Alan K. Henderson's Weblog


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Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Stem Cells And Celebrity Political Ads

Kathryn Jean Lopez tells a few things that Michael J. Fox doesn't:

President Bush was the first president of the United States to authorize federal funding for any embryonic-stem-cell research. In correcting a writer from The New Republic back in 2004, my colleague Ramesh Ponnuru pointed out, "Actually, Bush provided funding for the first time. Congress had essentially banned funding, the Clinton administration issued preliminary regulations getting around the ban, and then Bush imposed a policy of funding with restrictions."

Further, embryonic-stem-cell research is currently legal and completely unrestricted in both Maryland and Missouri, and in the vast majority of other states. It is largely personal and institutional ethics that keeps scientists from cloning research. The debate we're having is almost always about government funding or radical measures like the one currently on the ballot in Missouri (Amendment 2), which would write a right to cloning into the state constitution.

There's also some info on the efficacy of embyonic stem cells (emphasis in original):

Additionally, embryo-destroying stem-cell research is by no means the only or the most promising stem-cell research. Alternative research — including cord-blood research and adult-stem-cell research — is already working, unlike the embryonic-stem-cell research we're all focused on as if it were a proven cure-all. As Princeton professor Robert P. George, who sits on the president's bioethics commission, tells National Review Online:

the ads exaggerate the therapeutic potential of embryonic stem cells beyond anything that Michael J. Fox or anyone else has reasonable grounds to believe they can be used to accomplish. Adult stem cells — stem cells that can be obtained harmlessly from umbilical cord blood, bone marrow, fat, and other sources — have actually been used successfully to treat people. They have been used to improve people's lives. Embryonic stem cells have not helped anyone. No one knows when, if ever, embryonic cells will be used in therapies at all. Indeed, not a single embryonic-stem-cell-based therapy is even in stage one of clinical trials. That is because the tendency of embryonic stem cells to produce tumors makes it unethical to use them in human beings — even in experimental treatments. By contrast, there are more than 1,000 adult-stem-cell-based therapies in clinical trials. In his ads, Michael J. Fox hides these crucial facts, thus creating an appallingly false impression and slandering candidates against whom the ads are directed."

LifeNews notes inaccuracies in Michael J. Fox's first ad:

In the first commercial, Fox, who is clearly increasingly suffering from the effects of Parkinson's disease, makes inaccurate generalizations about stem cell research.

"In Missouri, you can elect Claire McCaskill, who shares my hope for cures," Fox tells viewers urging them to support the pro-abortion, pro-cloning candidate.

"Unfortunately Senator Jim Talent opposes expanding stem cell research," Fox claims. "Senator Talent even wanted to criminalize the science that gives us a chance for hope."

Though the ad makes it appear Talent opposes all kinds of stem cell research, he has voted in favor of spending millions in federal funds for adult stem cell research, the only kind of research that has ever cured a single patient.

What Talent has opposed is forcing taxpayers to pay for studies using embryonic stem cells, which can only be obtained by destroying human life.

...And in the second:

In the new spot, Fox vouches for Senate hopeful Ben Cardin, a current Congressman, in his bid against pro-life Maryland Lt. Governor Michael Steele.

"Cardin fully supports lifesaving stem cell research and that's why I support Ben Cardin," Fox says.

However, Cardin voted against a bill that would have authorized the federal government to search for embryonic stem cell research alternatives that don't involve the destruction of human life. The measure would have promoted some types of research that could possibly have been palatable to both sides of the debate.

YouTube has the McCaskill and Cardin ads.

It also has an ad opposing a proposed Missouri Constitutional amendment that would allow human cloning with some restrictions. (On YouTube the video is labeled, "Response Ad to Michael J. Fox" - despite the fact that Fox never mentioned this proposed amendment in the McCaskill video.) LifeSite has the background story:

The Passion of the Christ star Jim Caviezel entered the escalating election battle on embryonic stem cell research yesterday. He appears in an ad clip countering campaign ads by Michael J. Fox who is urging voters to support election candidates backing the research...

In the one minute response ad Caviezel is joined by celebrities that include Cardinal's pitcher Jeff Suppan and Patricia Heaton, star of the TV comedy Everybody Loves Raymond and honorary chair for Feminists for Life. After explaining the facts of the issue they in turn state, "Don't be tricked", Don't be deceived", Don't be fooled", with Caviezel ending the ad telling Missouri voters, "You know now. Don't do it. Vote no on (Amendment) 2", the ballot initiative that would permit research using human embryos in the state.

Although the amendment appears to ban the buying and selling of human eggs, women who "donated" their eggs would be permitted "reimbursement" by fertility clinics or sperm banks. The ban on buying and selling would not apply to reimbursement for the cost of "the removal, processing, disposal, preservation, quality control, storage, transfer, or donation of human eggs, sperm, or blastocysts, including lost wages of the donor."

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