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Party platforms tell voters how Republicans, Democrats differ

NEW YORK (BP)–Republican delegates adopted their party’s platform Aug. 30, resulting in a statement that contrasts sharply with the Democratic one on three major social issues — abortion, embryonic stem cell research and a constitutional marriage amendment.

Like past platforms, the Republican statement opposes abortion while the Democratic platform embraces the historic Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion.

But this year’s Republican and Democratic platforms address two additional issues. The Republican platform supports President’s Bush’s restrictions on public funding for embryonic stem cell research, while the Democratic platform backs a reversal of the Bush policy.

The GOP platform also supports Bush’s call for a constitutional marriage amendment, while the Democratic platform opposes it.

Although non-binding, party platforms provide an overview of the parties’ positions on a host of issues.

Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, said the Republican marriage amendment plank is needed.

“I think it’s very important that the Republican Party back its president and their candidate as well as the majority of people who vote Republican in elections,” Land told Baptist Press. “The fact that there are people in the party — including evidently the vice president — who disagree with that position doesn’t negate the fact that the party’s position is clear.”

Perhaps just as significant as the marriage amendment language, the GOP platform goes one step further by opposing Vermont-type civil unions. The platform defends the traditional definition of marriage, stating that a mother and a father provide “the best environment of stability, discipline, responsibility, and character.”

“We strongly support President Bush’s call for a Constitutional amendment that fully protects marriage, and we believe that neither federal nor state judges nor bureaucrats should force states to recognize other living arrangements as equivalent to marriage,” the GOP platform states. “We believe, and social science confirms, that the well-being of children is best accomplished in the environment of the home, nurtured by their mother and father anchored by the bonds of marriage.”

The platform then states its opposition to civil unions, stating that the “legal recognition and the accompanying benefits” of marriage “should be preserved for that unique and special union of one man and one woman which has historically been called marriage.”

Anything short of a constitutional amendment, the GOP platform says, “is vulnerable to being overturned by activist judges.”

The Democratic platform, adopted in Boston in July, “repudiate[s] President Bush’s divisive effort to politicize the Constitution by pursuing a ‘Federal Marriage Amendment.'”

“We support full inclusion of gay and lesbian families in the life of our nation and seek equal responsibilities, benefits, and protections for these families,” the Democratic platform states. “In our country, marriage has been defined at the state level for 200 years, and we believe it should continue to be defined there.”

Although the Democratic platform mentioned “stem cell research” in its 2000 platform, this year is the first time that either party’s platform specifically has addressed embryonic stem cell research. The Democratic platform accuses the Bush administration of placing “ideology over science.”

“We will reverse his wrongheaded policy,” it states. “Stem cell therapy offers hope to more than 100 million Americans who have serious illnesses — from Alzheimer’s to heart disease to juvenile diabetes to Parkinson’s.”

Embryonic stem cell research requires the destruction of the embryo — something that pro-lifers such as Bush oppose. Bush’s policy prevents federal funding of stem cell research that destroys embryos, although it does not ban private funds for such experimentation.

Bush and now the Republican platform support research on adult stem cells and core blood stem cells — neither of which requires the destruction of embryos.

“We strongly support the President’s policy that prevents taxpayer dollars from being used to encourage the future destruction of human embryos,” the Republican platform states. “In addition, we applaud the President’s call for a comprehensive ban on human cloning and on the creation of human embryos solely for experimentation.”

So far, embryonic stem cells have produced no effective treatments in human beings and have had a tendency to generate tumors in laboratory animals.

Research using stem cells from adults and other non-embryonic sources, such as umbilical cord blood and placentas, has resulted in successful treatments for more than 40 diseases and afflictions, according to reports. Remedies have been reported for maladies such as heart disease, diabetes, multiple sclerosis and spinal cord injuries.

The two platforms also contrast on abortion. The Democratic platform supports abortion on demand, including taxpayer-funded abortions.

“Because we believe in the privacy and equality of women, we stand proudly for a woman’s right to choose, consistent with Roe v. Wade, and regardless of her ability to pay,” the Democratic platform states.

The Republican platform says that every child “deserves the chance to be born and grow up in a loving family.”

“As a country, we must keep our pledge to the first guarantee of the Declaration of Independence,” the GOP platform states. “That is why we say the unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life which cannot be infringed. We support a human life amendment to the Constitution and we endorse legislation to make it clear that the Fourteenth Amendment’s protections apply to unborn children.”
With reporting by Tom Strode. The Republican platform can be read online at: http://www.gopconvention.com/platform/2004platform.pdf. The Democratic platform can be read online at: http://www.democrats.org/pdfs/2004platform.pdf.

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  • Michael Foust