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Research foes decry embryo 'slaughter'

John Borden held his twin sons before legislators asking,
John Borden held his twin sons before legislators asking, "Which one of my children would you kill?  

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Opponents of embryonic stem cell research equated it with genocide Tuesday as they urged lawmakers to oppose government funding for it.

"This debate is about whether we as society want to federally fund destructive human experiments on the littlest humans," said Joann Davidson, program director of the Snowflakes Embryo Adoption Program in California.

Joining Davidson at a House Government Reform subcommittee hearing were John and Lucinda Borden, parents of twin boys who were adopted as embryos.

"Mark and Luke are living rebuttals to the claim that embryos are not people," Lucinda Borden told subcommittee members. Of the embryos, she said, "We plead with you not to fund their slaughter."

Proponents of both sides of the stem cell research debate address Congress. CNN's Kate Snow reports (July 17)

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Her husband then held up his children before the legislators.

"Which one of my children would you kill?" he asked. "Which one would you choose to take?"

Capitol Hill debate heats up

Lawmakers and advocates on both sides of the debate weighed in at the hearing and at an earlier news conference organized by research proponents.

Scientists believe stem-cell research could lead to treatment of diseases such as Parkinson's, Alzheimer's and diabetes, and supporters hope to persuade President Bush to support federal funding.

"Today embryos are being discarded that could be saving me and a million people with Parkinson's," said Joan Samuelson, president and founder of the Parkinson's Action Network. "Please Mr. President, you hold our future and our lives in your hands."

But many abortion foes are urging Bush to block federal funding for the embryonic studies, saying the research involves destroying human life.

"Before the U.S. government condones with federal funding research that results in the destruction of living human embryos, we have the moral obligation to explore and exhaust every ethical alternative," Rep. Mark Souder, an Indiana Republican, said at a House subcommittee hearing on the issue.

Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, spoke in support of stem cell research at a Washington press conference Tuesday.
Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, spoke in support of stem cell research at a Washington press conference Tuesday.  

But the lines aren't clearly drawn. Anti-abortion politicians such as Republican Sens. Orrin Hatch of Utah and Gordon Smith of Oregon want Bush to permit federal funding for research because of the embryonic cells' potential in fighting disease.

Hatch said he decided to support embryonic stem cell research only after studying the legal, medical, religious and ethical issues involved.

"The reality today is that each year thousands of embryos are routinely destroyed. Why shouldn't embryos slated for destruction be used for the benefit of mankind?" asked Hatch at the hearing.

Bush decision expected soon

Current rules put in place by the Clinton administration allow federal money for stem-cell research using embryos if the work is funded by private money and the embryos come from fertility clinics and would otherwise be discarded.

President Bush is said to be struggling with the issue of federal funding, and White House officials say a decision is expected later this month. He's facing intense pressure from both sides.

Stem cells -- master cells that can transform themselves into any type of cell in the body -- are believed to offer the potential of regenerating damaged organs or tissue.

Jackie Singer, left, urged lawmakers to back the funding to help her sister Molly, who has juvenile diabetes.
Jackie Singer, left, urged lawmakers to back the funding to help her sister Molly, who has juvenile diabetes.  

Pamela Madsen, executive director of the American Infertility Association, said at the news conference that many fertilized eggs would be discarded because couples would not opt to donate them to anyone else.

"We would like to do something life-affirming with these fertilized eggs," she said. "We'll make our own decision about what we do with them, and a majority of us would like to support stem cell research."

Twelve-year-old Jackie Singer urged lawmakers to support funding to help her twin sister Molly, who has juvenile diabetes.

"All Molly wants to do is live a normal healthy life," she said, "and embryonic stem cell research is our best hope."

• Committee on Government Reform
• National Institutes of Health (NIH)
• Parkinson's Action Network

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