“Pro-life” parents say stem cell veto’s a “vote breaker”

Bush's move: Bad for science -- and for the GOP?

Topics: Stem cells, Broadsheet, Love and Sex,

George W. Bush has just deployed his first-ever presidential veto to block legislation that would have expanded stem cell research — which, according to Reuters, is “championed by top scientists and desired by most Americans.”

As War Room’s Farhad Manjoo has observed, Bush’s position on stem cell research — it’s murder, except not — is pretty fuzzy math. This bill, essentially, would have allowed government funding for research using extra embryos created for in vitro fertilization (a procedure Bush supports) that are now frozen and slated for destruction. According to Bush spokesman Tony Snow, “the president is not going to get on the slippery slope of taking something that is living and making it dead for the purpose of research.”

“Apparently,” Manjoo suggests, “Bush would rather see embryos ‘die’ for no purpose at all.”

According to this month’s Mother Jones, at least 400,000 unused IVF embryos have accumulated in deep freezers. (Doctors fertilize more eggs than ultimately necessary in the complex process because not all are guaranteed to become viable embryos.) While many parents for whom IVF has succeeded agonize about what to do with their embryos — donate to an infertile couple? to science? let them … “lapse”? — those who’d like to go the science route usually find it blocked. According to a related Mother Jones article, Sean Tipton, spokesman for the American Society of Reproductive Medicine, told Mother Jones that he gets constant calls from parents asking how they can give their extra embryos a good scientific home. “It’s almost impossible,” he says. “I can only tell them to call their congressman and tell him to lift the ban. It’s frustrating. These people have gone through an incredible emotional and physical hardship, and they would very much like something good to come of it.”

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And remember, the kind of “research” we’re talking about is not, like, two nerds in a basement trying to create the perfect woman. We’re talking, as you know, Alzheimer’s, diabetes and much more. In fact, while Bush’s veto is bad for science, even for human “life,” it may well be a bad move for him and his party. Republicans, and not just Nancy Reagan, have already crossed the aisle to support expansion of stem cell research; even more important, according to Reuters, some would-be GOP supporters are calling opposition to stem cell research a “vote breaker” in this fall’s elections.

“I would give anything if I could have had those nine cells to give to have a cure for my baby now,” said one antiabortion mother who conceived with IVF, discarded the extra embryos and now has a daughter with diabetes. “And I think the worst sin of all, and I am a very religious person, I am pro-life, is to look a miracle from God in the face and throw it away.” According to Reuters, “she is ready to vote against the party in November if President George W. Bush and congressional Republicans limit stem cell research.” Let’s hope she, and many Americans like her, stay ready.

Award-winning journalist Lynn Harris is author of the comic novel "Death by Chick Lit" and co-creator of BreakupGirl.net. She also writes for the New York Times, Glamour, and many others.

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