Part 2.5: Orrin Hatch and His Pro-life Stance.

Monday, May 21, 2007

On May 25th, 2005, United States Senator Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah) made a statement in regard to his sponsorship of H.R. 810. This bill would have allowed stem cell research in federally-funded labs, had it not been vetoed by President Bush. He's made many similar statements more recently, but this is one of the most well-written. The majority of the statement is posted below. The remainder can be found here.

I post this because it comes from a conservative Republican Senator, who up until this point in his career would not have had his pro-life credentials questioned. He is a better source than I am on why reasonable bills like H.R. 810 can be the pro-life position. His bills were also a model for the Michigan legislation I discussed in my previous post.

I respect President Bush’s views on this issue, and I fully support his efforts to promote embryo adoption in our country. I also support adult stem cell research, and I am the prime Senate sponsor of cord blood legislation similar to the bill that passed yesterday in the House.

But I know, as a long-standing pro-life Senator, that it is possible to be both anti-abortion and pro-embryonic stem cell research. I am pleased that many Right-to-Life Congressmen reached the same conclusion when the House voted yesterday. I don’t take a back seat to anybody in the Right-to-Life community. I’m the only person who successfully brought an anti-abortion Constitutional amendment to the floor of the Senate, and I have worked on Right-to-Life issues throughout my career, including running the conference committee last Congress that ultimately outlawed the horrific practice of partial birth abortion.

I understand why this form of stem-cell research may trouble some. However, after many conversations with scientists, ethicists, patient advocates and religious leaders and many hours of thought, reflection and prayer, I reached the conclusion that human life does not begin in a Petri dish.

While I respect those with different views, I believe that human life requires and begins in a mother's nurturing womb.

A critical aspect of being pro-life is helping the living. Helping those struggling with the challenges of debilitating diseases is exactly what embryonic stem-cell research promises.

This is a difficult issue, and we are being forced to draw a line between legitimate science and unethical tinkering with human life. As we learned with the debate over in vitro fertilization, this line does exist. And I believe that the United States must lead the world to help establish the moral and ethical safeguards that allows embryonic stem cell research to go forward in the interest of mankind.

-United States Senator Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah)


Smitty 7:45 AM  

I like how he wips out his RTL street cred, then says they're wrong on this issue. This message is really resonating amongst the lawmakers in MI that are still on the fence on this issue.

It's about courage, people. If everybody bucks RTL, where will they go?

Rickey Henderson 10:09 AM  

Hey hey, Rickey agrees with Orin Hatch on something... would've thunk it?

Bob 10:11 AM  

Michigan needs its own Orrin Hatch.

steves 10:54 AM  

What is so courageous about bucking RTL? They will probably stick with abortion, which is still a very contentious issue. I can respect him if his belief is coming from some sincere desire to understand the issue, as opposed to just seeing which way the wind is blowing. I saw enough of that with Kerry in the last election and am already sick of it with McCain, Ghouliani, and Romney.

I am glad this was such an easy issue for some, but the ethics of various practices still concern me. I would say that I am supportive of the escr that has been described.

I agree that MI needs its own Hatch. Maybe we could trade them for Levin or Stabmenow.

steves 11:05 AM  

Surprisingly enough, there has been an interesting debate on stem cell research on another forum I participate on. Some of the stuff goes way over my head, but I am learning. One of the posters has some friends that work at the NIH and he says that the problem with this debate is that both sides are less than truthful. The anti-ESC people (such as Bush) have misled the public about the viability of the ASC lines, but he also says that some of the pro-ESC people ignore and distort the potential of cord blood.

My question is, under the condition that we have a large supply of cordblood, lets say 20,000 units per year per 6 million people or a million units nationwide per year, what non-theoretical advantages are there to allowing ESC researchers to receive federal funding?

B Mac,  11:53 AM  

I think it's healthy that people like Orrin Hatch are willing to separate the eSCR debate from the Life/Choice debate. There are always ethical dilemmas when we are talking about embryos, and they should certainly be examined and scrutinized. But for my money, eSCR has nothing to do with the abortion debate. This is a medical ethics discussion, like cloning, in-vitro fertilization, and the best ways to harness the potential healing powers of Barry Bonds' bloodstream.

I agree that both sides of the debate are less than truthful (that usually happens in situations like this). Adult Stem Cell and Cord-blood research may yield great advances and fabulous medicines. But I think the point of the eSCR folks is that we don't know that. And we don't know what eSCR will yield. The only way to know is through research. But if we pre-emptively shut down an entire avenue of discovery, we don't increase the chances of discoveries in other areas. We will just never know what treasures may rest at the end of that particular road.

The government sucks at directing research. They know a good advance when it hits them, but they're Mr. Magoo when it comes to seeing what's around the corner. I say, let the researchers explore the areas that they believe hold the most promise. Give them some assistance, and get the hell out of the way.

For the record, I like Orrin Hatch. But I'll take Carl Levin any day. How can you not like a guy who looks that much like an elderly shoemaker?

Bob 12:07 PM  

"What is so courageous about bucking RTL?"

As you may know, elections, especially those decided within the Republican primary, are often dictated by RTL and to a certain extent, the churches within a district who support their views.

It's brave to buck RTL in a political sense. They may be the most powerful interest group within a political party in the U.S. Hatch's actions might invite a Republican primary where otherwise he might not have one. I suspect at this point in his career he has the guts and political capital to say "Screw you; I am going with my conscience."

Hatch may still stick with his pro-life stance on abortion as you mention, but RTL does not look at these things this way. It's all the way or the highway with them. They do not compromise, nor do they feel they have to. One Republican legislator I know refers to them as a cult. There are people who are "pro-life" and then there is "Right to Life." They are definitely not synonymous.

I know of Republican legislators who ran multiple times in primaries while supporting abortion rights. Once they switched their position, they won their primary. The last Republican in support of abortion rights in the Michigan legislature was termed out last year. They are that strong.

We really need an Orrin Hatch at the state level, not the federal level. Unfortunately, term limits has brought us a bunch of legislators who don't have the guts and maturity to buck powerful interest groups like RTL.

"…but the ethics of various practices still concern me."

Good. The ethics of this should concern everyone. That is actually an argument for federal action on this issue. If we let private companies run with this thing unregulated, we may have problems like the ethical lapses of the "scientist" in Korea. Doing this at our universities and federally-funded facilities guarantees that they work under the oversight of the NIH, which has some strict guidelines on eSCR, cloning, and other research.

"My question is, under the condition that we have a large supply of cordblood, lets say 20,000 units per year per 6 million people or a million units nationwide per year, what non-theoretical advantages are there to allowing ESC researchers to receive federal funding?"

Not sure I understand your question, but first of all, I can say that we need both cord blood and eSCR. The beauty of cord blood is that it has been well-supported by private industry, who have created cord blood banks and advertise the need for donation regularly.

The legislature passed pro-cord blood bills last year so some legislators could claim they were pro-stem cell. The Gov. signed most of these bills with the message that it was great, but not a replacement for eSCR.

Donated cord blood is vital for the treatment of many diseases. There is no question. That said, it has its limits and cannot be used rejection-free in instance where you need to rely on a donor. Unfortunately, my parents neglected to freeze my cord blood in 1972, so I am kinda screwed, unless - god forbid - I need a treatment that allows for donated cord blood to be used, which is sometime the case.

Thanks for your thought-provoking questions!

steves 1:18 PM  

I guess I don't really know all that much about RTL. Despite being pro-life, and having numerous friends and family members that are, I don't know anyone that is involved with them or makes voting decisions based on what they say. I am not suggesting that they are powerless, just that I have little experience with them.

It sounds like they go overboard or may have just gotten off track. The ACLU does some good work, but their pick and choose attitude towards the bill of rights makes me not support them and go with other civil rights groups. It sounds like this state could benefit from another pro-life group with a different focus.

As for Carl Levin : P

It may come as a surprise, but I have somewhat of an interest in gun laws and gun rights. Carl Lenin (as he is called by some) may not be in the same realm as Ted Kennedy, Dianne Feinstein, and Chuck Schumer, but he is pretty close. I will say that he is a hard worker and an intelligent person. I will be happy when he retires, though.

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