Every reporter covering the election should, after the second presidential debate in St. Louis, be demanding of Kerry an answer to the following question: Who are the scientists who told you that "we have the option" of curing Parkinson's, diabetes, spinal-cord injuries, or any other disease using embryonic stem cells? If they won't ask him, the Bush campaign should defy him to name the names. He won't be able to do it. No scientists -- even those most pro-Kerry and aggressively in favor of the federal funding of embryo-destructive research -- ever told Kerry any such thing.
What Kerry has done here is told the big lie about embryonic stem cells. The claim that "we have the option" of curing Parkinson's disease, diabetes, etc. with embryonic stem cells is outrageous. No one knows when -- or even whether or not -- human embryonic stem cells will be therapeutically useful in treating any major disease or injury. There are profound -- perhaps insuperable -- problems with the therapeutic use of these cells. So, despite the fact that there is no federal ban on embryonic-stem-cell research, and that such research can be funded with state money and is being publicly funded in various places abroad, no embryonic-stem-cell-based therapy is even in clinical trials.
For months now, the Kerry campaign and its surrogates, such as Ron Reagan Jr., have cruelly led suffering people to believe that cures for their diseases are just around the corner. All we have to do is replace Bush with Kerry, open the federal funding spigot, and presto! The blind see and the lame walk! The Kerry campaign's hyping of embryo-destructive research for political gain is the cruelest and most shameful episode in the story of the 2004 election.
What Elizabeth Long (the woman who asked Kerry the stem-cell question) said is true: "Thousands of people have already been cured or treated by the use of adult stem cells or umbilical-cord stem cells. However, no one has been cured by using embryonic stem cells. Wouldn't it be wise to use stem cells obtained without the destruction of an embryo?
Kerry answered with a lie. A lie that will falsely inflate the hopes of countless people who would dearly love to believe that "we have the option" of curing them.
Robert P. George is McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence and director of the James Madison Program at Princeton University.
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