04 Aug Doyle says practical politics must advance embryonic stem cell research
Washington, D.C. – Saying the nation is at a crucial moment in the development of stem cell research, Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle urged supporters of human embryonic stem cell research to bring their “will for progress” to the political arena this fall.
Doyle, speaking at a symposium of the Center for American Progress, a progressive think thank, said the reason the nation is at a critical moment is because there are politicians who want to see stem cell research stopped in it tracks.
“All of us who hold compassion for those who battle illness and all of us who believe in the promise of tomorrow need to bring our will for progress into the political arena,” he said. “We are going to win this battle though practical politics.
“We must build coalitions that support political candidates who will protect stem cell research and never let radical right-wing theology impede real, meaningful scientific progress.”
Since becoming governor in 2003, Doyle has increased state funding for stem cell research in Wisconsin, including a $750 million public-private initiative that calls for the construction of the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery, an interdisciplinary research center on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus.
But Doyle and other speakers said states cannot do the job alone. He noted that the Center for American Progress has released a report indicating that Wisconsin is one of a small group of states that is funding stem cell research, and the bulk of that is coming from just two states – Wisconsin and California.
Doyle said the states will not be able to fully compensate for the lack of federal funding for new human embryonic stem cell lines. “Without the resources of the federal government, the research will fall farther and farther behind,” he said.
As he has in several campaign appearances, Doyle referenced Wisconsin families that are dealing with debilitating diseases, including juvenile diabetes, for which embryonic stem cell research could someday yield cures. He and other symposium speakers criticized President Bush’s recent veto of the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act, which would have modified the President’s policy limiting new funding for human embryonic stem cell research.
The measure was passed by overwhelming, though not veto-proof majorities in both the House of Representatives and the United States Senate. Bush vetoed the measure, citing the need to destroy embryos in the process of deriving stem cells, but Doyle noted that embryos produced in in-vitro fertilization clinics, embryos slated for destruction, could be used for research.
“How many years will cures be delayed due to special-interest politics?” he asked. “How many more sleepless nights for these families, how more finger pricks, how many more lives will be lost before Washington gets the message?”
Doyle was joined by Iowa Senator Tom Harkin, a backer of additional federal funding for embryonic stem cell research. Harkin praised Doyle’s commitment to stem cell research, but said “we could have Jim Doyles in every state in the nation” and still not provide enough public funding. Harkin noted that Aug. 9 will mark five years since the President announced his stem cell policy, which he called a “straight jacket” on biomedical research.
“In five years, the President’s comments have been taken over by events,” Harkin said.
One of those developments, he noted, is the gradual erosion in the number human embryonic stem cells lines that are eligible for federal funding. That number now is down to 21, and many of them are contaminated.
Harkin said 400,000 embryos left over from in-vitro fertilization clinics could be made available for research upon written consent of donors.
Stem cell politics
Doyle used the occasion to again take aim at Congressman Mark Green, his opponent in this fall’s gubernatorial race, saying that Green has voted for or co-sponsored legislation to ban or criminalize proven methods of stem cell research eight times.
The governor has called Green’s position too extreme, but Green has countered by citing his votes in favor of federal funding for other types of research – including adult stem cell research.
Green argues that more funding should be made available for research that has produced results. He notes that cells derived from cord blood have thus far resulted in 72 new research applications, while embryonic stem cells have produced none.
He also has blasted Doyle for cynically using the hopes of families “for crass political gain.”
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• Senate approves bill to expand stem cell funding
• Tom Still: Why the Senate should ease stem cell restrictions
• Doyle urges Senate to loosen stem cell restrictions
• Doyle wants Wis. to capture 10 percent of stem-cell market