As a pro-choice Democratic leader, the notion of Sandra Day O'Connor leaving the Court hits me right at the gut level.  But, as we think about these issues we must look as Kos would say -- at the values that they stem from. For me, the values of privacy and opportunity are critically at risk with this announcement and the pending appointment.

The value of equal opportunity with the specific application to health care makes me extremely concerned.  I am worried about the future of stem cell research.  Earlier this week I wrote a piece on my personal thoughts about the stem cell debate. Unfortunately, there are so many issues where a change on the court could be an earthquake of major proportions.

Along with so many others, I have been following the stem cell debate with tremendous personal interest. In 1982, my mother began showing signs of a neuro-muscular disorder. Because she had been my father's primary caregiver for three years, we had underestimated her complaints of difficulty walking and stiffness as the result of long, hard days. Unfortunately, we were wrong.

One day, when I noticed that my mother's beautiful penmanship was deteriorating, I called my older brother and told him that we needed to get her to the doctor. Her expressive handwriting had been one of her trademarks. I knew immediately that we were in trouble.

After receiving a diagnosis of Parkinson's Disease and prescriptions of ineffective medications, we were told by a second neurologist that within five years, we should expect my mother to become severely disabled. We should expect a regular deterioration with no hope for reversal.

Unfortunately, this diagnosis came true. At the age of 67, my mother moved into a nursing facility where she lived for the rest of her life. In the beginning, equipped with an electric wheelchair, she was able to maneuver unassisted throughout her facility. However, over time, she was unable to transfer unassisted from her bed to her wheelchair. Eventually, she could not turn pages in a book. Near the end of her life, nurses required a mechanical lift to support her during transfers.

Today, 12 years after her death, there is new hope for finding a way to make lives better for the more than 100 million Americans that are dealing with medical problems such as Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's, juvenile diabetes, Lou Gehrig's disease, spinal cord injuries, cancer, cardiovascular disease, autoimmune diseases and allergies. There is a way to provide more hope for the countless number of family members who each day courageously face the task of caring for those in need. Stem cell research may hold the cure for those loved ones and the hope for those brave caregivers.

As I look at my friend who has trouble reading a menu because of her decades-long battle with diabetes and as I think of my friends and family members who are living with MS, Parkinson's Disease, Alzheimer's and Adult Onset Diabetes, I can not understand how anyone would not want to investigate every avenue for a cure for them and millions like them.
In May, the House of Representatives took an important first step, with the support of Republicans and Democrats, by passing H.R. 810, the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act, to repeal the Bush Administration's nearly four-year-old restriction on such research. However, President Bush is threatening to veto the law -- once again putting politics ahead of people's lives.

With so many members of our community waiting for answers and potential cures, it just doesn't make sense to delay. Scientists have found that the embryonic stem cells available for funding under President Bush's restrictive policy will not be suitable to effectively promote the research needed to better understand deadly and disabling diseases. It is time for our researchers to be allowed the tools to make inroads to combat the debilitating diseases that afflict so many.

Our representatives in Congress must support that research and help save lives -- not stand in the way of science in the name of ideology. And, we must all urge our elected officials to demonstrate their leadership and utilize every parliamentary and legislative tool at their disposal to over-ride the President's expected veto and take an important step toward helping cure these awful diseases.

This is an issue that crosses party lines. It affects diseases that attack Americans -- regardless of their gender, age, economic status, ethnicity, race or political affiliation.
Together we can make a difference for our families and for our community. Let us all tell our representatives to stop playing politics on this critical issue and expand the current policy on embryonic stem cell research so that we can begin today finding the cures of tomorrow.

Originally posted to Susie Turnbull on Fri Jul 01, 2005 at 10:13 AM PDT.

Your Email has been sent.