Stem-cell find­ings may af­fect ’08 vote; break­through called ‘amaz­ing’

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - By Ralph Z. Hallow

The re­ported break­through in adult stem-cell re­search could af­fect the pres­i­den­tial nom­i­na­tion cam­paigns in both par­ties.

“To­day’s an­nounce­ment is just one more in­di­ca­tion that our cur­rent pol­icy in re­ly­ing only on adult stem cells is work­ing,” Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial hope­ful Fred Thompson said in a state­ment re­leased by his cam­paign.

Re­searchers on Nov. 20 an­nounced that they were able to trans­form hu­man skin cells into em­bry­onic stem cells, a process that elim­i­nates the de­struc­tion of em­bryos.

Fi­delis, a lay-or­ga­nized Catholic ad­vo­cacy or­ga­ni­za­tion, fired off a state­ment call­ing the break­through “amaz­ing.”

“It elim­i­nates the per­ceived ‘need’ to de­stroy hu­man em­bryos for re­search and vin­di­cates Pres­i­dent Bush and Catholic Church lead­ers who called for an eth­i­cal approach to sci­en­tific re­search,” Fi­delis Pres­i­dent Brian Burch said.

Some ob­servers said the dis­cov­ery could all but elim­i­nate the con­tro­versy over the moral­ity of us­ing em­bry­onic stem cells, a process Mr. Bush and oth­ers view as the tak­ing of hu­man life.

“Now con­ser­va­tives who are strongly sup­port­ive of sci­en­tific re­search, cures for cur­rently in­tractable dis­eases and Amer­i­can com­pet­i­tive­ness can raise the ban­ner of stem-cell re­search with­out go­ing against their con­science or their base sup­port,” poll­ster John Zogby said.

Mr. Thompson was the first pres­i­den­tial can­di­date to com­ment on the news. The for­mer Ten­nessee sen­a­tor said the new find­ings throw out old ar­gu­ments that hu­man em­bry­onic stem cells are needed for med­i­cal re­search.

“Us­ing adult stem cells negates the need for cloning em­bryos to har­vest their stem cells,” he said.

“This is a win for pro-life ad­vo­cates like Gov­er­nor [Mitt] Rom­ney, who also sup­port ad­vanc­ing re­search, but in a way that re­spects life,” said Kevin Mad­den, a spokesman for the for­mer Mas­sachusetts gov­er­nor.

The of­fice of Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial hope­ful Ron Paul also had a re­sponse to a re­porter’s ques­tion about the stem-cell break­through. “From the leg­isla­tive stand­point, Con­gress­man Paul will con­tinue to op­pose fed­eral fund­ing for such re­search be­cause the fed­eral gov­ern­ment has no con­sti­tu­tional author­ity to fund such re­search,” said Mr. Paul’s chief of staff, Tom Lizardo.

Most an­a­lysts agreed the new find­ings pull the rug from un­der the Democrats on a theme they ex­pected to use against Repub­li­can can­di­dates who op­pose em­bry­onic stem-cell re­search.

Thompson poll­ster John McLaugh­lin said the break­through un­der­mines ar­gu­ments used by Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates like Sen. Hil­lary Rod­ham Clin­ton and Repub­li­cans like Ru­dolph W. Gi­u­liani.

“It hurts Hil­lary and the other Demo­cratic can­di­dates be­cause they have been try­ing to say the pro-life move­ment is too ex­treme,” Mr. McLaugh­lin said. “They have ar­gued that em­bry­onic stem-cell re­search has pro­duced cures when it hasn’t.”

He said the latest break­through shows there is no need for re­search us­ing em­bry­onic stem cells.

Mr. Gi­u­liani’s cam­paign told The Wash­ing­ton Times that the for­mer New York mayor would have no re­sponse to the break­through. Cam­paign spokesman Maria Comella said that in May, Mr. Gi­u­liani had said he sup­ports em­bry­onic stem-cell re­search as “long as we’re not cre­at­ing life in or­der to de­stroy it, as long as we’re not hav­ing hu­man cloning, and we limit it to that. [. . . ]”

Wendy Wright, pres­i­dent of Con­cerned Women for Amer­ica, said, “Once again science is catch­ing up to ethics, prov­ing that the moral way is the sound­est sci­en­tific choice. Can­di­dates that have stood for ethics to guide science will be vin­di­cated by this, and can­di­dates that want hu­man life to be sub­jects for sci­en­tific re­search for the so­called greater good of oth­ers should be shamed by this.

“This break­through can help vot­ers to eval­u­ate can­di­dates on their moral for­ti­tude to lead Amer­ica,” she said. “Will they do what is right be­cause it is right, or will they do what is po­lit­i­cally ex­pe­di­ent and treat hu­mans as ob­jects to ben­e­fit oth­ers?”

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