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Thursday, January 11, 2007

(At Least) One Important Point Being Missed in Stem Cell Debate

It has been Bush's only veto. Surrounded on stage by so-called 'snowflake babies' -- i.e., children produced from embryos implanted in the wombs of unrelated women -- the president said, "These boys and girls are not spare parts. They remind us of what is lost when embryos are destroyed in the name of research. They remind us that we all begin our lives as a small collection of cells." But, of course, the very process of in vitro fertilization produces more embryos than are used. As many as 90% of all embryos are destroyed. In 2003 there were 400,000 frozen embryos and 31 'snowflake babies.' How on earth does the 0.0007% of embryos that are adopted mean that the stem cells in the 99.9993% of discarded embryos must be untouchable? You can destroy them by simply throwing them away or you can use the stem cells. Bush opted for destroying them by throwing them away. His veto didn't 'save' a single embryo.

Not a one. It makes no sense.

Now, reintroducing stem cell research funding is part of the Democrats' first 100 hours plan. And Bush again seems to plan to veto it.


The White House issued a report suggesting that another veto was inevitable.

"The stem cell debate is only the first in what will be an onrushing train of biotechnology challenges in our future. We must establish a constructive precedent here for taking the moral dimensions of these issues seriously," read the report, entitled Advancing Stem Cell Science without Destroying Human Life.

Senate dems say they have at least 67 votes to override a veto, but the house remains unclear.

Did I mention yet that banning federal funding of stem cell research won't keep a single embryo from being destroyed? I did? That's good, because banning federal funding of stem cell research won't keep a single embryo from being destroyed. That's the important point to be made here and, so far, I haven't heard a lot of democrats saying it. They should be wearing t-shirts that read, "Banning Federal Funding of Stem Cell Research Won't Keep a Single Embryo from Being Destroyed."

If it won't keep embryos from being destroyed, then what's the point of banning funding for researching stem cells from embryos that will be destroyed anyway?

Simple. While the religious right may not have pulled the GOP out of the dumper in the last election, that election also showed that the bible bangers are pretty much all the GOP has left. But this strategy of kissing up to the cranks at the expense of the majority is foolish on its face. Those last straggling lunatics aren't going to win you any elections.

Here's my strategy for Bush. Take the hit. Sign it. He's not going to ever be elected for anything again, he doesn't need to worry about what the religious right thinks anymore. Being a lame duck has its advantages. Everyone but the religious fanatics will be happy and GOP in congress can carry the banner of anti-science. That's the way out.

But, if Bush's address to the nation last night proved anything, it proved that this president isn't about finding ways out. He's about digging in -- even when it makes no sense.

Bush might've thought that this Washington Post story had pulled the GOP's political bacon out of the fire:

A type of cell that floats freely in the amniotic fluid of pregnant women has been found to have many of the same traits as embryonic stem cells, including an ability to grow into brain, muscle and other tissues that could be used to treat a variety of diseases, scientists reported yesterday.

The cells, shed by the developing fetus and easily retrieved during routine prenatal testing, are easier to maintain in laboratory dishes than embryonic stem cells -- the highly versatile cells that come from destroyed human embryos and are at the center of a heated congressional debate that will resume this week.

Moreover, because the cells are a genetic match to the developing fetus, tissues grown from them in the laboratory will not be rejected if they are used to treat birth defects in that newborn, researchers said. Alternatively, the cells could be frozen, providing a personalized tissue bank for use later in life.

Take that Ms. I'm-Gonna-Pass-A-Stem-Cell-Bill Pelosi! We don't need no embryonic stem cells. We've got these here amniotic stem cells.

It turns out the author of the amniotic stem cell study is basically saying that you don't throw away one tool because you've found another.

The author of a study on amniotic stem cells urged Congress yesterday not to consider his work a substitute for the search for disease-fighting material from embryonic stem cells.

"Some may be interpreting my research as a substitute for the need to pursue other forms of regenerative medicine therapies, such as those involving embryonic stem cells. I disagree with that assertion," wrote Anthony Atala of Wake Forest University, the author of a study published this week and widely seized upon by opponents of embryonic stem cell research as a more moral option.


In a letter to sponsors of legislation up for a House vote tomorrow, Atala wrote that it was "essential that National Institutes of Health-funded researchers are able to fully pursue embryonic stem cell research as a complement to research into other forms of stem cells."

Expect the right wingers to ignore this and bring up amniotic stem cell research all the time -- they did the same thing with adult stem cells.

So my advice to Bush is take the hit. Let the Republican congress critters add one more lost cause to the bones they throw to the religious right. They did it with gay marriage, abortion, and tacking the Ten Commandments on every blank space in America -- let them do it with this. They know how this bait and switch stuff is done.

And to Democrats, change your middle names to 'Banning Federal Funding of Stem Cell Research Won't Keep a Single Embryo from Being Destroyed.' The whole thing's a ridiculous argument that the religious lunatics have ginned up. Ignore them. They're the minority.

(Thanks to Campaign to Defend the Constitution for many of these links)


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