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The two major presidential candidates have similar positions on embryonic stem-cell research, but John McCain opposes human cloning.
BY Nicole Ficere CallahanREGISTER CORRESPONDENT
— In the final presidential debate, John McCain reaffirmed his support for
federal funding of embryonic stem-cell research. In the final weeks leading up
to the election, both campaigns released radio ads supporting stem-cell
McCain and Barack Obama differ on issues such as cloning.
did oppose embryonic stem-cell research as late as February 2000, when he,
along with 19 other senators, asked the National Institutes of Health to
reconsider their proposed funding for embryonic stem-cell research.
he later reversed his position, and in 2004, he was one of 14 congressional
Republicans who sent a letter to President Bush asking him to reverse his
policy withholding federal funding from research on embryonic stem-cell lines
created after Aug. 9, 2001.
to a statement published on his website, “Addressing the Moral Concerns of
Advanced Technology,” McCain believes that stem-cell research “offers
tremendous hope for those suffering from a variety of deadly diseases — hope
for both cures and life-extending treatments.”
This past summer, during a presidential forum at Rick
Warren’s Saddleback Church in California, McCain said he was optimistic that
promising research in adult stem-cell research might make the debate over embryonic
stem cells irrelevant.
such options are surging ahead. A team of Wisconsin researchers said recently
that more than 800 labs have begun using an approach they discovered last year:
genetically reprogramming adult skin cells to act like stem cells. Part of that
team is James Thomson, the University of Wisconsin researcher who first
discovered embryonic stem cells in 1998.
on his website, similarly champions embryonic stem-cell research, heralding its
potential to provide “new insights into human development and disease” and
promising to advance “this important new field” if elected.
Obama campaign ad in September claimed that McCain “has stood in the way. He’s
opposed stem-cell research ... John McCain doesn’t understand that medical
research benefiting millions shouldn’t be held hostage by the political views
of a few.”
a Sept. 24 interview with the scientific journal Nature, Obama
pledged to lift the Bush administration’s policy by executive order, allowing
federal funding for research on embryonic stem-cell lines.
has made no such promise, although he has criticized the Bush policy. In 2006
and 2007, both senators voted for legislation that would have lifted the
of embryonic stem-cell research are hopeful that either candidate would lift
Bush’s funding restrictions. “We hope that either [Obama or McCain] will put
science and medicine ahead of politics and lift the current virtual ban on
federally funded embryonic stem-cell research,” said B.D. Colen, spokesman for
the Harvard Stem Cell Institute. “Despite advances in other areas, there is
general agreement here that it is essential to continue embryonic stem-cell research.”
the candidates have both expressed the belief that “surplus” frozen embryos
from in vitro fertilization clinics should be made available for
federally funded research, McCain and Obama diverge on the issue of so-called
“therapeutic cloning,” also known as somatic cell nuclear transfer. McCain is a
co-sponsor of the human cloning ban introduced by Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan.,
for which the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has voiced its support.
opposes, and Obama supports, legislation to authorize and fund the creation of
human embryos by cloning for purposes of research and the production of
stem-cell lines,” said Robert George, McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence at
Princeton University and member of the President’s Council on
Bioethics. “If this legislation passes, the number of embryos created and
destroyed using taxpayer money would be massive.”
Nicole Ficere Callahan is based
in Durham, North