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Wednesday, July 26, 2006


As all of you doubtless know by now, President George W. "Huh?" Bush recently vetoed legislation authorizing stem cell research using donated embryos. For those who have been living under a rock, stem cells are thought by many to be one of the most promising new approaches to curing a whole lot of diseases. Which diseases, you ask? Hell, man, take your pick. They won't cure AIDS, but things like Alzheimers, paralysis, and other currently permanent physical damage may become treatable.

Bush's reasoning for this decision was, as you might guess, not rooted in economic or scientific concerns, but rather in his sense of morality.* As his veto message states:

Like all Americans, I believe our Nation must vigorously pursue the tremendous possibilities that science offers to cure disease and improve the lives of millions. Yet, as science brings us ever closer to unlocking the secrets of human biology, it also offers temptations to manipulate human life and violate human dignity. Our conscience and history as a Nation demand that we resist this temptation. With the right scientific techniques and the right policies, we can achieve scientific progress while living up to our ethical responsibilities.

One can only wonder, as the good people at Sore Thumbs do, about Bush's preferred plan for unused embryos. Of course, the President's moral stance here is either one of great personal conviction, or a bowing to pressure from particular special interest groups, given the broad public support for stem cell research. Indeed, if we didn't know any better, we might think that President Bush is a slave to particular narrow interests.

But then we'd see other reports. Reports about how some pregnancy resource centers that receive federal funding systematically mislead women about the risks of abortions, telling them that there is a high likelihood of severe depression or even cancer when such risks do not exist:

Care Net, an umbrella group for evangelical pregnancy centers across the country, instructs its affiliates to tell callers there is a possibility that abortion can lead to greater risk of breast cancer, according to Molly Ford, an official with the organization. She said there have been several studies that say it does, and several that say it doesn't.

"I know the report is wanting to say that it's conclusive, but it isn't," Ford said.


One pregnancy center told a congressional aide the risk of cancer after an abortion could be 80 percent higher, the report noted. Ford said she doubted a pregnancy center would go that far, but the Web site for a pregnancy center in Albuquerque says the risk for cancer after an abortion is 50 percent or greater.

In February 2003, a National Cancer Institute workshop concluded that having an abortion or miscarriage does not increase a woman's subsequent risk of developing breast cancer.

We might see similar reports that Bush-supported abstinence-only programs mislead teens about the realities of sex. Some of the lies are, indeed, fairly impressive:

Many American youngsters participating in federally funded abstinence-only programs have been taught over the past three years that abortion can lead to sterility and suicide, that half the gay male teenagers in the United States have tested positive for the AIDS virus, and that touching a person's genitals "can result in pregnancy," a congressional staff analysis has found.


The report concluded that two of the curricula were accurate but the 11 others, used by 69 organizations in 25 states, contain unproved claims, subjective conclusions or outright falsehoods regarding reproductive health, gender traits and when life begins. In some cases, Waxman said in an interview, the factual issues were limited to occasional misinterpretations of publicly available data; in others, the materials pervasively presented subjective opinions as scientific fact.

Among the misconceptions cited by Waxman's investigators:

• A 43-day-old fetus is a "thinking person."

• HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, can be spread via sweat and tears.

• Condoms fail to prevent HIV transmission as often as 31 percent of the time in heterosexual intercourse.

One curriculum, called "Me, My World, My Future," teaches that women who have an abortion "are more prone to suicide" and that as many as 10 percent of them become sterile. This contradicts the 2001 edition of a standard obstetrics textbook that says fertility is not affected by elective abortion, the Waxman report said.

This, of course, ignores that abstinence-only in many guises simply doesn't work.

We might even see reports about how Bush supports teaching the scientifically vacuous doctrine of Intelligent Design to school children.

So, we might see the news about Stem Cells and think that Bush is beholden only to a tiny radical minority but, when seen in context of his other positions, we know with little room for error that this is true.

If it wasn't clear before, it should be clear now: whether you are Republican or Democrat, unless you are part of that particular minority this president is not your president and no party will be your party so long as it marches to the beat of the same drum as President Bush.

* I personally find it ethically repugnant that someone would prevent research that might alleviate suffering for countless people to preserve a non-sentient mass of cells, but whatever.


Blogger TDEC said...

Hmm. I actually feel conflicted on the matter, and while I find the misinformation on sex and abortion repugnant, I would like to see stem cell research as a fully seperate issue.

Using frozen embryos for research should not be done lightly, much as abortion should not be done lightly. The kind of anti-anti-stem cell research arguments you give, tying Bush's point of view in with the broader spectrum of Christian right issues, do no help me. I already know all that, and well, Bush really isn't my president anyway.

In my mind, there are a lot of caveats where it concerns research using frozen embryos. How do you practically see this? Do you believe there should be governmental guidelines or should it be left up to the scientific community? If so, what should the guidelines be?

You see, personally, I don't trust the scientific medical community any further than I can kick them, and I strongly believe that if we allow this type of research the community should have some say in it. After all, in medical research the step from "benevolent" non-profit research to pharmaceutical-giant-monopoly is a very small one.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006 12:45:00 PM  

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