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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.

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Comment Preferences

  •  I cannot believe (4.00)
    that this diary hasn't rocketed to the top of the Recommend list.  This is moving stuff, Susie.  What do you propose we do about the Supreme Court vacancy?  What CAN we do to protect a woman's right to choose?
    •  the rest of kos (none)
      is probably still hypnotized by MSOC's spinning alphabets.

      i was able to pull away only after the server crashed.

      in any case, great diary & thanks to nonp for pointing it out to all of us zombies.

      RECOMMEND -- we had our fun today people.  Now back to work you biyaaatches!!

    •  Contact every progressive you know! (none)
      I think that unless we mobilize in the ways suggested earlier today -- all the petitions, volunteer opportunites, etc.  we will be left behind and it won't be long until so many of our basic rights are eroded.  In 1998 Move.On started a real movement with specific tools to mobilize the community.  We need to use every tool in the toolbox.
      •  Thank you for your words Susie (none)
        I'm paraphrasing but Dorothy Allison once said, "stories are the one sure way to touch the heart and change the world."   Every caregiver has a story, every disease that could have a cure through stem cell research has many stories.  Every stem cell thrown away for moral reasons has a potential story.  It is a travesty that our president will veto all of these stories.

        There is a comfort knowing we have leadership such as yours to help us fight the battles that may eventually win the war.  We can do almost anything else but we cannot give up.  My toolbox has been dusted off and is front and center, let the 'hammering' begin.  

        We're only capable of doing on the outside what we're capable of being on the inside.

        by caliberal on Fri Jul 01, 2005 at 07:27:59 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  a friend also wrote me the following in response. (none)
          Your comment reminded me of her note to me which said  "that it better to light one
          little candle than to curse the darkness".  If we each would only do the  little bit we can, who knows what might come to pass.
  •  any support for stem cell research is great (none)
    thanks for fighting the good fight
  •  Not Getting Due Attention (none)
    This diary entry does not have the word "O'Connor" explicitly in the title.

    Fox News is a propaganda outlet of the Republican Party - DNC Chair Howard Dean

    by easong on Fri Jul 01, 2005 at 11:04:36 AM PDT

  •  I recommend (none)
    This SCOTUS battle is going to impact so many issues that I beleive that every chance we have to highlight one that doesn't directly relate to RvW is a good thing. Fighting extremists is important for a whole host of reasons, one of which this diarist brings to the fore.

    If you aren't outraged, you're not paying attention.

    by bigskiphazzy on Fri Jul 01, 2005 at 11:11:44 AM PDT

  •  Arlen Spector (none)
    This is one issue where I can thank him for his work and I do when I get the chance.
    To everyone who has a moderate republican senator or representative, if they do something good thank them.  If they are for stem cell research, or pro-choice or against continuing the war...thank them.

    Thank you Susan for writing this diary.

    Tired of the corporate DLC suck ups?WE'VE GOT DEANS BACK

    by TeresaInPa on Fri Jul 01, 2005 at 11:12:38 AM PDT

  •  Recommend. n/t (none)

    "Blessings are not just for the ones who kneel" Bono

    by kd texan on Fri Jul 01, 2005 at 11:15:50 AM PDT

  •  yes, but (none)
    There is no constitutional issue involved in the federal funding of stem cell research that I can see.

    "Any content-based regulation of the Internet, no matter how benign the purpose, could burn the global village to roast the pig." -- ACLU v Reno (E.D. Pa. 1996)

    by Adam B on Fri Jul 01, 2005 at 11:27:21 AM PDT

    •  same here (none)
      maybe it's just ignorance, but i'm not clear on what impact the supreme court will have on stem cell research.

      Don't wanna be an American idiot

      by Adr on Fri Jul 01, 2005 at 11:47:25 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I'm not a lawyer but here's my guess (none)
        In the laws of the extreme right-wing nuts I think it might work like this.

        Right now legally the right to have an abortion rests under a right to privacy.  In order to strike down Roe, The court could either strike down the right to privacy or it could rule that a fetus is a "legal person" and requires equal protection under the law (via the 14th amendment) and this is more important than a right to privacy.  Just striking down the right to privacy could make laws outlawing abortion possible but on the other hand a ruling saying that a fetus must be protected by the state under the 14th amendment could require them.

        Presumably this could be extended back to the point that an embry" is considered a "legal person" and must be protected.  Hence a SCOTUS ruling could outlaw embryonic stem cell research on those grounds.

        At least thats what I think some right-wingers might want to see the SCOTUS do.

  •  I'm all for stem cell research. (none)
    I'm not quite as big a fan of federal funding, but as long as that is the curennt prevailing mechanism, I'm against the restrictions on stem cell research being based on the moral issue.

    Democracy is the worst form of government except for all those others that have been tried. -Winston Churchill

    by roysol on Fri Jul 01, 2005 at 11:38:07 AM PDT

  •  I doubt this will ever be a SCOTUS (none)
    issue, any more than invitro fertilization is.  The ethical issues are exactly the same between stem cell research and invitro fertilization, although the scope of effect is potentially greater with embryonic stem cells.

    But to respond to your points about the urgency of the need for federally funded stem cell research, I disagree.  And I say that as someone who suffers from one of the debilitating conditions you mention and who can think of nothing better than to find a cure for it.

    The ethical problem regarding embryonic stem cell research is severe and cuts to the foundations of human rights - the very premise that our country was built on.  A belief in inalienable human rights is derived from a belief in human equality.  Human equality also necessarily implies that humans must never use other humans as merely means toward an end rather than as ends in and of themselves.  This logic is not changed by the fact that it is questionable whether a human embryo exhibits characterstics that we normally associate with being human.  That fact only raises questions that might (but also might not) allow destructive use of embryos for research and remain consistent with a fundemental belief in human rights, but the issue has not yet been adequately addressed in our society.  

    Federal funding should not go forward until the severe ethical questions regarding destructive use of human embryonic stem cells are more fully understood and accepted both within the scientific community as well as the larger society.

    •  Then why not ban IVF? (4.00)
      A necessary by-product of in vitro fertilization clinics is they always create more embryos than can be used. The unused are frozen down. After a few years, they are routinely discarded. 1000s of these pre-implantation blastocysts (what you would call an embryo, but not even to that stage) are literally thrown in the trash or washed down the sink every year.

      If you truly believe these specks of cells are equivilent to full babies or adults, than this practice should be banned. Yet, I do not hear anyone calling to shut down IVF clinics. Why not?

      Also, ~99% of the scientific community and ~80% of the larger society supports human ES cell research. Indeed, once this explained to opponents, probably even more agree. So, is federal funding okay now, or do you need 100% agreement? In that case, stop everything that people do not agree with 100%.

      •  Actually, (none)
        most of the same people who are against stem cell research were and are against invitro fertilization.  And if they're not, they're not being intellectually honest.

        The issue is not whether stem cell research or invitro fertilization needs to be banned (although I do favor banning ivr), but whether anyone has addressed the serious ethical ramifications.  Federal funds are not provided for invitro fertilization, and the ethical problems of that treatment are being actively addressed and discussed in the industry regarding what to do with unused embryos and how to produce fewer of them -- there is an accepted understanding that embryos are serious things and actual members of the homo sapiens species that need special attention.  The Catholic Church continues to advocate for banning the procedure for precisely the reasons I gave earlier.

        The ethical discussion on stem cells has barely begun, so federal funds should not be provided yet for research, and should never be provided if the ethical issues are not sufficiently addressed.

        •  Ethical issues have been addressed (none)
          The gov't funds many things that are ethically controversial: nuclear power, nuclear weapons, war. In terms of related science- many people are opposed to animal research and genetically modified crops. Bush has his ethics panel to review this. They are split along predicatable lines.

          However, among scientists and the general public, there is concensus is that human ES cell research using embryos that would otherwise be discarded is reasonable. Federally funding will advance this research, and eventually, hopefully, SAVE LIVES.

          Is it ethical to hinder this research for even one day, knowing this may delay treatments down the line? Do you equate a speck of cells with the life and well being of a fully formed person?

          While Catholic dogma may be against IVF, they are not actively lobbying to make this illegal.  Do they throw out Catholics who have used IVF clinics? Can someone born via IVF be a Catholic? They should all be excommunicated, right?

          This is not time for further ethical discussions that will not get us anywhere. This is the time to support science that IS ethically justified- and I would say ethically essential.

          •  miscarried embryos - middle ground? (none)
            one source for stem cell research that is acceptable to many on the right is the use of miscarried embryo cells. However, these may not be the best source, since the embryo was faulty and miscarried in the first place.

            Nonetheless, this avoids the issue of "creating a life to save a life."

            think freely, ask rude questions, find truth Support ePluribus Media.

            by Rxtr2 on Fri Jul 01, 2005 at 03:59:25 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  This does not work (none)
              Embryonic germ (EG) cells from miscarried/aborted human embryos at later stage were derived and published exactly the same time as the human ES cell work in Nov. 1998. This work has shown these are not very viable cells and not feasible to work with.

              These are not the same as ES cells. It is not possible to get and aborted/miscarried human embryo that is 4-5 days post-fertilization that could be used to create ES cell lines. Many women probably "miscarry" at this stage without ever knowing they were pregnant.

              Middle ground assumes that what we currently have is somehow ethically problematic. Again, use of pre-implantation blastocyts that would otherwise be discarded is not a problem for the vast, vast majority of people. This is middle gound. We are not creating embryos for research, we are not doing nuclear transfer (cloning) that may be more controversial.

          •  I disagree (none)
            Stem cells were an unknown issue to most people before John Kerry and Ron Reagan sprung the idea in the last presidential campaign.  They were completely unknown before the President made his decision regarding limiting the lines of cells that can be used.

            Your misunderstanding of "Catholic dogma" shows that you are yourself not even versed in the ethical dilemmas that such research poses.  Lots of things save lives and have unintended consequences, but few of those things actually threaten the very premise of human rights.  Until laws are established that spell out the issues and society's decisions regarding them, stem cell research should not be funded.  

            There are many more issues than just whether to use or not the embryos from IVF clinics that would otherwise be discarded.  For example, how long should we allow embryos to develop before destroying them?

            I would support legislation that enacts, after debate, the recent recommendations of the commission on stem cell research.  Among other things, the commission determined that destruction of human embryos are permissible up to 14 days of development, after which time specialized cell development into reconginizably human functions occurs.  But until such a law is in place to govern the ethics of such research, I cannot support federal funding.

            •  So we agree (none)
              Guess you came back to this thread.

              You now say that use of embryos up to 14 days is acceptable. This would be part of federal law. Lines and limits can be easily established to limit derivation of new ES cells using blastocysts that are less than 14 days old. Indeed, 7 days old is fine. So, okay, can we fund this so I can do the work now?

              This issue has been debated since 1998, and even 20 years before then when varying Presidential commissions have studied and debated limits on embryo research.

              Just because this is new to you (Kerry and Reagan Jr did not spring this on anyone paying attention) does not mean this is a new issue. Bush's first NATIONAL SPEECH after his inaugeration (August 9, 2001) dealt entirely with embryo research. This was prime time. Scientists and ethicists have discussed and debated this endlessly for years. Now is the time to move on and get to work. Lives are in the balance.

              •  So establish the guidelines first (none)
                before the research happens.  The one convincing argument I have seen in favor of federal funding is that it could lead to hard federal research guidelines.  

                The isssue is not new to me.  I have followed it since the early 1990's because I would like to see a cure for my particular condition.  But the issue IS new to the American voting public.  Bush's decision on the matter early in his first term was the first time any public discussion on the matter occurred, and that was soon obscured by 9-11.  It was both foolish and wrong for Kerry to make such an unknown and ethically challenged issue such a prominent part of his campaign.  

                One problem with the 14 day guidelines for pro-choice people:  it sets a precedent in law regarding a much earlier agreement on human life than the current 1st trimester.  


  •  An excellent diary (none)
    I thank you for writing it and nonpartisan for bringing it to my attention.  Highly recommended.

    I always felt strongly about the stem cell issue...and it really hit home recently when my brother was diagnosed with Alzheimer's...I keep wondering, what might have been accomplished these last four years.  

    Arrogant lips are unsuited to a fool-- how much worse lying lips to a ruler - Proverbs 17:7

    by Barbara Morrill on Fri Jul 01, 2005 at 01:20:15 PM PDT

  •  Why this matters (4.00)
     Not being a lawyer, I can't say exactly why I believe that the Supreme Court will someday act on stem cell research.  We never thought that the Congress would criminalize a medical procedure either.  We just don't know what is next.  

    I agree with the concept that stem cell research will eventually be tied into the abortion debate.


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