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The Texas Blue
Advancing Progressive Ideas

Stem Cell Success is About Electing the Right People

While fantastic, the breakthroughs in stem cell research announced last week should not change everything overnight. And the news media needs to stop heralding every new stem cell discovery as a way past the political controversy.

To many of us, the political controversy is inane. The pro-choice versus anti-choice debate is one thing, but stretching an anti-choice position to stand in the way of medical research and possible cures for cruel diseases is mindless. Suffice it to say there’s a serious disconnect when you think it’s okay for fertility clinics to destroy thousands of embryos on a daily basis and then oppose allowing those same embryos to be used for stem cell research.

Last week, two different teams of scientists announced they had found a way to make adult human skin cells into the equivalent of embryonic stem cells. It appears to be a giant breakthrough that could lead to some of the same developments that had been hoped for through embryonic research.

However, the technique has not been perfected, and even if it is, it might not completely supplant the need for embryonic stem cell research. Right now, the adult cell approach creates the potential for cancer, and until that can be safely avoided, it most likely couldn’t be used to treat diabetes, Parkinson’s or spinal cord injuries. Those are three of the conditions where embryonic stem cell research has shown the most promise.

The news stories announcing the discovery, of course, talked about how this new approach could end the “intense political controversy.” If it were to prove every bit as effective as the embryonic method, perhaps it could. But we have no way of knowing that now, and until we do, it’s wrong to pretend.

It’s also wrong for the media to assume that everyone agrees we have to get past the controversy by doing away with embryonic stem cell research. If it still offers hope that other methods don’t, that would be a huge mistake.

Furthermore, I don’t think the No. 1 goal needs to be getting “past the controversy.” The goal for those of us on the pro-stem cell side of the debate needs to be winning more races. We need to make sure we’re electing people who won’t stand in the way of the research.

If George Bush had not been elected president in 2000, we’d be a lot further down the road to finding cures. But since the beginning of his first term, he has played politics with this issue and done everything possible to slow progress. He has not been alone. Many other elected officials at all different levels have touted their Christian bona fides and done their best to confuse the issue.

As far back as anyone can remember, people have been using religious arguments to stand in the way of medical breakthroughs. At one point, Christians opposed blood transfusions because they believed it was evil to mix human blood. You don’t hear that argument a lot these days. And when people start walking again and living quality lives because of stem cell treatment, the ridiculous arguments against it will likewise vanish.

That’s the best way to get past the controversy.

(Originally published by Examiner Newspaper Group)

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