WASHINGTON (BP)–Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry promoted federal funding of destructive embryonic stem cell research Oct. 4, drawing another stark contrast with President Bush on pro-life issues.
Speaking in Hampton, N.H., Kerry accused Bush of sacrificing science “for extreme right-wing ideology,” the Associated Press reported. His campaign also released a new 30-second television ad in which Kerry calls for lifting “the political barriers blocking the stem cell research that can treat or cure diseases like Parkinson’s.”
Kerry said he would provide at least $100 million in funding for such research and institute strict ethical guidelines. Many supporters of the president’s policy, however, say the kind of research Kerry promises to fund cannot be ethical, because it requires the killing of embryos.
The Democratic senator from Massachusetts criticized Bush’s 2001 policy on stem cell research, which bars federal funds for research that involves the destruction of human embryos.
Bush’s policy is a “far-reaching ban on federal funding for stem cell research, tying the hands of our scientists, driving some of them away from America,” Kerry said, according to AP.
The Bush campaign responded to Kerry’s latest attack on the policy by saying the president is committed to funding only stem cell experimentation that can be conducted ethically. Bush campaign spokesman Steve Schmidt denied the president has blocked stem cell research. “Stem cell research of any kind is perfectly legal,” Schmidt said, according to AP.
The White House policy does not ban privately funded embryonic stem cell research. The Bush administration also supports the federal government’s funding for research involving stem cells from non-embryonic sources.
Stem cells are master cells that can develop into tissues and other cells. They are found not only in human embryos but in adults as well. Adult stem cell research extracts cells from bone marrow, umbilical cord blood and other non-embryonic sources without harm to the donor.
Supporters of embryonic stem cell research claim that this line of study has the most potential for creating cures, although that is not evident in the priorities of the multi-billion dollar biotechnology industry, which has invested many times more in adult stem cell research.
In addition, embryonic stem cell research has experienced multiple failures, including the worsening of Parkinson’s symptoms in one human test group and a tendency to produce tumors in laboratory animals.
Adult stem cell research, meanwhile, has already produced more than 40 treatments, including the repair of damaged livers and remedies for heart disease, diabetes, multiple sclerosis and spinal cord injuries. Recent research promises a cure for arthritis.
Actor Michael J. Fox campaigned with Kerry in New Hampshire. Fox, who has Parkinson’s, has become an activist on the stem cell issue, calling for repeal of Bush’s policy. According to AP, Fox told New Hampshire voters the president had “so restricted the stem cell lines available to us that is was kind of like he gave us a car and no gas and congratulated himself for giving us the car.”
Bush’s 2001 order permitted funding for research on the colonies of existing stem cells in which, as he put it, “the life-and-death decision has already been made.” It turned out, however, there were no more than 20 such colonies — far fewer than expected — prompting increased cries for him to revise his order.
“[T]his country’s got to be very careful on destroying life to save life,” Bush said in a television interview with Larry King Aug. 13. “It’s a debate that needs to move forward in a very careful way.”