Pro-lifers, we have hope!

Pro-lifers, we have hope! July 31, 2008

I have been especially hard on Sen. John McCain for his pro-death stance on embryonic stem cell research, and I will continue to be until he changes. But does he now have a reason to change his mind (and heart)? Time magazine features potential scientific breakthroughs in reprogramming adult stem cells. Here’s an excerpt:

After nearly a decade of setbacks and false starts, stem-cell science finally seems to be hitting its stride. Just a year after Japanese scientists first reported that they had generated stem cells by reprogramming adult skin cells — without using embryos — American researchers have managed to use that groundbreaking technique to achieve another scientific milestone. They created the first nerve cells from reprogrammed stem cells — an important demonstration of the potential power of stem-cell-based treatments to cure disease.

Led by Kevin Eggan at the Harvard Stem Cell Institute and Christopher Henderson at Columbia University, the 13-person team reported online today in Science Express that they had generated motor neurons from the skin cells of two elderly patients with a rare form of ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease, a progressive neurodegenerative condition. The new study marks an important first step on the road toward real stem-cell-based therapies, and also answers several plaguing questions about the pioneering stem-cell technique known as induced pluripotent stem cell, or iPS, generation.

Aside from a few understandable reservations on the part of researchers, which could be resolved in a matter of months, this could give John McCain a reason to change his mind on embryonic stem cell research. Remember his words in Florida during a primary campaign speech:

A woman asked McCain at his West Palm Beach town hall if he will change his position to oppose federal funding for embryonic stem cells research in light of new developments. McCain said he’s very encouraged “by the information you just relayed and I agree it has tremendous potential to eliminate an issue which has divided our pro-life community and eliminate the need for embryonic stem cell research. We’re not there yet. According to a growing body of scientific opinion, we are approaching it. I look forward to that day. I’m not changing my position yet, but I am encouraged by the progress that has been made.

Will John McCain convert to a pro-life position on ESCR? If so, perhaps his position on abortion, which is suspect to any real pro-lifer, will also shift. I have stated before that the abortion debate now hinges on ESCR, not Roe v. Wade. If a president were to sign a congressional bill to federally fund ESCR, then the abortion battle, I believe, will be all but lost. Let us pray that McCain (and even Barack Obama, for that matter), will change his mind on ESCR now that the scientific breakthroughs in adult stem cell research can no longer remain hidden from public view.

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