The House today moved one step closer to allowing federally funded stem cell research, potentially yielding cures for Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases as well as many other disorders and traumas.
Stem cell research has been under fire from anti-abortion forces and the Bush administration because it requires the termination of embryos that are a byproduct of in vitro fertilization.
House Democrats argue that the passage of their bill, H.R. 3, could potentially save many more lives than the number of embryos that would be used for the research.
"We have a moral obligation to save the lives of the 100 million Americans whose diseases could be cured by stem cell research," Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-Calif.) said during today's debates.
The measure would allow the use of "excess" stem cells supplied by fertility clinics. According to the text of the bill, the embryos used in research would only be used if "it was determined that the embryos would never be implanted in a woman and would otherwise be discarded."
However, representatives who apposed H.R.3 also claimed that stem cell research can be performed from stem cells found in adult bone marrow and other parts of the body. But scientists salivate for the chance to use embryonic stem cells because it is generally believed that those stem cells are far more effective and can be used more broadly.
Despite the bipartisan 253-172 vote in support of the bill in the House, it's not likely to become law.
President Bush vetoed a similar bill in July 2006 and initially made most embryonic stem cell research illegal in 2001. It's not likely there are enough votes to override a veto this year and the closely-divided Senate is unlikely to pass a similar measure.
"The Administration strongly opposes House passage of H.R. 3, which would use Federal taxpayer dollars to support and encourage the destruction of human life for research," according to a White House statement released this morning.
Some Republicans are beginning to stray from the party line.
Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas), a normally strict conservative, said, "I have voted 100 percent Pro-Life except for two stem cell issues ... If we can use this research to save more lives, especially when the embryos are being discarded as trash, I can't see any reason why this research can't be performed."