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US Senate Votes to Lift Ban on Federal Funding of Stem Cell Research


The U.S. Senate - in defiance of a presidential veto threat - has voted 63 to 34 to allow federal funding of embryonic stem cell research. VOA's Deborah Tate reports from Capitol Hill.

Supporters of the legislation argue that embryonic stem cell research offers hope for cures for Parkinson's disease, spinal cord injuries, diabetes, and other ailments.

Senator Tom Harkin, an Iowa Democrat, is chief sponsor of the bill:

"It is about giving hope to people, it is about health, it is about helping people who have devastating, devastating illnesses," said Tom Harkin.

But opponents say taxpayer money should not be used for such research, as it requires the destruction of days-old embryos. That, they say, amounts to destroying human life.

Senator Sam Brownback is Kansas Republican:

"We know that the human embryo is a human life, so how should we treat it? Human life has an immeasurable value we all agree upon that, from the youngest to the oldest," said Sam Brownback. "Human beings are ends in themselves. It is wrong to use any human as a means to an end. Period."

President Bush, who used the first veto of his presidency last year on similar stem cell legislation, agrees with that argument.

White House spokeswoman Dana Perino says Mr. Bush will veto this latest bill:

"This legislation crosses a moral line that would use taxpayer dollars to destroy human embryos, and that is a moral line the president said he would not cross," said Dana Perino.

Supporters acknowledge the Senate and House - which passed the measure in January - lack the two-thirds majorities in each house to override the expected veto. But they say over time, support has been growing for federal funding of stem cell research, and note that public opinion polls show most Americans back the idea.

Senator Arlen Specter, a Pennsylvania Republican and cosponsor of the measure, remains hopeful:

"With enough public pressure we could override a veto this year," said Arlen Specter.

President Bush imposed a ban on federal funding of embryonic stem cell research in 2001.

In separate action, the Senate also passed an alternative bill that would encourage stem-cell research on embryos that died after being created in fertility clinics. The House has yet to act on that measure.

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