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Thursday, April 11, 2002

The Clone Arraigner?-Well, I decided to get one more post in before heading south. We’re having a perfect mid-April day; sunny and in the 60s. Why now? Why couldn’t I go when there was a foot of snow on the ground and I could brag to the people trudging behind their snow-blowers? However, duty calls in the form of the cloning ban that President Bush is plugging for. I think it might pass, especially if the attendees are indicative of what coalitions might form in Congress. Veritas has supurb (I was going to say “killer”, but that wouldn’t work with this topic) coverage of this topic that led me to sneak in this last post. Mary Landreau, a Louisiana Democrat, is a co-sponsor. That might get her a few percent in a tight reelection fight. She won by the skin of her teeth (and some likely electoral chicanery) six years ago and will need all the help she can get. I saw Bart Stupak’s name mentioned by Dubya in his introductory remarks. He’s a Yooper (Michigan’s Upper Peninsula) Democrat in a rural district that should trend Republican someday. Those rural and southern Democrats will be candidates to pry loose and build a coalition that can get past a Democratic-led filibuster. However, some of the Republicans (and possible Democratic allies) could be pulled loose by the backers of therapeutic cloning by pointing out the medical benefits that can be had from this research. For instance, centrist pundit Mort Kondracke, who’d likely be a swing vote on this issue, is a backer of stem-cell research due to his wife having Parkinson’s. Members of Congress could be easily swayed by this promise of new therapies coming out of the research. There are two key points I’ll bring up in trying to shoot down cloning research. The first is that an embryo is a thing of value, an embryonic human being. As the President put it, "Life is a creation, not a commodity." While the median voter isn’t quite ready to declare it a human, they also aren’t ready to call it just a blob of protoplasm. A small number of embryos would be sacrificed to do research to see if embryonic stem cell would be helpful in creating therapies for Parkinson’s or diabetes or spinal injuries (thus the presence of Joni Erickson Tada, a noted paraplegic evangelist, at Dubya’s press conference), but the embryos would have to be “harvested” wholesale if the therapies were proved successful. Is the swing voter prepared for that level of life-taking? The second is that the success of adult stem cells has been underreported in the media at large. Many of the early studies of embryonic stem cells point out that these cells are (as I understand it) too active. Stem cells have the ability to become any cell that’s needed, but the embryonic cells tend to grow too much or in unintended ways. Many of the successes that may be a decade away with embryonic stem cells are years away with adult cells, and you don’t have to kill (we kill bacteria, so I can use the word unpejoratively) an embryo in the process. Educating the swing voter that’s not in the pro-life camp of this is the key to getting a bill passed. Seeing moderate Democrats on board points out that it is winnable.

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