The passing of President Reagan has driven the debate over stem cell research to the forefront of national attention. Scarcely had America heard the news of President Reagan’s passing when proponents of embryonic stem cell research launched an all-out media blitz capitalizing on the President’s struggle with Alzheimer’s as reason to support fetal farming.
But consider the myth, for that is what it is. “ ‘To start with, people need a fairy tale,’ said Ronald D.G. McKay, a stem cell researcher at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. ‘Maybe that’s unfair, but they need a story line that’s relatively simple.’ ”(1)
Mr. McKay was referring to the “story line” that embryonic stem cell therapies might be used to treat Alzheimer’s. In fact, it has now come to light that researchers have known for some time that such therapies show little promise for Alzheimer’s. Nothing demonstrates the insight of Mr. McKay’s statement like the California Stem Cell Research and Cures Act (the initiative). The cumbersome 26-page initiative has now qualified for the ballot based on the fairy tale that embryonic stem cell research is a panacea for every disease imaginable. Ask the average citizen what is in the initiative and he/she will not be able to answer the question, yet over 670,000 of these average citizens qualified the initiative with their signatures. Come November, California voters will make the final decision as to whether or not embryonic stem cell research will be a constitutional right in California. (2)
The text of the initiative pays only lip-service to adult stem cell research, which has proven to be more promising and less controversial that using stem cells from human embryos. Under the terms of the initiative, priority will be given to stem cell research and studies not likely to receive federal funding. (3) Since the initiative language authorizes “human somatic cell nuclear transfer” (SCNT), (not funded by the federal government), funding of adult stem cell research (permitted by the federal government) will take a back seat. (4) This not only explains the reason proponents need this initiative to pass—funding for their cure-all elixir; it also explains why the initiative contains a bond measure (5), which over a 10-year period will result in 3 billion dollars in bonds. Moreover, the tax-payer funded fetal farming created by the initiative will lead to human cloning. That is because SCNT is one method of human cloning. (6)
Consider what William P. Clark, a member of Life Legal’s Advisory Board and formerly National Security Adviser and Secretary of the Interior under President Ronald Reagan wrote in a recent op-ed piece in the New York Times: Mr. Reagan’s suffering under Alzheimer’s disease was tragic, and we should do everything we can that is ethically proper to help others afflicted with it. But I have no doubt that he [President Reagan] would have urged our nation to look to adult stem cell research—which has yielded many clinical successes—and away from the destruction of developing human lives, which has yielded none. Those who would trade on Ronald Reagan’s legacy should first consider his own words. (7)
What were those words? “We cannot diminish the value of one category of human life—the unborn—without diminishing the value of all human life.” President Reagan wrote these words in the Human Life Review in 1983, in an essay titled “Abortion and the Conscience of a Nation.” (8)
Proponents of the stem cell initiative are dangling another carrot in front of the voters. To take some of the sting from the three billion dollar cost, they are claiming that the measure will benefit California’s economy and the debt-ridden budget by creating jobs and finding cures that will result in tax revenues to the state. However, if cloning and embryonic stem cell research in fact showed any promise, private investors’ money would be flowing into it freely. A May 28 article in the Wall Street Journal reported that, in the past 25 years, investors have poured about $100 billion into biotechnology companies, despite the fact that not one has yet paid a regular dividend.
While the occasional investment has paid off in a big way, the overall record of biotech companies is year after year of multibillion dollar losses. If, in spite of the eternal optimism of biotech investors, cloning and embryonic stem cell research remains underfunded, it can only be because investors recognize it as the “fairy tale” it is.
Defeating the initiative seems like an insurmountable task, especially in light of the “bumper sticker mentality” with which stem cell researchers like Mr.McKay have used to confuse the voters.The challenge is for all of us to work to defeat the initiative by educating others about its misleading, panacean content, rather than leaving the task of defeating it to others. Remember still more wisdom from President Reagan as he wrote about the problems he faced each day as Governor of California:
I had an uncontrollable urge to turn and look over my shoulder for someone I could pass the problem to.
Suddenly one day it came to me that I was looking in the wrong direction. I looked up instead of back. I’m still looking up. I couldn’t face one day in this office if I didn’t know I could ask God’s help and it would be given. (9)
Let’s look up and take the initiative down! Many people do not understand what is included (and at stake) in this initiative, on the ballot in November, 2004. Please circulate this link. The contents of the article may be reproduced.
[President Reagan’s essay, “Abortion and the Conscience of the Nation” (Human Life Review [Spring 1983]) is very well worth reading or re-reading. It has been reproduced in its entirety on National Review Online (6/10/2004 [http://www.nationalreview.com/document/reagan200406101030. asp]).]
1. Washington Post, June 10, 2004, Stem Cells An Unlikely Therapy for Alzheimer’s, Rick Weiss, Staff Writer.
2. California Stem Cell Research and Cures Act, hereafter Initiative, (http://www.curesforcalifornia.com/site/PageServer?pagename=facts_initiative), Section 4. The full text of the initiative is available at http://www.curesforcalifornia.com.
3. Initiative, Section 3.
4. Initiative, Section 4, subsection 5.
5. Initiative, Section 5.
6. California Stem Cell Research and Cures Act Fact Sheet (http://www.thecbc.org/pdfs/CBC_Fact_Sheet.pdf [Center for Bioethics and Culture]).
7. New York Times, June 11, 2004, William P. Clark, Contributing writer, op-ed article.
8. Quoting William P. Clark, id. For the full text of the op-ed article see http://www.nytimes.com/2004/06/11/opinion/11CLAR.html?ex=1087961457&ei=1&en=4f878ca520e42e09
9. Dear Americans: Letters from the Desk of Ronald Reagan, (New York: Doubleday, 2003), p. 119.