November 25, 2007
Stem-Cell Break Through Repositions Politicos
Human Embryonic Stem Cell
Scientists in the United States and Japan have just announced a stunning breakthrough in stem-cell research. It promises to greatly alleviate, if not cure, such maladies as Parkinson's Disease, cancer, damaged heart tissue and spinal-cord injuries.
The report -- published in the scientific journals Science and Stem Cell – vindicates President Bush’s stand against experimentation with human embryo cells “cloned” from women.
Now it is possible to grow “patient-matched pluri-potent (grow any type)” stem cells from a simple, skin biopsy -- without complicated, human cloning and moral objections.
The critical revelation came last year. Shinya Yamanaka, of Kyoto, reported success in re-programming skin cells from rat tails -- for rat disorders – by adding four key genes.
Two more teams of researchers duplicated his work and set out to extend it to humans. They confirmed that “re-programmed” cells would be genetically matched to a patient-donor and capable of producing any tissue type in that person’s body.
In other words, the new cells perform the same function as cells from a personal embryo.
Cures vs. Ethics
This development surely will end the acrimonious debate between Bush and liberal Democrats over funding for stem-cell research.
The President, and many conservatives, objected to a process that would destroy a human embryo in order to extract growth cells. “Life begins at conception.”
Congressional liberals contend that destruction of embryonic stem cells in the search for medical cures is justified. Twice, they passed legislation to overturn Bush’s policy against embryonic stem cell research. Twice, the President vetoed it.
Frustrated Democrats accused him of "placing limits" on federal funding for embryonic stem-cell research. In fact, Bush authorized the National Institute of Health to put $150 million into such work. Hundreds of millions have been allocated by several states to embryonic research.
The Rockefeller Institute says $1.7 billion from philanthropic sources in recent years has been spent on human cloning research.
Nonetheless, some frustrated Dems are down-playing the new process.
Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) told the Washington Post: “These new reports are an extraordinary scientific break through, but embryonic stem-cell research must continue. Instead of aiding that fight, the Bush administration is hampering it through needless restriction on stem cell research.”
Rep. Diana DeGrette (D-Colo.) – a leader in the House debate – insists: “I don’t think this changes the debate. We still need to encourage all types of research, and we need to put ethical oversight in place.”
Thus, she reminds us of the real issue underlying debate about matters pertaining to human reproduction: abortion right vs. right to life.
When does life begin? Can an embryo be sacrificed to save a sick/injured person? Is an abortion justified for any reason?
Court In Offing
These questions, and many other similar ones, may be headed for the U.S. Supreme Court.
Ten states this year have considered laws that impinge tangentially on the Roe vs. Wade decision of 1973. It established a woman’s right to abortion. Challenges aim at outlawing “partial birth” abortions.
Right To Life proponents contend the procedure amounts to murder. With so many state laws upholding this view, the state laws certainly will be contested by the Supremes.
The Court, last Spring, upheld the federal Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act – declaring “governments have a legitimate and substantial interest in preserving fetal life.”
That was a clear win for State Rights advocates. It appears that Roe vs. Wade can be nibbled down by state legislatures representing popular sentiment.
In addition, it appears the Court leans right at this time. However, justices let their true judgments seep out in a hallowed, lifetime job. Resignations and deaths are unpredictable.
The issue undoubtedly will be debated in the upcoming political campaigns. Certainly we will have a new president in the White House and a Congress with working majorities.
Fasten your seat belts.
Sen. Kennedy’s grudging approval of the stem-cell breakthrough brands him a Motor Boat legislator -- but,but,but,but,but,but, cough!
Following President Lincoln’s precedent, President Bush pardoned the turkey destined for a White House Thanksgiving dinner. Bush can do no less for the American border guards under arrest for shooting Mexican criminals smuggling narcotics into the U.S.
President Lincoln aptly described opinion surveys: “Their name is Public Opinion. It is held in reverence. It settles everything. Some think it is the Voice of God.”
Lincoln declared: “what kills a skunk is the publicity it gives itself."
By Lindsey Wilger Williams, retired newspaper publisher and syndicated columnist