Last Tuesday, my home state of New Jersey, one of the more liberal states in the nation, rejected a ballot measure that would have provided $450 million for embryonic stem cell research. New Jersey Democrats and the local left-wing media blamed the referendum’s failure on the poor fiscal climate of the state, but that does not explain why another ballot measure, to allocate funds for the preservation of open space, succeeded. While many of these voters certainly rejected the stem cell proposal on ethical grounds, it is apparent that New Jersey voters became fed up with the phony arguments and bad science promoted by supporters of the research.

In 2004, then-Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.) declared that if he and Sen. John Kerry (D- Mass.) were elected to the Oval Office, “people like Christopher Reeve are going to walk, get up out of that wheelchair and walk again.” This was one of the most shameful acts of political pandering ever committed, and it would have been laughable if not for the fact that he exploited the hopes of many Americans suffering from diseases or disabilities for political gain. Unfortunately, the Democratic Party has been using these kinds of statements for years now to convince the public that Republicans are standing in the way of medical innovation and miraculous cures.

The fact is there has not been one breakthrough with embryonic stem cells that would indicate their exceptional medical potential. President Bush made funding available for existing stem cell lines in 2001, yet no progress has been made with them. Even more revealing is the lack of funding the research receives from drug companies and private medical organizations. They are not pouring their money into this research because they recognize the limited potential of embryonic stem cells.

What Democrats should be focusing on are the huge benefits of providing more support for the use of adult stem cells. There is absolutely no ethical controversy about the use of these cells because they do not require cloning or the destruction of human life. Additionally, they are extremely useful for growing various tissue and organs needed for certain treatments, if not as flexible as embryonic stem cells. My little cousin received a treatment for his lymphoma derived from adult stem cells that were acquired from his umbilical cord, and it proved to be very effective. Thanks to this procedure he is now healthy.

Earlier this year, Wake Forest University’s Anthony Atala discovered that amniotic fluid contains a high amount of stem cells with great medical capabilities. Again, these do not require the destruction of human embryos, but they provide scientists with a major source of stem cells that could be used for medical treatments.

It is a mystery to me why congressional Democrats insist on funding research on embryonic stem cells when there have been no real breakthroughs after decades of private research on them, while they ignore the immense progress and potential of less polarizing forms of stem cell research. What is of grave concern to many ethically-minded critics of stem cell research is that perhaps this irrational zeal for studying embryonic stem cells is that the goal moves beyond discovering useable therapies.

The problem with embryonic stem cells is their pluripotency. That is, they are so hardwired to replicate that when isolated for potential other uses, they rapidly replicate into tumors.

Their growth is not controllable in a lab. The growth however, can be controlled by nature, through the gestation process. So, the fear is that these stem cells are harvested and manipulated for the desired outcome, and then re-introduced into an embryo that will be developed in the womb until the desired organ cell is ready to be harvested. Welcome to the brave new world of cloning, fetal farming, and the nearly insatiable need for the healthy eggs and wombs of females to develop this organ and stem cell factory. While Congress has pre-empted this by banning the implantation of an embryo in a uterus for anything other than a live birth, it is fairly understood that if this restriction stood between the sick or disabled and a cure, some states would try to dismantle or circumvent it.

The Democrats are using embryonic stem cell research as a political wedge issue and endangering scientific progress by funding it at the expense of more ethical stem cell research. It is time that Democratic leaders in Congress and in statehouses put science before ideology and politics by compromising on stem cell research.

If New Jersey voters can recognize this, anybody can.

Stephen Kenny is a senior in the College. He can be reached at AGAINST THE WIND appears every other Tuesday.

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