Credit President Bush for Promoting Embryonic Stem Cell Research Alternatives

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Nov 22, 2007   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Credit President Bush for Promoting Embryonic Stem Cell Research Alternatives Email this article
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by Wesley J. Smith
November 22, 2007 Note: Wesley J. Smith is a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute and an attorney for the International Task Force on Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide. His latest book is Consumer’s Guide to a Brave New World.

Throughout his presidency, the Science Intelligentsia has castigated President Bush for placing limits on the federal funding of embryonic-stem-cell research (ESCR). Acting as if he had banned ESCR, which of course he hadn’t, “the scientists” and their camp followers in the media and on Capital Hill accused the president of withholding cures from the ill in order to impose his religious beliefs on a reluctant public.

Little noted in all of the caterwauling, was that ESCR and human-cloning research (SCNT) have been funded bounteously — to the tune of nearly $2 billion.

Not only has the National Institutes of Health put more than $150 million in recent years into human ESCR (about $40 annually), but according to a recent report put out by the Rockefeller Institute, to date about $1.7 billion has poured into ESCR and SCNT from philanthropic sources — and this doesn’t include the hundreds of millions granted annually by the states for cloning and ESCR experiments.

So what’s really going on here?

Yes, the president’s policies have forced some research centers to set up separate labs for research on Bush-approved- and non-approved, stem-cell-research lines.

But what really got under “the scientists” skin was the clarion moral message sent by the president: It is wrong to treat nascent human life as a mere natural resource to be sown, reaped, and consumed.

Big Biotech responded to the Bush policy by mounting a powerful public advocacy campaign aimed at both opening the federal spigots, and breaking the back of the moral opposition to ESCR and human cloning research. Railing against the president and supporters of his policy as “anti-science,” ESCR/SCNT advocates accused Bush of denying sick people needed medical breakthroughs. Human cloning via SCNT was redefined from “therapeutic cloning” in the advocates’ lexicon to merely “stem-cell research.” The change of term constituted a clever ruse that bundled and confused in people’s minds, the morally acceptable advances being made in adult stem-cell research, the morally dubious human cloning project, and the use of “spare” embryos for research that were “going to be discarded anyway.”

For awhile, the political tide ran powerfully in the cloners’ direction. In November 2004, California voters passed Proposition 71, agreeing to borrow $3 billion over ten years to pay private companies, and their business partners in major university research centers, to conduct human cloning research and ESCR. This was followed with bipartisan votes in Congress passing legislation to overturn Bush’s policy. To this, the president responded with his only veto of the first term. This year, with the Democrats in control of both houses of Congress, that bit of Kabuki Theater was repeated — but the President’s policy held.

Then, almost without being perceived, the tide began to turn.

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