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Wednesday, February 9, 2011

U.S. Member of Congress displays breathtaking ignorance on embryonic stem cell research

I attended a hearing in the U.S. House of Representatives yesterday at which several friends and colleagues were testifying. Richard Doerflinger of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and Cathy Ruse of Family Research Council testified before the Constitution Subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee, in favor of H.R. 3, the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act.”
After the police cleared out demonstrators who inexplicably stood up wearing red headbands across their mouths (which they surely intended to symbolize something related to the hearing, but it was unclear exactly what), the hearing was progressing predictably on party lines until a Democrat Congressman, Mike Quigley (Il.-5th) decided to venture off the usual talking points.
Mr. Quigley pressed Richard Doerflinger about embryonic stem cell research. Trying to show why the U.S. government should not refrain from funding abortion simply because the Catholic Church opposes it, Mr. Quigley suggested that if the government adopted that approach, the government would have to stop funding all the cures for patients coming from embryonic stem cell research.

The question revealed, to the astonishment of many of us familiar with embryonic stem cell research, that Mr. Quigley thought such cures actually existed. They don't. As the video at left shows, Richard patiently explained (after Mr. Quigley repeated the question that it seemed he could not possibly have asked), embryonic stem cells are so volatile and unpredictable, forming cancers in animal studies, that it is highly unlikely that they would ever yield any actual help for patients whatsoever, much less cures for diseases.
The Congressman's ignorance of the truth about embryonic stem cell research illustrates the power of propaganda that grant-seeking researchers and their political allies have managed to foist not only on Members of Congress but on the American public as well. The propaganda is propping up hundreds of millions of dollars in taxpayer funds and private investments that could otherwise be accelerating the tremendous progress in stem cell research that doesn't destroy living embryonic human beings and is already producing cures and hope for patients worldwide.
Meanwhile, the witnesses at the hearing made a strong case for passing HR3, which would, as the House Pro-Life Caucus notes,
"establish a permanent, government-wide prohibition on taxpayer funding abortion and insurance coverage that includes abortion. The bill contains language to prevent funding through programs like Medicaid and the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program, as well as the tax credits established under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA).
"Additional provisions apply the principles of the Hyde amendment to ensure that abortion is not given tax preferred status through flexible spending accounts and certain deductions. Since abortion is not health care, the U.S. tax code should not create tax incentives for abortion. [Note: H.R. 3 would not affect tax policies for employer-sponsored health insurance.]
"One section of the bill prohibiting taxpayer subsidized abortion coverage to abortion funding in the District of Columbia generated a small protest at the beginning of the hearing. Since Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution says that Congress holds complete legislative authority over D.C. Congress has the authority to prevent all public funding for elective abortion in the District of Columbia. Congress authorized taxpayer funding for abortion in D.C. (as long as the funds were identified as “local” funds) for Fiscal Year 2010, and now, as confirmed by the Washington Post today, D.C. is using public funds for abortion."

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