By Kathleen Gilbert

WASHINGTON, D.C., September 10, 2008 ( – Democratic vice-presidential nominee Joe Biden has been accused of “sinking to a new low” by suggesting that critics of embryonic stem-cell (ESC) research have less compassion for developmentally disabled children.

During a campaign event in Columbia, Missouri, when asked what the Obama/Biden administration would do for disabled American children, Biden said, “I hear all this talk about how the Republicans are going to work in dealing with parents who have…the joy and the difficulty of raising a child who has a developmental disability, who were born with a birth defect. Well guess what folks? If you care about it, why don’t you support stem cell research?”

Since McCain has often spoken in favor of ESC research, many immediately perceived Biden’s comment as an attack against his Republican counterpart Sarah Palin.  Palin, a mother of five, including a child with Down Syndrome, expressed her solidarity with the disabled community during her acceptance speech at the recent GOP Convention, and openly opposes ESC research. 

The Democratic campaign, however, has denied that Biden was referring to Palin.  But the attack, says the Republican camp, was unduly personal no matter whom it was directed at.  “Barack Obama’s running mate sunk to a new low today launching an offensive debate over who cares more about special needs children,” said Ben Porritt, spokesman for McCain/Palin.  “Playing politics with this issue is disturbing and indicative of a desperate campaign.”

President of the Susan B. Anthony Marjorie Dannenfelser said she was appalled by Biden’s “caustic comments.”

“Senator Biden outrageously implied that Americans who refuse to sacrifice innocent human life in the name of unproven, desperate attempts to cure our nation’s ills through embryo-destructive research somehow don’t really care about children,” she said. 

“I am a mother of five children, one with a mental disability. The fact that Joe Biden questioned the compassion of parents like me – Governor Sarah Palin, among them – makes me sputter in disbelief.

“Compassion can never be built upon callous disregard for human life,” said Dannenfelser.  “I want to talk to him about compassion – and not the kind that leads to the gas chamber.”


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