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Stem cell policies must go

Anne Colston Wentz and Debbie Marquez

Last week, the Eagle County Democrats issued a press release urging Congress to pass federal legislation to change the Bush administration’s extremely counter-productive policies on embryonic stem cell research. The legislation, H.R. 4682, was recently co-authored by Colorado Congresswoman Diana DeGette and 147 other Republican and Democrat congressmen. Reversal of the Bush policies has also been advocated by our congressman, Mark Udall, our former congressman, Scott McInnis, and Colorado Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell. To date, almost half the U.S. House of Representatives, 58 U.S. senators, former first lady Nancy Reagan and numerous non-partisan medical groups have written President Bush urging him to expand federal assistance for stem cell research. This is a big election issue, and unfortunately, President Bush continues to listen only to right-wing ideological groups. He stubbornly refuses to admit he has made a mistake. The facts are these. In 2001, President Bush issued an executive order sharply limiting – many scientists say crippling – federally funded stem cell research. Stem cell technology, which involves developing new cells from test tube embryos cultivated and stored by the millions at in-vitro fertilization clinics, has been touted as one of the most promising new medical technologies, and a possible cure for diabetes, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, AIDS, cancer and numerous other ailments. In-vitro clinics produce many surplus embryos, which are routinely destroyed as surplus if they are not made available for stem cell research. Lest you think this column is just another case of Bush-bashing, we would note that reversal of the Bush policies is also supported by the University of Colorado, the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, the Christopher Reeve Paralysis Foundation, the Parkinson’s Action Network, Republican Main Street Partnership, American Medical Association, Kidney Cancer Association, National Health Council, Prostate Cancer Foundation, the National Coalition for Cancer Research, the Association of American Medical Colleges and more than 120 other non-profit medical and charitable groups and universities. One of the most serious repercussions of President Bush’s executive order is that nations in other parts of the world are now outpacing us in stem cell research because they are not limited by the Bush policies. This could well mean that in the near future, the United States could lose its superiority in many areas of medical research and development. We are already importing many of our prescription drugs from Canada and other nations. Do we want to wake up tomorrow and read that new cures for heart disease, Alzheimer’s and diabetes have been developed abroad, and that we have been left behind? This should not be a political issue, but it has become one with this extremely stubborn president, and it is hurting our efforts to develop the best possible science to cure a myriad of diseases.Almost every one of us in Eagle County has a parent, grandparent, relative or friend who is suffering, or has died from, a disease that might be alleviated or cured in the future through stem cell technology. We should not be hamstringing ourselves in developing possible cures for these diseases, and yet the Bush policies are doing just that! When people like Nancy Reagan and Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch agree that Bush is on the wrong track, it’s time to take action! Please contact our congressmen and senators and let them know you favor the DeGette legislation (H.R. 4682). And yes, voters, you do have a choice in this election. Sen. John Kerry is a strong, and unequivocal, supporter of expanded stem cell research. Debbie Marquez a co-chair of the Eagle County Democrats and small-business owner. Anne Colston-Wentz is a licensed obstetrician gynecologist, former professor of obstetrics, and Beaver Creek resident. Vail, Colorado


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