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Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Righteous Lies

stem cells being extracted from embryoYesterday, I wrote that the influence of the religious right on the Republican party seems to be on the decline. So much so that a top Republican could get away with calling funding for embryonic stem cell research a mere distraction -- not a horror show, not a second Holocaust, but just something not very interesting and not as important as the economy. What was once the "destruction of human life" was now something to yawn over. Let's get on with this economy thing, let's not screw around with stuff no one cares about.

But, of course, people do care about this stuff. Supporters of embryonic stem cell research believe it may lead to treatments for spinal injuries, Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, diabetes. etc. "...I urge researchers to make use of the opportunities that are available to them, and to do all they can to fulfill the promise that stem cell research offers. Countless people, suffering from many different diseases, stand to benefit from the answers stem cell research can provide," said former first lady Nancy Reagan in a written statement. "We owe it to ourselves and to our children to do everything in our power to find cures for these diseases -- and soon. As I’ve said before, time is short, and life is precious."

But others weren't half as thrilled. I wrote the the religious right was less influential, not that it's gone. And looking at the insane reactions from leading figures and organizations in the movement, we get an idea why they're on the outs -- they're mostly a pack of lying lunatics.

This is the thing about religious fanatics -- they believe they're literally working for God and anyone who opposes them is working, either consciously or unconsciously, for the devil. Why would you feel the need to fight fair against Satan? No matter what you do, your cause remains as just as a cause can possibly be and this frees you up to lie, to cheat, to do whatever it takes to win the fight of the moment. So statements from the religious right tend to be characterized by hyperbole, paranoia, and outright lies.

The Raw Story piece on Reagan goes on to tell us:

House of Representatives Republican leader John Boehner said Obama had undermined "protections for innocent life, further dividing our nation at a time when we need greater unity to tackle the challenges before us."

Tony Perkins, president of the anti-abortion Family Research Council, called Obama's announcement "a slap in the face to Americans who believe in the dignity of all human life."

There's your hyperbole. But you've got to go to the source to get to the lies.

One-time GOP presidential candidate and leading voice of the religious right, Gary Bauer:

It's tragic that Barack Obama is willing to take tax money from struggling Americans and give it to scientists working on repeatedly failed embryonic stem cell projects...especially as adult stem cell research is yielding real, life-saving results. Most people do not understand that there is no restriction against fetal stem cell research, just a restriction against spending tax dollars to destroy human embryos for a body of work that has resulted in cancers and abnormal cells time and time again. Adult stem cell research, on the other hand, has provided real hope to many patients. In 2008, the National Institutes of Health spent nearly one billion dollars on stem cell research, most of it going to adult stem cell research because of the real hope it offered.

How much of that is true? Pretty much none of it. The National Institutes of Health spent money on adult stem cell research in 2008, not because of "the real hope it offered," but because the Institutes are federally-funded under the Department of Health and Human Services. They couldn't study embryonic stem cells.

And are adult stem cells better? People who know about this stuff say no. Embryonic stem cells have the ability to become any type of cell, adult stem cells do not. "...research involving human pluripotent stem cells...promises new treatments and possible cures for many debilitating diseases and injuries, including Parkinson's disease, diabetes, heart disease, multiple sclerosis, burns and spinal cord injuries," the National Institutes of Health reported in 2002. "The NIH believes the potential medical benefits of human pluripotent stem cell technology are compelling and worthy of pursuit in accordance with appropriate ethical standards."

But, as I've already pointed out, the religious right think they're fighting the devil. So, if they need to lie to you to "save" you, they'll lie to you -- from their perspective, it's entirely ethical.

"Obama's policy of forcing tax payers to fund lethal human experimentation is morally, unethical and fiscally irresponsible," writes Operation Rescue President Troy Newman in a statement. "Destructive, human, embryonic stem cell research has produced no therapies that have benefitted people, and has only produced horrific side effects in preliminary test subjects. It would be more beneficial to the country to pour that money down a rat hole, than to fund such ghoulish experiments."

That's not the only lie they tell. "Some claim that hundreds of thousands of embryos are discarded each year and should be used for research," says Wendy Wright, President of Concerned Women for America. "This is absolutely false. Most of the 400,000 embryos in fertility clinics are wanted by their parents and are awaiting implantation and the welcoming arms of their families. The claim betrays an attitude that these embryos are government property and can be confiscated and used for experiments. It's an example of the hype and manipulation advocates of embryonic stem cell research have used to pursue their politics."

There has to be a stronger term for BS. Embryos are created for in vitro fertilization. More than one embryo is created per pregnancy.

Mother Jones:

Aanis Elspas is a mother of four. Unlike most parents, she had three of her children simultaneously. The nine-year-old triplets were born in 1997 after Elspas underwent a series of in vitro fertilization treatments for infertility. Her oldest child, 10, is the happy result of a prior ivf treatment round. Elspas worked hard to get her children, and is grateful to have them. But four, thanks very much, are plenty. The problem is that Elspas also has 14 embryos left over from the treatment that produced her 10-year-old. The embryos are stored in liquid nitrogen at a California frozen storage facility -- she is not entirely sure where -- while Elspas and her husband ponder what to do with them.

So we're supposed to believe these embryos are "wanted by their parents and are awaiting implantation and the welcoming arms of their families?" We're really supposed to believe that the average patient is looking to raise 18 kids? I'm not sure which offends me more; that Wright would tell such a blatant lie or that she'd expect the average American to believe it. How stupid does she think we are?

Actually, right after asking, the answer came to me -- Wendy Wright believes we're so stupid that we'd fall for the devil's tricks. When we get right down to it, no lie is too far for the God Warrior. Whatever the religious right does or says is automatically blessed by Republican Jesus as a legitimate tactic in the battle for America's soul.

Of course, all it really does it make them seem insane. And, in their religious fanaticism, they'd keep cures and treatments from patients who need them -- holy suffering is the price we pay for not breaking the witch doctor's taboos. That this isn't an especially convincing argument says everything you need to know about why the religious right is losing ground.