John McCain Keeping Open Mind to Embryonic Stem Cell Research Alternatives

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jun 19, 2008   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

John McCain Keeping Open Mind to Embryonic Stem Cell Research Alternatives

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by Steven Ertelt Editor
June 19
, 2008

Washington, DC ( — In John McCain, pro-life voters have a solid presidential candidate against abortion but they have had concerns about his desire to spend public funds on embryonic stem cell research. However, the Arizona senator continues to keep his mind open to alternatives to the destructive practice.

McCain holds to the same pro-embryonic stem cell research position as Barack Obama but, unlike his pro-abortion opponent, McCain is open-minded to funding promising alternatives instead.

Responding to a new statement the nation’s Catholic bishops produced opposing embryonic stem cell research on religious, scientific, and moral grounds, a McCain representative had some positive things to say.

Bob Heckman, director for conservative outreach for the McCain campaign, told the St. Louis Post Dispatch that, while McCain is "pro-life in his heart," his position on funding ESCR "was a tough decision for him to make, like it is for many pro-life Catholics."

He said McCain continues to talk about the subject with pro-life advocates like Princeton professor Robert George, a member of the President’s Council on Bioethics, and one who would encourage McCain to look elsewhere when considering federal spending.

"He has said that this is a very difficult decision for him and that his mind is genuinely open," Heckman said. "He is encouraged by advancements in the science, and he hopes it gets to a point where this is a moot question."

With advances in adult stem cell research and the new ISP cells — adult stem cells that have been turned back into their embryonic state — McCain has more ethical and effective places to go to stick government dollars.

That McCain is open to these alternatives is a significant contrast to Obama, whose campaign refused to respond to an interview request from the newspaper.

Wesley Smith, a leading attorney and bioethicist, says alternatives to embryonic stem cell research are where McCain needs to look because they are having progress in helping patients while ESCR has never helped anyone.

He also noted the difference between McCain and Obama on this issue.

"At least McCain seems aware that this isn’t 2001 in the stem cell controversy," Smith said. "Can we say the same thing about Senator Obama?"

This is the second time pro-life advocates have heard McCain is open to alternatives.

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