The candidates on stem cell research

That article in “Nature” we linked to yesterday, based on a questionnaire on the candidates’ views about scientific issues, also gives their positions on stem cell research. Here Obama explains why he still believes in harvesting unwanted unborn children for their stem cells even though new techniques are making it no longer necessary, something McCain recognizes:

Would you lift President Bush’s ban on federal funding for research on human embryonic stem-cell lines derived after 9 August 2001? Under what conditions do you find it acceptable to create a human embryonic stem-cell line?

Obama: Stem-cell research holds the promise of improving our lives in at least three ways — by substituting normal cells for damaged cells to treat diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, spinal-cord injury, heart failure and other disorders; by providing scientists with safe and convenient models of disease for drug development; and by helping to understand fundamental aspects of normal development and cell dysfunction.

For these reasons, I strongly support expanding research on stem cells. I believe that the restrictions that President Bush has placed on the funding of human embryonic stem-cell research have handcuffed our scientists and hindered our ability to compete with other nations. As president, I will lift the current administration’s ban on federal funding of research on embryonic stem-cell lines created after 9 August 2001 through executive order, and I will ensure that all research on stem cells is conducted ethically and with rigorous oversight.

I recognize that some people object to government support of research that requires cells to be harvested from human embryos. However, hundreds of thousands of embryos stored in the United States in in vitro fertilization clinics will not be used for reproductive purposes, and will eventually be destroyed. I believe that it is ethical to use these extra embryos for research that could save lives when they are freely donated for that express purpose.

I am also aware that there have been suggestions that human stem cells of various types, derived from sources other than embryos, make the use of embryonic stem cells unnecessary. I don’t agree. While adult stem cells, such as those harvested from blood or bone marrow, are already used for treatment of some diseases, they do not have the versatility of embryonic stem cells and cannot replace them. Recent discoveries indicate that adult skin cells can be reprogrammed to behave like stem cells; these are exciting findings that might in the future lead to an alternate source of highly versatile stem cells. However, embryonic stem cells remain the ‘gold standard’, and studies of all types of stem cells should continue in parallel for the foreseeable future.

Rather than restrict the funding of such research, I favour responsible oversight of it, in accordance with recent reports from the National Research Council (NRC). Recommendations from the NRC reports are already being followed by institutions that conduct human embryonic stem-cell research with funds from a variety of sources. An expanded, federally supported stem-cell research programme will encourage talented US scientists to engage in this important new field, will allow more effective oversight, and will signal to other countries our commitment to compete in this exciting area of medical research.

McCain’s stance on embryonic stem-cell research has been the subject of much speculation among researchers. He has voted twice before to lift President Bush’s funding restrictions on such work, but his running mate Sarah Palin opposes the work. His public position is perhaps best summarized in his response to questionnaires from advocacy groups such as Research!America last year and ScienceDebate2008 this year: “While I support federal funding for embryonic stem-cell research, I believe clear lines should be drawn that reflect a refusal to sacrifice moral values and ethical principles for the sake of scientific progress. Moreover, I believe that recent scientific breakthroughs raise the hope that one day this debate will be rendered academic. I also support funding for other research programmes, including amniotic fluid and adult stem-cell research which hold much scientific promise and do not involve the use of embryos. I oppose the intentional creation of human embryos for research purposes and I voted to ban the practice of ‘fetal farming’, making it a federal crime for researchers to use cells or fetal tissue from an embryo created for research purposes.”

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  • FW

    disagree with obama. but there is no doubt that he has a firm grasp of the issues.

    the same cannot be said for potential future president palin. does she really have a grasp of ANY issue?

  • Obama does not have a firm grasp on the issue unless he is intentional ignoring salient points. In regards to adult stem cells he says, “… they do not have the versatility of embryonic stem cells and cannot replace them.” Time has this article on turning skin cells into pluripotent cells. If pluripotency can be achieved with adult stem cells then why the need for embryonic stem cells?

    Does Obama understand how many human eggs are needed for SCNT research let alone the implementation of the cures? Maybe he has a budget line to pay wormen for their eggs.

  • Anon

    Obama is even zealously in favor of infanticide by exposure. He ‘reason’ was that he feared that banning infanticide might lead to restricting murdering babies in the womb. And he regards babies as ‘punishments’. It is almost as if he believes that the only good baby is a dead baby.

    Palin appears to have a pretty firm grasp on the issues, from what she’s said and done.

    I don’t know what we will learn from the debate tomorrow, as the moderator has written a book praising Obama called “The Age of Obama” to be released on inauguration day. She stands to make a lot of money if Obama wins, and none if he loses. This is not remotely shaping up to be a fair debate.

    It is much better at any rate to use autosomal stem cells, as there is then no need to take immunosuppressant drugs and all the dangers associated with them, for the rest of the life of the person receiving the stem cells.

  • Peter Leavitt

    Gov.Palin well understands that the destruction of human embryos is wrong and that the recent development of pluripotent stem cells from skin cells allows stem cell cell research without destroying embryos.

    Sen. Obama has made his position on the destruction of human infants born alive in abortions and embryos abundantly clear.

    Sen.Obama may imprss with his frothy and gaseous rhetoric, though he has no wiggle room on the issue of the destruction of human life.

  • Peter, any reason you are only comparing (@4) Palin to Obama, and not, say, McCain to Obama? Are you going to write in Palin when you vote in November?

  • heather

    The problem that I have seen with McCain is that he is not against all forms of embryonic stem cell research, yet he muddles the issue. He is clearly and consistently against ESCR that uses cloned human embryos or the creation of embryos for the research. But he is NOT against ESCR that uses discarded embryos from fertility clinics.

    His line about doing ethical research is all well and good, but it is not consistent with his past statements and his voting history, in which he voted for the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Acts of 2005, 2006 (to override President Bush’s veto), and 2007, all of which President Bush vetoed, but President McCain or President Obama will not.

    Additionally, in 1997, he sponsored a bill authorizing federal funding into research on Parkinson’s Disease. Senator Dan Coates proposed an amendment which would prevent the use of federal funds for any experimentation using human tissue taken from aborted babies. McCain opposed this amendment, and the amendment failed. The bill passed.

    He has been in favor of ESCR (using discarded embryos from fertility clinics) since 2001. Here is a quote from an article in

    “But on July 15, 2001, McCain went on “Meet the Press” and told Tim Russert that he had flip-flopped on the issue.


    ‘I’ve looked at the issue more carefully,” McCain said. “I have talked with numerous scientific experts. I believe that under stringent safeguards and under the most rigorous kinds of procedures, that this can help in finding the cure for Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and other serious diseases. I had supported, in the past, fetal tissue research, and this is an earlier stage, as you know, of the process. So, I think it’s an issue that I was educated on.'”

    Not that anyone here is doing this, but I think we need to be careful in painting Senator McCain as our ideal pro-life candidate. He is a lot better than Senator Obama, but still he does not have a 100% pro-life record.

  • FW

    the problem I am having here is that no candidate here, if elected, will have any power at all to change anything at all with respect to the number of abortions that are going to occur in the usa in the next 8 years.

    much less the vp candidate.


    If the ONLY argument centered around this is a hope for more supreme court appointments by someone who would overturn roe vs wade…. then this seems to me to be a rather narrow criterion upon which to vote, especially considering that there are other things a president is responsible for that are far from trivial….

    I am surely missing something here.

    Obama does have a firm grasp of the issues being a former professor of constitutional law. He is unfortunately dead wrong in his opinion on when human life begins. I do believe that he is very good in his understanding of the proper role of courts and congress and the executive branch here. He will support the Rule of Law and in this respect is cautious and conservative. we could do far worse than to have a president who, while holding a false premise, has a conservative respect for the rule of law and due process.

    Obama will not roll the clock back. True. Nor will he work for radical change. He will most probably support the current status quo along the same lines as bush senior or gerald ford.

    I think liberals will be somewhat disappointed and conservatives surprised at what would happen and not happen in an obama presidency. He is pretty mainstream. That is not all good news of course, speaking as a christian, but then, it is not all bad news either….

  • Michael the little boot

    Totally off-subject, but there’s nowhere else to ask: anyone see Bill Maher on the Daily Show Tuesday night? He mentioned that one big difference between the time when the Bible was written and now is WE KNOW GERMS EXIST. Interesting, since it has been said here that he doesn’t even believe in germs…

    (Sorry, Dr. Veith. I would’ve simply emailed you about it if I knew where to find your address!)

  • Anon

    fw, most of us don’t consider the *brutal* murder of 50 million babies in this country, and the proposed murder without any restriction of millions more babies, infants, and the injured, to be “narrow”

    Is it because you have chosen sterility over life that you don’t comprehend the horror?

  • FW

    #10 anon

    I DO believe that abortion is murder. and of the most heinous kind, murder of the helpless, powerless and voiceless.

    Lest you think Palin, as president, would further our joint cause to go as far as possible in eliminating abortions, please consider this Palin interview on SCOTUS and states rights and the “right to privacy” that was invoked as the basis to roe v wade.

    It does appear that Palin, although sincerely antiabortion personally , without dispute, also supports the legal reasoning that gave us roe v wade…

    correct me if I have missed something here.

    by the way anon. your personal attacks aimed at me are beneath your dignity brother.

  • WebMonk

    fw, there’s a definite difference between supporting the right to privacy and supporting the SCOTUS manipulation of Due Process and Privacy that built the RvW decision.

    Nothing in her statements comes even close to supporting Privacy in the way the SCOTUS abused it.

    She doesn’t have much to do with appointing justices, aside from being the head of the Senate and voting in case of ties. (those aren’t inconsiderable powers, but neither are they government-shaking powers) She would have influence in other ways, and those ways aren’t inconsiderable.

    SCOTUS decisions are a big, obvious target in stopping abortion, and so that tends to dominate many discussions, but there are myriads of other ways in which a pro-life (at least insofar as abortion goes) president and VP can work against abortions. Don’t discount those other ways.

  • WebMonk (@12), of course you are right, but Palin was asked about “privacy” in the explicit context of Roe v. Wade, and she gave a simple message of support of “privacy”. You might expect a few more caveats from someone opposed to abortion, or else you might conclude she was unaware of the underpinnings of that (horrible) decision.

    “She doesn’t have much to do with appointing justices”. God willing, yes. But when you are the VP of a 72-year-old President who has had several bouts with a malicious cancer, it’s not merely academic to consider that she may take on more duties than breaking ties in the Senate.

  • Don S

    tODD @ 13: I’ll take my chances with Palin’s judicial appointments, relative to Obama’s, who we know understands the underpinnings of that horrible decision and still supports it.

  • Sam

    Don, Palin will have no judicial appointments.
    Frankly, few groups follow the Supreme Court as closely as pro-lifers. Many are are well acquainted with the substance of several recent Court opinions, even if they understandably may not recall the case names. For that reason, I was surprised that Palin, an allegedly avid pro-life office holder, could not discuss these cases with Couric.

    As for McCain, here’s the key part of his lengthy answer, “…I support federal funding for embryonic stem-cell research …”

  • Anon

    I disagree with the notion that the “snowflakes” are unwanted.

  • Anon

    That wasn’t a personal attack, fw, it was a statement of fact. And I’m not your brother, as you have turned your back upon your baptism with your choice to openly, blatantly, willfully and continually rebel against God and encourage others who are doing so, and trying to lead God’s little ones astray.

    THAT is good, solid Lutheran doctrine.

  • Anon

    And now for the Gospel side: if you unfeignedly repent, FW, your sins will be removed from you as far as the east is from the west, though your sins are red as scarlet, you will be made as white as snow: God is eager to forgive you and restore you as soon as you repent!

  • FW


    I repent of my sins daily. They are many. And even my repentance is full of sin and error anon. I would in fact be condemned justly temporally and eternally for my sinful failure to repent as I should.

    I will pin my hope of salvation therefore on what Jesus did for me on the cross.

    Since you do not know me, and I only know you as Anon, what sin or sins exactly and specifically do you feel that I need to repent of that I have not yet repented of anon?

    Yes I am a homosexual. Ok, what specifically about that fact is something that I need to repent of “unfeignedly”?

    I sin daily against God in thought, word and deed, and deserve temporal and eternal punishment for those sins. I also, following Dr Martin Luther´s good advice confess to ALL sins known and unknown in my prayers and in the general confession at the beginning of the divine service. In private confession I confess those sins only that i know and feel in my heart.


    I assume that you and me are in the same boat here Anon? Correct me if I am wrong here.

    Which particular thoughts words and deeds are ones that you are exhorting me to repent of that you know that I have NOT repented of? Feel most free to accuse or even attack me on my particular sins, but then be at least just a little useful by pointing out specifically and accurately exactly what those sins are ok?

  • FW

    #18 anon

    am I hearing you say that sins that have not been specifically repented of are not forgiven?

    I have heard lutherans say something similar so you are not alone if this is what you believe. They say that suicide is unforgivable because there is not a chance to repent of that sin by the person who commits suicide.

    This thinking, I believe was also the reason for the sacrament of extreme unction in the roman church along with purgatory. It also seems to be shared by many in evangelical/penticostal circles as well.

    This is a theology straight from satan and hell.

    I assume therefore that you do not believe it, and that instead you believe what the Lutheran Confessions say about the relation of repentance to faith.

  • Anon

    I very clearly wrote sins which are not only unrepented of, but are willfully engaged in, in rebellion against God, and encouraging others to do the same, and trying to get people to approve of those sins.

    Not some sin someone happened to forget.

    You radically misrepresent what I wrote.

  • Don S

    Sam @15: Please read tODD’s post, which I was replying to, carefully. It was discussing the distinct possibility, in tODD’s opinion, that Palin would become president during McCain’s term, and thus be in a position to make judicial appointments. My response was to him. If you are going to jump into a thread with “‘gotcha” comments, please be sure you are right.