As controversial as political issues can be, the biggest debates spawn from issues that cross political and ethical ideals. For this reason, stem cell research is a particularly controversial issue. However, the highly contended issue stays fairly staunchly within party lines. 76 percent of Democrats would like to see the government do away with restrictions on stem cell research, while only 12 percent would like to keep the current restrictions in place, and 8 percent of Democrats would not want to fund research at all.
While the 2016 Republican candidates disagree on many issues, they all take the same stance on stem cell research. Republican views on stem cell research staunchly oppose research that uses tissue cells from aborted or miscarried fetuses. The Republican Party also supports an end of governmental support of Planned Parenthood over its contribution to that research. While fetal tissue research has helped develop childhood vaccines for polio, rubella, and shingles, as well as therapies that save premature babies born with underdeveloped lungs and other problems, Republicans see several concerns in its continuation.
To say that Republicans oppose stem cell research on aborted and miscarried fetuses is not to say that they do not support medical research. Republicans have supported, and will continue to support, important scientific research that they do not feel undermines the fundamental ethical principles that should guide medical research. They strongly encourage stem cell research in cases of adult stem cell and cord blood stem cell research, which has already provided benefits to hundreds of patients and provides real promise for treatments to help millions of Americans.
One of the most prominent reasons that Republicans oppose stem cell research is that they believe it goes against their concerns for fetal welfare. Fetal welfare is about preserving unborn life from destruction. Former New York Gov. George Pataki, has proposed “defund[ing] Planned Parenthood” because “we have the right to protect life inside the womb, and I think we should protect [it].” The Supreme Court has since Roe v. Wade held that, while fetuses are not constitutional persons with rights of their own, the state still has a legitimate interest in protecting “the life of the fetus that may become a child.” Pataki’s suggestion came among other suggestions to hinder the process of stem cell research on cells harvested from aborted and miscarried fetuses.
This argument has seen a lot of controversy from stem cell research supporters, namely because the fetuses in question are no longer alive. Some Republicans, such as Chris Christie, have claimed that the system of using unborn bodies for research is “maximiz[ing] the value of body parts” to “sell on the open market for profit.” However, there are laws in place that prevent the selling of any fetuses, preventing this type of calamity from occurring. However, Republicans are still opposed to the system for the sake of fetal welfare, and those who support this research struggle to comprehend these concerns. This combination makes this one of the most difficult topics to reach a compromise on.
It seems that many Republicans, such as Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, worry that fetal tissue research will open the door to dehumanizing institutions. Sen. Paul told The Washington Post shortly before the debates that allowing fetal tissue research would lead to “factories where you’d grow babies for their body parts.” While it is currently only acceptable to research on the cells of miscarried or aborted fetuses, does this open the door to babies being aborted simply for the sake of research, or research on babies that are carried to full term? While none of this is happening now, Republicans worry that stem cell research as it stands today is only the first step, and the next steps are far more concerning.
Respect for Life
A number of Republican candidates in the debates, from Donald Trump to Scott Walker, suggested that fetal tissue research expresses disrespect for human life. Jeb Bush stated, “I believe that we should have a culture of life.” Statements such as these have created controversy due to the belief by supporters of stem cell research that creating respect for the unborn does not actually help save lives, whereas the results of stem cell research does.
Democrats Vs. Republicans on Stem Cell Research
In 2009, President Obama lifted the ban on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research. Republicans were dismayed by this decision. Senator Mitch McConnell stated, “With this announcement, the government is, for the first time, incentivizing the creation and destruction of human embryos at the expense of the U.S. taxpayer.”
House Minority Whip Eric Cantor released a statement which said, “unfortunately, today the Administration wasted an opportunity to unite our country around these ethically and scientifically sound innovations by allowing the use of taxpayer money for embryo-destructive stem cell research, which millions of Americans find morally reprehensible. This divisive action will divert scarce federal resources away from innovative and proven adult stem cell research.”
Donald Trump on Stem Cell Research
President Donald Trump himself has never been particularly outspoken on his views on stem cell research. However, the officials he has appointed have very strong views and records on the topic. For example, Trump appointed Tom Price as Secretary of Health and Human Services. Mr. Price co-sponsored “personhood” bills that would define a “human being” from “the moment of fertilization” in both 2005 and 2007. While Price has since stepped down from his position of Secretary of Health and Human Services, he is just one example of the officials Trump has appointed that adamantly oppose stem cell research. This gives many reason to believe that no further headway will be made on the issue during his time in office, and that restrictions against stem cell research will either remain in place, or be strengthened.
- The GOP Case Against Stem Cell Research – Huffington Post
- Stem Cells Divide Republicans and Democrats – Gallup
- Republican Party on Health Care – On the Issues
- Republicans Rally Against Obama on Stem Cells – CBS News
- Democratic Views On Stem Cell Research
- Democratic Views on Abortion
- Science Supports The Republican Position On Abortion
- Republican Views on Welfare
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