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Senator Mitch McConnell
U.S. Senator
Mitch McConnell
from the Office of Senator Mitch McConnell

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

‘Encouraging medical research and protecting the sanctity of life are not mutually exclusive goals.’

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell spoke on the Senate floor Wednesday in support of the Hope Offered Through Principled and Ethical Stem Cell Research Act (S. 30). The following are his remarks as prepared.

“Mr. President, the issue of stem cell research, when those stem cells are derived from human embryos, is one of the most profound of our time. Confronting this issue means confronting a dilemma, one I am sure every one of my colleagues has grappled with as much as I have.

“On the one hand, many scientists believe that research using stem cells holds the promise of one day curing diseases.

“But we must also remember that the embryos from which these stem cells are derived are human life. Extracting the stem cell destroys the embryo, and ends that life’s possibility. The moral boundaries this research crosses is greatly troubling—to me, and many others.

“But what is too often missing from this important debate is a simple fact of modern science: Encouraging medical research and protecting the sanctity of life are not mutually exclusive goals.

“I have always believed that biomedical research must be conducted in an ethical manner that respects human life. Now, I am pleased to report that new scientific research tells us that view is more possible than ever.

“Mr. President, this promising new research points the way out of the moral dilemma that embryonic stem cell research has always thrust us in.

“Alternative methods for research—and the potential for cures—are often simpler and more efficient, and don’t require the destruction of life.

“They have scientific advantages over the older method as well.

“That means, Mr. President, that everybody who wants to find a cure for any of man’s most devastating diseases, and find it fast, should support this form of research—wholeheartedly and enthusiastically.

“With our votes, this Senate can advance this promising research through the power of federal funds. And we can happily provide those funds without fear of offending the principles of millions of Americans.

“I want to thank my friend from Minnesota, Senator Coleman, and my friend from Georgia, Senator Isakson, for sponsoring this bill and giving the Senate this opportunity.

“Their bill, S. 30—the HOPE Act—is the solution to the moral dilemmas that used to surround this issue, a solution Senators from both parties can embrace. And a solution that the President can and will sign.

“We should leave behind the heated debates of the past, pitting the hope for a cure to end much human suffering against the need to protect life at all its stages, including its earliest.

“Last year, a minority of members in the other body voted to block legislation promoting newer methods of research like the methods this bill will support. I don’t understand that.

“The only explanation would be that they value the political clash and debate more than finding common ground—and more than the hope this research can bring.
“But this Senate can and should move forward united on the HOPE Act, and I urge my colleagues to support it.

“Mr. President, I want to stress to everyone just how much the possibility of finding cures for these life-altering diseases means to me. I have known what it’s like to feel the shadow of a debilitating disease draped over one’s life. As a child, I suffered from polio.

“When I was two years old, I came down with an infection that felt a lot like the flu. But after the fever passed, my left leg had gone lame.

“The only reason I’m able to stand here today, unaided, is because of the heroic efforts of my mother. She was not a doctor, or a nurse.

“But she fought as hard as she knew how to save her only son from being trapped forever in a leg brace.

“For two years my mother put me through a physical therapy regimen taught to her by the doctors at the Roosevelt Warm Springs Institute for Rehabilitation, founded by President Roosevelt in Warm Springs, Georgia. From age two to four, I was not allowed to walk or run.

“But after two years of my mother’s care, I was able to have a normal life. A lot of kids at that time, in the 1940s, weren’t so lucky. Some were paralyzed for life. Some were sentenced to the iron lung. Many died.

“So believe me, Mr. President, when I say I understand the urgency to find cures for the afflictions that are today’s polio. I remember when the prayers of my mother and mothers across this country were answered when Dr. Jonas Salk developed his polio vaccine in 1955.

“To prove the new vaccine was safe, Dr. Salk administered it to himself, his wife and their three children. As he did so, he was asked how he could dare his and his family’s lives on his new treatment. He replied, ‘It is courage based on confidence, not daring—and it is confidence based on experience.’

“Dr. Salk’s wisdom ought to guide us today. The daring path is the one that asks us to destroy a life for the possibility that it might save another one.

“If we go down that route, we are daring to ruin America’s long and proud record of upholding the highest moral and ethical standards as we seek out new solutions, new cures, and new hopes.

“Then there is the path of confidence—the confidence that, thanks to new technologies and new methods of research, scientists can explore the promise of embryonic stem cell research without destroying the human embryo.

“Like Dr. Salk’s, this confidence is based on experience—the experience of America’s best scientists, who are pursuing these new methods of research.

“The next Dr. Jonas Salk is out there. Providing the money for these methods of research, through this bill, is how this Senate can help.

“I’m a believer in the power of science and technology to improve people’s lives. I saw it firsthand as a young boy.

“Like all of my colleagues, I have great hope for the cures that we will one day find.
“The Coleman-Isakson bill is something Senators of both parties can support. I hope that they will. Millions of Americans with loved ones in need hope that they will.

“And I look forward to the successful passage of this bill so America’s dominance in medicine and medical technology can continue to move forward.

“Mr. President, I yield the floor.”



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