by Steven Ertelt
June 12, 2006
Jefferson City, MO (LifeNews.com) — Hundreds of African American medical, community and religious leaders have banded together to support a November ballot initiative that would have the state back human cloning and embryonic stem cell research. However the use of adult stem cells has shown the most success in treating conditions that affect black Americans.
"African Americans are at high risk for sickle cell disease, diabetes and cancer that could benefit from new stem cell treatments and cures," said Dr. Michel DeBaun, a Washington University School of Medicine professor.
"As a doctor, an African American and a Missouri voter, there is nothing more important on our November ballot than the Stem Cell Initiative," he added.
One in every 400 African American babies has sickle cell disease, which decreases life expectancy by 25 to 30 years. Yet, adult stem cells have proven successful in treating sickle cell disease, for example.
In April 2005, Keone Penn, an 18 year-old from Atlanta, testified before Congress and said he saw his medical fortunes improved because of adult stem cells. He was treated with adult stem cells for his sickle cell disease, which cured him of the condition.
"Believe me, as a teenager, being in the hospital more times than you can count is not a way to live your life," said Penn. "Stem cells saved my life."
Penn testified in favor of a bill that Congress approved and President Bush signed into law creating a new federally funded stem cell therapeutic and research program for the collection and inventory of umbilical cord blood.
Rep. Chris Smith, a New Jersey Republican, was the leading sponsor.
"The best kept medical secret has been that thousands have been successfully treated with cord blood stem cells for more than 67 diseases including Leukemia and Sickle Cell Anemia," Smith explained.
Still, Frankie Muse Freeman, a civil rights attorney and former member of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, supports the Missouri initiative.
"The Stem Cell Initiative protects our right to have fair and equal access to any federally-approved stem cell cures that are available to other Americans," he said.
Tony Perkins, head the of Family Research Council, agrees that adult stem cells provide the best hope for patients.
"Embryonic stem cells have successfully treated no one," Perkins explains. "Cord blood stem cells have been shown to turn into virtually every type of tissue in the human body, and are less susceptible to transplant rejection than bone marrow or embryonic stem cells."
"Destroying human life is never necessary to cure a disease or illness," Perkins added. "And our taxpayer dollars should never be used to destroy human embryos."
Rev. B.T. Rice, Pastor of the New Horizon 7th Day Christian Church, another black leader supporting the initiative, said he favors it because it "strictly bans human cloning."
However, the measure only prohibits human cloning for reproductive purposes but allows it for research.