The Senate’s China Bill Lacks Pro-Life Safeguards

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Republican Senator Mike Braun, author of the “Reforming Qualified Immunity Act” speaks during a committee hearing in Washington, D.C., May 20, 2020.
(Al Drago/Reuters)

As NR’s Editors note elsewhere on the homepage this morning, the Senate has passed a disappointing and ineffectual bill that is meant to serve as a statement of U.S. strength against the threat of the Chinese Communist Party but in reality does nothing of the sort.

In addition to the complaints we’ve set forth in our editorial, let me add another: The bill fails to offer any pro-life protections to its funding streams, rendering it a potential vehicle for funding unethical research projects that undermine the sanctity of human life.

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Not only does the bill not contain any pro-life protections, but such protections were affirmatively voted down by Senate Democrats when offered in the form of amendments by two Republican senators.

The first amendment, from Utah senator Mike Lee, would have prohibited any research authorized by the bill from a) using fetal tissue obtained from induced abortion, b) creating or destroying human embryos, or doing so in a genetically modified way, c) creating an “embryo-like entity,” or d) using stem cells derived in a way that would contradict these provisions.

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The second, from Indiana senator Mike Braun, dealt with “human-animal chimeras,” defined essentially as any mixture of human and nonhuman cells, especially genetic material. Braun’s amendment would have forbidden the creation of a human-animal chimera, the transfer of a human embryo into a nonhuman womb, the transfer of a nonhuman embryo into a human womb, or transporting or receiving a human-animal chimera.

Speaking on behalf of his amendment, Braun noted that earlier this year, researchers in China created and studied a monkey-human hybrid embryo, which he described as unethical. His amendment would have taken the National Institutes of Health existing ban on such research and applied it more broadly.

Both this amendment and Lee’s failed, as every Senate Democrat except for West Virginia senator Joe Manchin — who did not vote — opposed adding them to the bill. Though the bill is unlikely to improve after debate in the House, perhaps Republicans there will be more successful in convincing their Democratic colleagues to support the bioethical standards that China eschews.

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