The Politics of Stem Cells

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This past Wednesday, President Bush issued the first veto of his Presidency in rejecting legislation that would have used taxpayer dollars to fund embryonic stem cell research that destroys human life in the name of science. This is in keeping with his previous commitments to work to foster a culture that respects life in our country, rather than cheapen it.

As President Bush stated in his veto message, “This bill would support the taking of innocent human life in the hope of finding medical benefits for others. It crosses a moral boundary that our decent society needs to respect.” Exactly. So why all the fuss? The simple answer is politics and money.


There are many politicians and allied political groups that are cynically working to hype the possibilities of embryonic stem cell research in order to create a political issue, all the while ignoring the real world successes of adult stem cells. They callously lead those desperately looking for hope to think that embryonic stem cells are the only thing they can look to for cures to terrible diseases?and that conservatives are standing in the way of their good health.

At the same time, some scientists and corporations are looking for massive federal government funding for research that they are unable to fund from the private sector. This is largely because the claims made by those promoting the use of embryonic stem cells are unproven at best and, in many cases, suspect or outright false.

Research related to the use of embryonic stem cells has yet to make it to even one single human clinical trial, despite the fact that the federal government has funded research on existing embryonic stem cell lines since President Bush’s compromise on this issue in 2001. This is after five years and over ninety million dollars in government funding.

Even worse, many of the claims regarding the promise of embryonic stem cells have since been found to be completely without merit. In the most high profile case, a South Korean scientist that had been at the top of the field was found to have falsified his research to make claims of broad advances in the use of embryonic stem cells. The South Korean government has since stripped him of his awards, saying that his “stem cell research was bogus.”

Results from adult stem cells however are real. There have been over eleven hundred clinical human trials, over five hundred of which are active and recruiting patients. Currently, there are over seventy diseases that can be treated with stem cells from umbilical cord blood alone. From cancers to auto-immune diseases, cardiovascular problems, liver and bladder disease to neural degenerative diseases like Parkinson