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clock Jul 12, 2006 5:08 pm US/Central

Coleman To Vote Against Stem Cell Bill

(AP) Washington, D.C. Sen. Norm Coleman said Wednesday he will vote against a bill that would expand funding for embryonic stem cell research, and instead back a bill encouraging stem cell research that does not involve the destruction of embryos.

Both bills are part of a legislative package expected to come up next week on the Senate floor.

"I don't support federal funding for the destruction of human embryos," said Coleman, a Minnesota Republican who opposes legalized abortion, explaining his opposition to the embryonic stem cell research.

Coleman said he believed the other bill, sponsored by Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., held promise by directing the National Institutes of Health to finance work to develop stem cell lines, such as adult stem cells, using techniques that do not destroy embryos.

"Everything that I hear is that the science is moving along, and I think we should be funding that science and supporting it so we can move the science of stem cell research forward without crossing over any ethical lines," Coleman said in a telephone interview.

"I hope there would be sufficient funding for the NIH to move us out of the ethical debate and into moving the science forward."

But Sean Tipton, a spokesman for the Coalition for the Advancement of Medical Research, which supports embryonic stem cell research, said the Santorum bill won't accomplish anything.

"The Santorum bill changes policy not one bit," he said. "It has no policy impact whatsoever." Tipton said the NIH is already funding such research.

Stem cells can divide and become any kind of cell in the body. Because harvesting embryonic stem cells destroys embryos, President Bush and many other conservatives equate the process with abortion and view it as immoral. Proponents say the promise that stem cell research holds for treating and curing diseases such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's outweighs the ethical concerns.

Last summer, Coleman announced he would be introducing legislation to make stem cell lines taken from embryos up to that point available for federal funding. In effect, his legislation would have moved Bush's Aug. 9, 2001 deadline to the day the bill was enacted.

But Coleman never introduced the bill. He said Wednesday he could never get a commitment from leadership that it would come up for a vote. And he won't be able to offer it as an amendment to next week's legislative package, because no amendments will be allowed.

The bill to expand funding for embryonic stem cell research has already passed the House and is expected to pass the Senate. But Bush plans to veto it.

After that, Coleman said, he hopes to move forward with his bill, which he called "a pro-life, pro-science common ground."

Coleman said he had a number of ethical concerns about the House-passed bill.

"Are we going to be creating opportunities to donate embryos for research so that we have an industry then that's focused around producing embryos for research?" he asked.

Tipton said there shouldn't be an "either or" between embryonic and non-embryonic stem cell research.

"We want all the research to be done, and let's let the scientists determine what's going to get us to cures faster," Tipton said.

(© 2006 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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