Nancy Pelosi

Great Potential of Embryonic Stem Cell Research - May 24, 2005

Nancy Pelosi
May 24, 2005— U.S. House of Representatives, Washington, DC
Congressional floor speech
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House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi spoke on the House floor in support of H.R. 810, the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act of 2005. The bipartisan bill will increase the number of stem cell line that are eligible for federally funded research.

This is a critical day for us in Congress. I am deeply indebted to Congresswoman Diana DeGette and Congressman Mike Castle for their great leadership in bringing this bipartisan legislation to the floor.

This is significant legislation because every family in America is just one phone call away, one diagnosis, one accident away from needing the benefits of stem cell research. We want all of the research to proceed -- the umbilical cord research, adult stem cell research, that's all very important. But we must have the embryonic stem cell research if we are truly going to be able to have science have the potential it has to cure diseases.

I've served for 10 years on the Labor, Health and Human Services Subcommittee that funds the National Institutes of Health. I've studied this issue through the years, and what we are doing here today is recognizing the miraculous power to cure that exists at the National Institutes of Health and at other institutes of excellence in research throughout our country.

We are recognizing the miraculous, almost biblical, power that science has to cure. And we are here today to say that when these embryos are in excess of the needs of in vitro fertilization, rather than be destroyed, they should be used for basic biomedical research.

When I first came to the Congress, some of the same people who were against embryonic stem cell research were very much against in vitro fertilization. It's hard to imagine that now, but they were against in vitro fertilization and considered it not to be on high moral ground.

The research is going to occur with federal funding or without. It should not occur without high ethical standards that the federal funding can bring to it.

In order for our country to be pre-eminent in science, we must have the most talented, the most excellent scientists. They will not be attracted to a situation that limits scientific inquiry. As we all know, in science as in business, talent attracts capital, capital that builds all the labs that are needed to do research. And those labs in return attract those excellent scientists, which makes us first in the world, pre-eminent in science.

I'm particularly proud of my state of California. The people of California in a bipartisan way, as we are doing today, voted a commitment of resources to invest in embryonic stem cell research. We in California will become the regenerative capital of America, indeed probably the world.

This should be happening all over the country; it shouldn't depend on the local initiative of the state. It should be coming from the leadership of the federal government with the ethical standards that go with it.

To some, this debate may seem like a struggle between faith and science. While I have the utmost respect for those who oppose this bill on moral grounds, I believe that faith and science have at least one thing in common: both are searches for truth. America has room for both faith and science.

Indeed, with the great potential of embryonic stem cell research, science has the power to answer the prayers of America's families. I believe strongly in the power of prayer, but part of that prayer is for a cure, and science can provide that.

Many religious leaders endorse this bill because of their respect for life and because they believe science, within the bounds of ethics and religious beliefs, can save lives and improve its quality. Groups as diverse as the United Church of Christ, the Union for Reform Judaism, the United Methodist Church, the Episcopal Church USA, and the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America all support this bill.

The Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, the nation's largest Orthodox Jewish organization, wrote: "The traditional Jewish perspective emphasizes the potential to save and heal human lives is an integral part of valuing human life."

The Episcopal Church in its letter in support of this legislation says, "As stewards of creation, we are called to help mend and renew the world in many ways. The Episcopal Church celebrates medical research and this research expands our knowledge of God's creation and empowers us to bring potential healing to those who suffer from disease and disability."

It is our duty to bring hope to the sick and the disabled, not to bind the hands of those who can bring them hope. I believe God guided our researchers to discover the stem cell's power to heal.

This bill will enable science to live up to its potential to answer the prayers of American families. I urge all of my colleagues to support this bill, and I thank all of my colleagues on both sides of the issue for the dignified approach of how we're dealing with this legislation today.