Ted Cruz supports ALS research that 'respects human life'

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) took the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge last week in support of a research institution that does not use embryonic stem cells.

Cruz posted on his Facebook page Tuesday that he and his wife personally support the John Paul II Medical Research Institute, which conducts research into a cure for the disease "without using embryonic stem cells" and that "respects human life."

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The ALS Association is the nonprofit most linked with the viral challenge that urges those nominated to pour a bucket of ice water on their head or donate money to fight amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, more commonly known as Lou Gehrig's disease. In many cases, people do both. The group has raised more than $88 million in the past month.

Cruz's office declined to comment when asked if he is personally opposed to donating to the ALS Association, which does a small amount of embryonic stem cell research. The office also declined to comment when asked if the post was meant to direct supporters to donate to his preferred charity rather than the ALS Association.

In the post, Cruz did note the "remarkable outpouring" of support to find a cure, citing the more than $80 million that has been donated, though he did not mention the ALS Association by name.

Recently, a small number of religious or anti-abortion-rights voices have tried to steer ice bucket challenge donations away from the ALS Association. BuzzFeed quoted anti-abortion activist Lila Rose saying that donating to the ALS Association contributes to a "culture of death." She urged participants to donate to other charities such as the John Paul II Medical Research Institute.

The ALS Association is currently funding a single study using embryonic stem cells, though it "primarily funds" adult stem cell research, it told The Hill in a statement. The group said these cells start as "adult human skin cells but are then reprogrammed to become stem cells."

The single ALS Association study using embryonic stem cells was established years ago under ethical guidelines and is funded by "one specific donor, who is committed to this area of research," according to the group.

The association said donors can stipulate that their funds not be used in the study or any project involving stem cells. In addition to research, the group also provides care for people with the disease.

The viral ice bucket campaign has swept across social media, becoming popular with both celebrities and politicians.

Last week, former President George W. Bush directed supporters to visit the ALS Association website after he took part in the challenge and wrote a check to the group.

During Bush's first term in office, he put curbs on embryonic stem cell research, prohibiting federal research from using cell lines created after 2001. President Obama overturned that policy via an executive order in 2009, asserting it had “no basis in science and was not required by any law.”