I first published this a year ago, but with the 2012 election coming up, I think it is even more relevant today.
In the debate over funding for embryonic stem cell research, it is usually assumed that Democrats are in favor of embryonic stem cell research and that Republicans are opposed. But recent polls suggest that amongst the U.S. population as a whole, most political and religious groups are widely in favor of embryonic stem cell research.
So why the perception that Republicans are against ES cell research? Why the assumption that a Republican-controlled House in the coming year will not be supportive of such research?
It all boils down to the politicians themselves, not Republicans more generally. Many Republican politicians apparently feel they must take a hard-line stance against ES cell research or risk being attacked by extreme right-wing groups such as the Tea Party. In private, I would bet that most Republican politicians are actually in favor of ES cell research. Therefore you have to applaud the Republicans who openly support this critical area of research.
So here are 4 talking points for Republicans to use to resist intimidation by extremist groups and instead support ES cell research. You can also send these to your own representative if they happen to be a Republican.
1) ES cells have nothing to do with abortion. ES cell lines are derived from days-old embryos (that only have a few dozen cells) left over from in vitro fertilization procedures that are done to help infertile couples become parents. ES cell lines do not come from aborted embryos or fetuses.
2) ES cell research may help you or someone you love. ES cell research is conducted with the purpose of treating patients suffering from many of the most common diseases. These diseases affect millions of Americans. These diseases are nonpolitical, nondenominational inducers of pain, suffering, and death. There’s a good chance that any given politician will himself or herself or have family members affected by these diseases.
3) There are millions of Americans who cannot be helped by adult stem cell research, but for which ES cell research holds promise. Adult stem cell research is important and has come a long way, but there are certain diseases for which embryonic stem cell research is far more promising. ES cells are needed to form tissues, something that in most cases adult stem cells cannot do.
4) IPS cell research does not make ES cell research ‘obsolete’ as some extremists love to say. While IPS cell research is very exciting and holds promise, it is years behind ES cell research and we do not know if IPS cells can be used safely.