Over at the Weekly Standard our former colleague Ryan T. Anderson shows how Obama’s recent decision on stem cells is a bad move politically, ethically, and scientifically. He gives a thorough case for why embryo-destructive research is not only unnecessary and more expensive, but less likely to succeed than non-destructive techniques. Furthermore,
induced pluripotent stem cells are patient specific. As anyone familiar with organ transplants knows, immune rejection is a major hurdle to any form of regenerative medicine. Induced pluripotent stem cells clear this hurdle because they can be created using the patient’s own skin cells; thus they will have his exact DNA sequence and will not be prone to immune rejection. For embryonic stem cells to do the equivalent, they would have to be created from an embryo produced by human cloning. Clearly, then, Bush’s critics were being disingenuous when they claimed to want only the IVF “spares”—embryos that “were going to die anyway.” While those might have been the first cells needed for basic research, any therapeutic uses would require patient-specific cells, attainable only by cloning. That would open up ethical debates over human cloning and killing—and debates about the ethics and safety of encouraging (or paying) women to subject themselves to hormonal stimulation to produce eggs for use in the cloning process. Using induced pluripotent stem cells avoids all of these problems.
It is, therefore, critically important to note what Obama did not say this morning. He promised that he would make sure that “our government never opens the door to the use of cloning for human reproduction.” He went on to add that “it is dangerous, profoundly wrong, and has no place in our society, or any society.” This is certainly correct. But in pledging only to prevent reproductive cloning, Obama intentionally left the door open for research cloning. The cloning procedure involved, of course, is exactly the same in reproductive and research cloning; the only difference is that in research cloning the developing human is killed before being allowed to be born. Given what we know about the necessity of cloning for the medicinal use of embryonic stem cells, Obama’s implicit support for research cloning and killing is unconscionable.
Anderson ends the piece by noting that supporting an unnecessary, controversial procedure does not represent the political bipartisanship Obama promised. I’d quote more, but the whole thing is worth reading.