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Posted 05 Aug 2001   For week ended July 27, 2001
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Sent on Mormon-News: 25Jul01

By Kent Larsen

LDS Senators United: Bennett Supports Stem Cell Research; Congressmen Divided

WASHINGTON, DC -- Utah Senator Bob Bennett announced Friday that he supports allowing federal funds to be used for stem cell research, putting all five LDS Senators on record as supporting the research. The surprising development led Mormon News to survey the views of the 12 Mormons in the US House of Representatives, finding that the congressmen were very divided on the issue. US political analysts now believe that a majority in both houses now support the research.

Of the 12 Mormons serving in the US House of Representatives, four, two Democrats and two Republicans, say that they favor federal funding for stem cell research. In contrast, just two have taken a position against the funding to date, Utah Congressmen Jim Hansen and Chris Cannon. In addition, while the offices of Wally Herger and Ernest Istook indicated that their Congressmen are undecided (Herger) or haven't yet taken a position (Istook), they are said to be leaning against funding. The last four Congressmen are either undecided or haven't yet announced a position.

In Senator Bennett's case, he said he decided to favor the funding because of his daughter's recent, unsuccessful, experiences with fertility procedures. Bennett said her experiences showed him "that all embryos are not created equal; some are healthy enough to have a chance of survival, and some are not." He added, "Our daughter's doctors were able to determine, in advance of implantation, which embryos were healthy enough to survive. Those that were not were discarded. ... She believes, as do I, that it would be wonderful if these nonviable embryos could be used to give hope to others suffering from life-threatening diseases rather than ca aside as useless."

Bennett's announcement led Gayle Ruzicka, head of the conservative Utah Eagle Forum and an LDS Church member, to lament, "It's a sad day for Utah when we can't count on at least one of our senators to be pro-life." Ruzicka went on to point out that she has a daughter with diabetes, one of the diseases that scientists believe can benefit from the results of stem cell research, "We've had many crises with her. But she has said publicly, 'Don't you dare justify killing an unborn child to improve my quality of life.' " However, a recent Deseret News/KSL poll shows that in Utah, 62 percent either strongly favored or somewhat favored funding stem cell research while only 16 percent were strongly opposed.

Meanwhile, should the issue reach the US Congress, it is likely to attract broad support. A group of 61 senators recently sent letters to President Bush urging him to allow the funding, and Senator Arlen Spector (R-PA) says he believes at least 75 senators support the funding. That support leads observers to expect a similar level of support in the House of Representatives -- possibly enough to override a veto, should Congress introduce and pass a law on the issue.

Currently stem cell research is covered by a congressional ban that prohibits research involving human embryos, but the Clinton administration found a way around the ban and issued rules allowing the research, provided the stem cells had already been extracted from embryos. Bush had planned to quietly reverse the Clinton rules, but pressure from the scientific and medical communities, along with an memo from Utah Senator Orrin Hatch that has led many in Congress to re-evaluate their positions, has made the issue very public and led Bush to re-examine his position.

Following Hatch's announcement, the LDS Church indicated, in response to press queries, that it has not taken a position on the research, except to say "it merits cautious scrutiny." In addition to Senators Hatch and Bennett, the other Mormon Senators are Gordon Smith (R-OR), Harry Reid (D-NV) and Larry Crapo (R-ID).

Positions of Mormon Congressmen on Stem Cell Research
Congressman Party/StatePosition
Jeff Flake R - AZ Undecided
John Doolittle R - CA No response
Wally Herger R - CA Undecided (leaning against)
Buck McKeon R - CA Favor
Mark Udall (MH) D - CO Favor
Mike Simpson R - ID Favor
Tom Udall D - NM Undecided
Ernest Istook R - OK No Position (against?)
Jim Hansen R - UT Against
Jim Matheson D - UT Favor
Chris Cannon R - UT Against
Eni FaleomaveagaD - Am. SamoaUndecided

(MH) - Has Mormon heritage, but doesn't consider himself Mormon


Bennett Backs Funding Stem Cell Research
Salt Lake Tribune 22Jul01 T2
By Jim Woolf: Salt Lake Tribune

Bennett supports stem-cell research
Deseret News 21Jul01 T2
By Lee Davidson: Deseret News Washington correspondent

62% of Utahns support stem-cell research
Deseret News 21Jul01 T4
By Lois M. Collins: Deseret News staff writer
Poll also finds majority wants limits on abortion


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Copyright 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001 Kent Larsen · Privacy Information