonic stem cells have not yet lead to any significant cures.

As a medical doctor, I do not support federal embryonic stem cell research because I feel the moral harm of conducting research on human embryos outweighs the scientific good.  Instead, we should be supporting adult stem cell research.  Already, adult stems cells are successfully being used to treat illnesses.  Many researchers believe adult stem cells will yield far more useful information for the treatment of a multitude of diseases than embryonic stem cells.

Congress should not pass legislation that allows federal funding to be used for research involving embryonic stem cells.  Recent statistics show that many Americans, including some who do not have moral objections to embryo-destructive research, oppose federal funding for the research.  A Rasmussen poll released on August 27, 2010, revealed that “only 33% of U.S. voters believe that taxpayer money should be spent on embryonic stem cell research” and 57% OPPOSE spending taxpayer money on embryonic stem cell research. The injunction is in line with the law, but it also reflects the will of the American people.

These statistics were published the same week that US District Court Judge Royce C. Lamberth noted the important distinction between federal and private funding for this controversial research.  In his decision to halt the Obama stem cell policy while a case regarding the legality of the funding is considered, Lamberth noted that the injunction “would not interfere with [embryonic stem cell researchers’] ability to obtain private funding for their research.”

While the case of embryonic stem cell research is under review, it is my hope that Congress will not act prematurely to force taxpayers to pay for research in which an embryo or fetus is at risk of injury or death.

As a physician, I am an advocate of ethical, legal medical research that will help our patients without compromising our longstanding commitment to “first, do no harm.” I am working with my colleagues in the GOP Doctors Caucus to stop the Obama administration from appealing the district court’s ruling, in order to ensure that federal funds are not used for embryonic stem cell research.

Rep. Phil Roe (R) represents the First Congressional District of Tennessee.