Taking The Leap On Stem-cell Research

TAKING THE LEAP ON STEM-CELL RESEARCH.... One of the more frustrating aspects of the Republican line on stem-cell research has been the arbitrary distinction between publicly- and privately-financed research. To hear most on the right tell it, experimenting on an embryo, even one that's going to be discarded, is morally unacceptable. Unless, of course, the research is privately funded, in which case, scientists can knock themselves out.

National Review's Stephen Spruiell had an item yesterday on the new Republican Party platform, which now calls for a "ban on the creation of or experimentation on human embryos for research purposes."

It is a call for a total ban on embryonic stem-cell research, including privately funded research using frozen embryos from in-vitro fertilization (IVF) clinics. By contrast, the 2004 platform was in accord with President Bush's policy at the time, which made limited federal funding for embryonic stem-cell research available for the first time. [...]The 2008 Republican Platform calls for a ban on all embryonic stem-cell research, public or private.




Andrew Sullivan responded, "The Christianists just gave the Democrats one hell of a reverse wedge issue. McCain's GOP is now officially more neocon than Bush in foreign policy and more theocon in social policy. It is an intensification -- not a rebuke -- of the Bush-Cheney model of conservatism."

Quite right. It does, however, resolve the intellectual contradiction. The Bush White House has said embryos are human life, and deserve respect. Simultaneously, the same Bush White House has permitted -- indeed, has bragged about -- privately-financed research. In 2007, the Bush gang went so far as to veto expanded public research while encouraging privately research.

So, in this sense, the new Republican platform resolves the contradiction. The GOP opposes all embryonic stem-cell research, regardless of whether the embryos would be discarded, regardless of the science's promise, and regardless of who's paying for it.

But it also points to an extreme conservative worldview, which most Americans reject.

Post Script: Just to clarify, recent advances suggest the debate over embryonic stem-cell research may become moot. We aren't, however, there yet, and Republican efforts to prohibit all research would cost the field dearly.

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