Friday September 19, 2008

McCain, Obama Defend Embryonic Stem Cell Research

McCain’s support more qualified, expressed concern about violation of “ethical principles”

By Kathleen Gilbert

WASHINGTON, D.C., September 19, 2008 ( – In a Monday interview with Science Debate 2008, presidential nominees John McCain and Barack Obama reiterated their individual positions on the embryonic stem cell (ESC) research debate, with both candidates again stating that they support ESC research.

In the interview Barack Obama criticized Bush administration funding restrictions for “handcuffing” scientific progress, while Sen. McCain said that, while ESC is acceptable, moral and ethical values should not be violated by creating embryos specifically for stem cell harvesting. asked both candidates, “Stem cell research advocates say it may successfully lead to treatments for many chronic diseases and injuries, saving lives, but opponents argue that using embryos as a source for stem cells destroys human life. What is your position on government regulation and funding of stem cell research?”

Sen. Barack Obama responded by listing possible uses for embryonic stem cells in future medicine, and for these reasons said he strongly supports expanding research on embryonic stem cells. Obama also expressed concern that without federal funding for ESC research, America will fall behind on the international stage.

“I believe that the restrictions that President Bush has placed on funding of human embryonic stem cell research have handcuffed our scientists and hindered our ability to compete with other nations,” he said. As president, Obama guaranteed he would ensure all research on stem cells is conducted “ethically and with rigorous oversight.”

Addressing the objection that ESC research requires harvesting cells from and destroying innocent human life, Sen. Obama explained that “hundreds of thousands of embryos stored in the U.S. 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.”

Obama also said he disagreed with the mounting evidence that indicates stem cells from alternate sources continue to show more promise than embryonic stem cells. He argued that embryonic stem cells still have more “versatility” and remain the “gold standard.”

Senator McCain’s response was more qualified and seemingly reflected some consideration of meetings he has had recently with leading opponents of embryonic stem cell research. At the recent Catholic Leadership Conference in Charlotte, North Carolina, Dr. Jack Willke, former head of National Right to Life, revealed he has had two very recent meetings with McCain during which he presented much information on the subject to the Republican presidential candidate.

In his shorter response, McCain expressed his belief that embryonic stem cell research should receive federal funding. At the same time, he said, efforts should be made to ensure that such research does not violate “ethical principles.”

“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,” said McCain.

“Moreover, I believe that recent scientific breakthroughs raise the hope that one day this debate will be rendered academic,” he continued, citing other stem cell research that does not require the destruction 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,” said McCain. is a non-partisan group of scientists, engineers, and other professionals campaigning to bring scientific issues to American political dialogue and debate.

See also:
McCain Shifts His Position on Stem Cells…

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