Embryonic stem cell funding vetoed
By By Tray Smith
President Bush's recent veto of a bill to expand federal funding for embryonic stem cell research has created a lot of national attention, particularly by Democrats and liberal columnists who are determined to use the issue against Republicans in the 2006 midterm elections. Granted, the first veto of the Bush presidency was overwhelmingly unpopular, but after studying the facts of the issue, I have concluded that the president made the right decision.
Embryonic stem cell research is intended to use embryonic stem cells to eventually provide a cure for diseases such as Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, Diabetes, spinal cord injuries, and cancer. Currently, anyone who wants to use embryos for research purposes can, but federal funds can only be used to study a limited number of stem cell lines. The bill President Bush vetoed would have increased the amount of funding available for such purposes and removed the current limits on those funds.
Several social conservatives argued that human embryos are human life, and human life can never be destroyed for research purposes. While the proposal would have only used embryos left over from fertility clinics that would eventually be thrown away anyway, many people feel that such practices are a slippery slope our nation should not go down. Even scientist involved with embryonic stem cell research admit that using the embryos to provide meaningful cures will require many, many more embryos than can be provided from fertility clinics. That means eventually embryos would have to be created only for the purpose of being eliminated in the future, a very disturbing possibility for people who believe in the absolute protection of human life.
But regardless of your moral or ethical concerns, the question of whether such research is a worthy use of taxpayer funding remains. Though private organizations are allowed to invest in stem cell research, many of them have not, because embryonic stem cells have not produced cures and have not shown as much promise as adult stem cells. Adult stem cells are derived from such sources as umbilical cord blood and have already shown a substantial ability to treat illnesses. Because they do not require the destruction of human life to be used for medical purposes, adult stem cells bypass ethical concerns. The federal government already provides funding for this type of research, and it is receiving a return on its investment. When choosing which type of research to invest in, it is not surprising that private companies lean towards adult stem cells.
Among the treatments made possible from adult stem cells are: the treatment of sickle cell anemia, repairing heart muscles for people suffering from congestive heart failure, restoring bone marrow in cancer patients, and reportedly the ability to repair spinal cord injuries. These are just the first on what is likely to be a long list of treatments made possible by adult stem cells. Already, studies have shown that adult stem cells have the ability to treat cancer in a dog, an indication that adult stem cells could not only cure the same illnesses embryonic stem cells are intended to cure, but that they can do so sooner and more effectively without causing moral concerns.
While proponents of federal funding for embryonic stem cells cast the debate in the terms of desperate patients in need of a cure, it appears more likely that embryonic stem cell researchers are trying to get federal money because private sector organizations are not backing their cause. Yet, already they have received commitments from several states, most notably a $3 billion bond issue in California currently tied up in courts. Such funding easily compensates for the mere $100 million Congress was promising (which, by the way, John Kerry could fund out of pocket if he wanted to.)
President Bush's veto was the right decision. He clearly showed that, no matter what the polls say, he will lead on his convictions as he was elected to do. While such funding will likely become law after he leaves office, President Bush showed true courage in respecting taxpayer dollars along with the moral concerns of social conservatives. Some may say he has become a hostage of the radical right, but he is simply leading on his own principal.
That is the bottom line.
Tray Smith is a sophomore at ECHS. He writes a political column for the Atmore Advance. He can be reached at email@example.com for comment. His column appears weekly.