Press Release

RELEASE: Where Does McCain Stand on Stem Cells?

Hello all. I wanted to make sure you saw this op-ed in the Boston Globe from two CAPAF Senior Fellows on the GOP and stem cell research.

Given that Senator McCain’s position on stem cells differs from Governor Palin’s, and the GOP platform differs from both of them, it is a fair question to ask McCain – where does he truly stand on stem cell research? Jonathan Moreno and Rick Weiss are available to discuss this topic.

GOP: Close stem cell lab doors

STEM CELL research was one issue that many observers thought would fly under the radar in this year’s presidential election. Both candidates have expressed support for research on cell lines from frozen embryos already destined for destruction. Senator John McCain even joined with Senator Barack Obama in voting for legislation that would have loosened President Bush’s stem cell research restrictions. And until recently it appeared that the ultraconservative GOP base would give McCain a pass on the issue.

But American politics is nothing if not unpredictable. Just before completing its work two weeks ago, the Republican platform committee was persuaded to change this sentence: "We call for a ban on human cloning and a ban on the creation of and experimentation on human embryos for research purposes" to this sentence: "We call for a ban on human cloning and a ban on the creation of or experimentation on human embryos for research purposes." (Our emphases.)

In case it’s been a while since your last logic course, here’s how the first sentence translates: We call for a ban on human cloning, and creating human embryos for experimentation/research purposes. And here’s how the second sentence parses: We call for a ban on human cloning, and the creation of human embryos for research purposes, and experimentation on human embryos.

The last clause of the second sentence, adopted by the platform committee after an impassioned appeal by one delegate, goes beyond even Bush’s arbitrary and counterproductive current limits on federal funding. It would ban all embryonic stem cell research, period. The platform would also end embryonic stem cell research using private or state funds, again going much further than the Bush policy. It would even call into question research on infertility.

How did the Republicans get themselves into this box? An uncharitable explanation is that some of them, at least, didn’t understand the logical implications of the subtle word change. But some clearly did, and were none too pleased. "We should not be in the business of prohibiting therapeutic research," antiabortion activist James Bopp said during the platform committee’s meeting, in a failed attempt to prevent the switch from "and" to "or." Yet that is just what the committee did. In adopting the new language, the platform drafters succumbed to the farthest right of the party’s base. What the radicals couldn’t get from Bush’s arbitrary position on the stem cell issue, they got from the Republican Platform Committee.

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