John McCain Takes Stricter Stance on Embryonic Stem Cell Research

Posted on September 28, 2008

Wired reports tha Senator John McCain has taken a stronger stance against embryonic stem cell research lately. Wired says McCain would even "criminalize a promising branch of stem cell research."

In his statement, McCain at first claimed to support ESC research. However, he said "clear lines should be drawn that reflect a refusal to sacrifice moral values and ethical principles for the sake of scientific progress" -- a qualification that disturbed many scientists and bioethicists with its ambiguity.

McCain also took a harder line than the Bush administration with somatic cell nuclear transfer, better known as therapeutic cloning -- a cutting-edge process that could some day provide personalized embryonic stem cell therapies. Though currently legal, McCain would outlaw the technique.

The new stance is an abrupt reversal for the Arizona senator. As recently as 2007, McCain appeared to favor embryonic stem cell research more strongly than most of the Republican party, especially its most religiously conservative members. "I believe that we need to fund this," he said during a presidential candidates' debate in May 2007.

Since then, he's become steadily cagier in his support, courting Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback, an ardent opponent of all ESC research, and avoiding discussion of ESCs in favor of alternative cell types. Those familiar with the debate interpreted McCain's latest platform, which framed his support in the language of research opponents, as a signal that President Bush's research-limiting policies may continue.

Wired notes that McCain would make it a "federal crime for researchers to use cells or fetal tissue from an embryo created for research purposes." They quote a Harvard researcher who says he would be arrested for research he peforms today on somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT).
"I am researching SCNT and so would be considered a criminal if McCain gets his way," said the Harvard researcher Daley. "It's a sad society that starts criminalizing legitimate science."
The article says that is an unlikely such a ban on SCNT would pas Congress. You can read another article about McCain's stem cell positions and about criminalizing SCNT here. A ban on human cloning and the creation of human embryos is part of the GOP's health platform. With this platform it seems they would also be against IVF.

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