Garbage-picking for stem cells

July 19, 2006 | By | Reply More

By a vote of 63 to 37, the Senate passed a bill to expand federal funding for embryonic stem cell research on Tuesday. President Bush has promised to use his veto power for the first time in 5 ½ years on this bill, which the current vote can’t override.

The public opinion on stem cell research has changed over the last few years, as their overwhelming medical potential has become radiantly clear, and as even conservatives have followed Nancy Reagan’s move and pledged support. Bush steadfastly remains by his initial impression on stem cell research, however confident in his view because “murder is wrong”.

Among the bill’s opponents, Republican Senator Sam Brownback of Kansas made a spectacle on Monday when he used a 7-year-old girl’s explanation of stem cell research to make his point. How comforting that the Christian right has such a wide range of authorities to quote on the issue. Senator Brownback’s source, a girl named Hannah, came from an “adopted” frozen embryo, which the Senator no doubt thought illustrated what the bill puts at stake very well. He explained it this way:

“This is not just a group of a few cells. This is not a hair follicle. This is not a fingernail. You know, this is Hannah. And if nurtured, grows to be just this beautiful child, and we got a lot of them, of frozen embryos. And I hope people will consider put putting them up for adoption, because there’s a lot of people that want to adopt them.”

Unfortunately for the Senator, at least 90% of the stem cells considered by this bill currently end up discarded, without a use to anyone, and therefore not adopted at all. This brings me to the title of my post, garbage-picking for stem cells. If President Bush, Senator Brownback and their ilk label the stem cell research of garbage cells “murder”, and would prefer that we pitch the embryos rather than put them to use, let’s just dumpster-dive for them. That way we can get around Bush’s senseless veto, and the conservative right can go on pretending that droves of people want to adopt embryos (just as people eagerly claim all of the children available for adoption that otherwise would have ended up aborted, right?).

If only things worked that simply. This bill does more than give researchers free reign over the currently discarded embryos. The bill also expands federal funds for the research of those cells. Such research could save millions of lives and improve the quality of life for even more.

One reader at Think Progress sharply connected the dots in a recent comment. He said that we should accuse those who oppose the embryonic stem cell bill of not supporting the troops. Stem cell research, after all, could restore an injured veteran’s eyesight or cure lower-body paralysis.




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Category: Current Events, Health, Medicine, Politics

About the Author ()

Erika is a PhD student in Social Psychology living in Chicago. Here on DI she most often writes about current events, psychology, skepticism, media and internet culture.

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