Last summer, the House of Representatives voted on H.R. 810, the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act. This bill was introduced by Rep. Mike Castle, Delawareâ€™s at-large, Republican representative, who has a widely-established reputation throughout Delaware as a Republican moderate who frequently works in a bipartisan way. Castleâ€™s MO on the stem cell bill was apparent; despite fierce opposition from party leaders and the President, the Stem Cell bill passed in June 2005 by a vote of 238-194. Though a smattering of moderate Republicans defected to vote â€œayeâ€, Democrats provided the bulk of the billâ€™s momentum, ensuring its passage.
The Castle Bill is very easy to understand. Its main legislative effects can be summarized in three sentences, which outline the conditions by which the government can authorize funding for stem cell research:
(1) The stem cells were derived from human embryos that have been donated from in vitro fertilization clinics, were created for the purposes of fertility treatment, and were in excess of the clinical need of the individuals seeking such treatment.
(2) Prior to the consideration of embryo donation and through consultation with the individuals seeking fertility treatment, it was determined that the embryos would never be implanted in a woman and would otherwise be discarded
(3) The individuals seeking fertility treatment donated the embryos with written informed consent and without receiving any financial or other inducements to make the donation
As is apparent to anyone who reads these conditions, this bill is clearly in the mainstream. In fact, the Senate version of the bill was sponsored by that well-known liberal, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT). But, the bill hasnâ€™t been passed in the Senate, because the Republican leadership there is afraid to get its incumbents, a number of whom are in serious danger of losing in November, on the record on stem cells.