Wednesday, July 19, 2006
In light of today's events, I'd like to repost something I wrote nearly two years ago. Ironically, it still seems relevant.
The more things change...
The debate over stem cell research is heating up as the November election nears. President Bush is standing by his earlier position of $25 million for research and the order that no new stem cell lines can be created. Meanwhile John Kerry has promised to lift the current ban and give scientists more freedom and his running mate, John Edwards, has said that the administration would give $100 million for research and establish ethical guidelines for scientists to follow. To combat the Kerry plan, the President has resorted to using his secret weapon: Laura Bush.
First lady Laura Bush defended her husband's policy on embryonic stem cell research Monday, calling Democratic rival John Kerry's criticism "ridiculous" and accusing proponents of overstating the potential for medical breakthroughs.
"We don't even know that stem cell research will provide cures for anything — much less that it's very close" to yielding major advances, Mrs. Bush said.
First of all, let's talk about this statement. If we had applied this logic - let's not do it because we're not sure it will work - to other things in our nation's history, what would the outcome have been? Would we have a vaccine for polio? Would we have landed a man on the moon? Would Hitler have been defeated? The list could go on and on. Somtimes we have to take a risk if we hope to gain anything.
But let's get to the heart of the Bush administration's opposition to stem cell research. Quoting from the AP article:
Religious groups oppose the scientific work in which culling of stem cells kills the embryos, equating that with abortion, and had urged Bush not to be the first president to fund the research — even with limits.
Religious groups, also known as Bush's base, are the driving force behind his decision. If President Bush were to support this research, he risks angering his largest group of supporters. However, the views of these religious groups is inaccurate as was pointed out by Ron Reagan in his speech at the Democratic Convention.
... no fetal tissue is involved in this process. No fetuses are created, none destroyed. This all happens in the laboratory at the cellular level.
Now, there are those who would stand in the way of this remarkable future, who would deny the federal funding so crucial to basic research. They argue that interfering with the development of even the earliest stage embryo, even one that will never be implanted in a womb and will never develop into an actual fetus, is tantamount to murder. A few of these folks, needless to say, are just grinding a political axe and they should be ashamed of themselves. But many are well-meaning and sincere. Their belief is just that, an article of faith, and they are entitled to it.
But it does not follow that the theology of a few should be allowed to forestall the health and well-being of the many. And how can we affirm life if we abandon those whose own lives are so desperately at risk?
It is a hallmark of human intelligence that we are able to make distinctions. Yes, these cells could theoretically have the potential, under very different circumstances, to develop into human beings-that potential is where their magic lies. But they are not, in and of themselves, human beings. They have no fingers and toes, no brain or spinal cord. They have no thoughts, no fears. They feel no pain. Surely we can distinguish between these undifferentiated cells multiplying in a tissue culture and a living, breathing person-a parent, a spouse, a child.
Many people have spoken out on both sides of this issue. Bush and his religious base have called this "junk science," while others have called this a the future of medical research. While the Republicans focus on the fact that it probably won't cure Alzheimer's (which is the popular misconception because of the stance taken by Ron Reagan and its association with the recent death of his father), they neglect to consider that it could cure diabetes, Parkinson's, spinal cord injuries, and a number of other devistating illnesses.
In my opinion this is a risk that we can't afford not to take. By pandering to his religious base, President Bush is playing politics with the lives of millions. We've already watched him do this in Iraq with our young men and women and now he's doing it here at home. The President likes to claim that he is decisive and doesn't follow the polls, but what he really means is that he's not going to follow the general polls. He only follows those polls that reflect the opinions of his base no matter what risk it may pose to others.
The more things change...