Saturday, May 31, 2008

More Republican Obstruction

In yesterday's Minneapolis Star Tribune, Phyllis Kahn (a Democratic member of the Minnesota House of Representatives) reported on what happened to a bill dealing with stem cell research.

Last year, when a bill on stem-cell research began moving through the Legislature, Gov. Tim Pawlenty sent lawmakers a letter saying that such research "offers tremendous opportunities to improve human health and well-being by addressing serious diseases such as diabetes and Alzheimer's. As a matter of public policy, stem-cell research deserves careful consideration and bipartisan support." ...

Unfortunately, the bill did not gain bipartisan support; only three of 71 Republicans in the Legislature joined Democrats in voting for the bill. And on the Friday before Memorial Day, Pawlenty vetoed it.

In his veto message, the governor said he "supports stem cell research that is consistent with sound ethical and moral standards." He objected to the sanctioned use of "embryonic stem cells" that "destroy live embryos" and pointed to a November 2007 study by the University of Wisconsin and Kyoto University in Japan about the development of induced-pluripotent stem (iPS) cells from individual adult stem cells, as a means to move forward with non-embryonic stem cell research.
[Emphasis added]

What happened in the last year to change Gov. Pawlenty's mind? Yes, there have been some breakthroughs on non-embryonic stem cell research, but, as Ms. Kahn points out, that research depended in large part on the embryonic cell research that not only preceded it, but which the same researchers continued exploring. Furthermore, scientists at this point do not believe iPS holds the same promise as embryonic stem cells because of the potential danger involved:

Furthermore, scientists have serious doubt that iPS cells will replace embryonic stem cells in human therapies. To make these iPS cells, scientists use retroviruses to transfer the reprogramming genes into the cells. Currently, these retroviruses are believed to be potentially cancer-causing viruses. Unfortunately, undereducated opponents of embryonic stem cell research applaud this first discovery and ignore the later more cautious discussion of its limits and dangers.

There appears to be more than just some "good news research" involved in the 180 Gov. Pawlenty did, especially given the timing of the veto. Gov. Pawlenty has been mentioned as a possible running mate for Sen. John McCain. He didn't attend the McCain barbecue, perhaps because he wasn't invited, but the veto was a good way to prove his bona fides to the national party on the issue, and a way to tell Sen. McCain that he was still out there.

If that is the case, then the governor should be ashamed of himself for putting his political aspirations ahead of the kind of research which would affect millions of people.

But then, he's a Republican. I guess we can't expect too much, even on critical issues such as this.

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