Bible in hand, Smith pushes stem cell bill

He and Wyden want to lift research ban

Keith Chu / The Bulletin /

Published Apr 12, 2007 at 05:00AM

WASHINGTON - Republican Sen. Gordon Smith quoted Scripture and family experience Wednesday during a speech on the Senate floor in support of lifting federal restrictions on embryonic stem cell research.

”I do not find that religion and science are in conflict in the Senate today, I believe they are in harmony,” said Smith, who is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The Senate passed the measure, 63-34, Wednesday evening, with Smith and Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., voting for the bill.

That's not enough votes to override a veto threat by President Bush, which his press office reiterated in a statement Wednesday.

Smith has favored easing restrictions on stem cell research since at least 2001, based on a belief that embryos are not alive until they're implanted into a mother.

In support of the view, he brought a Bible to the lecturn Wednesday and quoted from the book of Genesis:

”And the lord God formed man of the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life and man became a living soul. Until you have both you do not have life.”

As he's done before, Smith told the story of several relatives, including his grandmother and cousin, who both died of Parkinson's disease.

Current law prevents federal money from being used to fund most embryonic stem cell research. Many scientists believe the cells, which would be derived from human embryos left over from fertility treatments, could eventually cure a range of diseases.

”The developmental potential of human ES cells promises an essentially unlimited supply of specific cell types for basic research and for transplantation therapies for diseases ranging from heart disease to Parkinson's disease to leukemia,” according to a 2006 report by the federal National Institutes of Health.

But some opponents argue loosening federal limits would encourage the destruction of human embryos. Although the Senate did not debate cloning on Wednesday, Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., said stem cell research would ultimately open the doors to more questionable procedures.

”It's wrong to use any person as a means to an end,” Brownback said. ”We'd have to develop clones that meet the genetic type of the individual seeking the treatment, you'd have to get eggs from somewhere and you have to get them from women.”

A House bill to allow federal funding of embryonic stem cell research passed 253-174 in January. All five Oregon representatives, including Republican Rep. Greg Walden, R-Hood River, voted for the bill.

Congress passed a similar bill last summer, which Bush vetoed.