A missed opportunity to provide hope

A missed opportunity to provide hope
During the most recent legislative session in the Senate, President Bush vetoed the first bill of his presidency, H.R. 810, the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act.�I stand with thousands of South Dakotans who are disappointed by this missed opportunity to provide hope to so many suffering from some of the world's worst known diseases and injuries.

Embryonic stem cell research is conducted with egg cells fertilized in a laboratory for the sole purpose of assisting couples who wish to have a baby. After choosing embryos for implantation in the mother, those remaining are routinely destroyed as medical waste.�Instead of destroying them, these cells can be donated and used to advance medical research.�

It is easy for this debate to seem only a discussion of microscopic biology and test tubes and Petri dishes. But this is about people who are suffering and about the hope that ethical stem cell research represents for them.�

Embryonic stem cell research gives hope to three-year-old Alexander Sohl from Brandon. His parents, Terry and Lauri, told me little Alexander's first words were not "mommy" or "daddy" but "no shot." His insulin treatments began when he was just a baby. Stem cell research gives his family hope that the daily inflicted pain and the threat to the very life of their small child can at last end.

Embryonic stem cell research gives hope to Bonnie Younkin. Bonnie lives in Huron, and was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease in 2002 when she was in her early 50s. Though living with her disease is a daily battle, Bonnie also serves as an advocate for awareness of the disease and increased funding for Parkinson's research.

Bonnie is the fourth female in her family diagnosed with Parkinson's, and she lives in fear that her three daughters and one granddaughter may have a similar diagnosis in their future.�Bonnie called my office, to touch base in advance of the debate over stem cell legislation. Upon hearing that I remained committed to supporting this bill, she had just two words, "Bless you."

My strong faith and my South Dakota values tell me that this compassionate research, seeking to provide hope for millions who suffer from disease or disability, is very much consistent with our values of ethical discovery and using God's gifts to find solutions to the challenges we face in our society.

I urged the President to sign, not veto, this bill. I urged the President to consider this bill from the perspective of the thousands of South Dakotans living with Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, Juvenile Diabetes, paralysis, and other diseases who are desperately waiting for this bill to become law. Respect for life and all God's children requires that we consider the needs of life in all its stages – and that means utilizing our great capability for research and development to end the pain and suffering of so many.

If, as some believe, embryonic stem cell research utilizing excess microscopic frozen cells is murder, then not only shouldn't we fund it, but it should be illegal anywhere in America using any resources, private or public.�But if, as I believe, as Bonnie Younkin and the parents of little Alexander Sohl and a majority of the Senate and the House of Representatives believe, we have been blessed with the capacity to discover this gift, then not only is it wrong to limit embryonic stem cell research, but it is immoral for America not to lead the world down this compassionate, potentially lifesaving path.

The National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention rely on government funding to perform their critical work. If we do not fund their research on embryonic stem cell lines, we not only risk the futures of Americans living with currently incurable diseases, we also risk our reputation as the home of the world's most innovative and distinguished scientists working to improve the health.

But this is not just a matter of international medical research prestige; it directly affects the thousands of South Dakota families who will at last have hope that we can conquer the planet's most awful diseases and injuries.

I hope the Congress can override the President's veto sooner rather than later. We should embrace this ethical medical research that means hope for so many.�Care for the sick and the disabled, including development of potential cures for their suffering, should be among our most basic values.�My faith, my beliefs, and my commitment to South Dakota families command that of me.

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