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April 12, 2005


from today's Note:

Stem cell politics: "Stepping gingerly into a politically charged arena for the first time, some large companies in the U.S. are pursuing plans to study stem cells drawn from early-stage human embryos," Antonio Regalado writes in the Wall Street Journal.

"Big companies so far have been notably absent from the heated public debate over the scientific and moral implications of such research. But the recent moves show how the scientific — and commercial — appeal of embryonic stem-cell research is luring some companies into at least exploratory work. Their involvement could spur spending and help win wider acceptance for the research, but also could draw fire from religious groups and other opponents."

Further confirmation of my contention that the religious right, especially the "every sperm is sacred and must be used to knock up women who stay at home and don't hold jobs" element, have lost just about every major battle over the last 40 years. They're wiley, always coming up with rhetorical trickeries (like using he term cloning for stem-cell research), but in the long run, they almost always lose. And besides the overall movement--albeit slow and uneven--toward greater tolerance for diversity of opinion and life choices, they often lose for the reason you cite--there's either money to be had in whatever it is the wingers oppose, or whatever they want is opposed by the business interests who do have money.

Of course we have setbacks--like the marriage bans passed the last few years--but I'm hoping that 20 or 30 years from now those will look more like prohibition than a lasting restriction on progress toward greater social tolerance.

I could never understand why someone doesn't get a couple of petri dishes of frozen blastocysts and say, "In two weeks I'm flushing these down the toilet if there aren't enough christian women to have them implanted in their uteruses." This could keep the cult of life-ists busy and broke. Let them put their uteruses (or their wives' uteruses) where their mouths are.

Last week, the Missouri Senate shelved a bill that would have banned somatic cell nuclear transfer, or so-called therapeutic cloning. That process is opposed by many, including Governor Mitt Romney of Massachusetts, because they believe it involves creating a human life to destroy it.

Supporters of therapeutic cloning, which is used to harvest stem cells for research, argue that the egg cell used in the procedure is never fertilized and that it will not be implanted in a uterus, so human life is not being created.

Wait, unfertilized eggs are human lives now? That makes menstruation murder, which is an old saw. But what does that say about your story about the pharmacists who refuse to dispense birth control pills? Don't they prevent ovulation? Wouldn't that be considered a life saving measure under Romney's logic?

Logic? What's that got to do with Mitt Romney? Oh, and don't forget this line:

Roger Wilson, a former Missouri governor who now chairs the state Democratic Party, said that the groups opposed to abortion around the state have ample reason to be angry.

''They've been used like a crowbar for the past two decades in Missouri elections," he said.

''And," Wilson added, ''the Republican Party was willing to use them. I think they've just dropped that group on their head."

While the debate is largely settled in Massachusetts, where legislators have endorsed embryonic stem cell research over Romney's objections, Wilson said he expects the internal rancor on display among Missouri Republicans to play out in state capitals throughout the country.

''I think this will have a political effect in every state," he said. ''This will create the same . . . conflict in other states."

So Romney is an example to follow? If we're outcomes oriented, fine with me.

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