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More pressure on Bush's stem cell policy

28 July 2004
By BioNews
Appeared in BioNews 269

Ron Reagan, the son of the late US president Ronald Reagan, has urged Democrat supporters to vote for candidates who would relax policy on human embryonic stem cell (ES cell) research. Speaking at the Democrat National Convention (DNC) on Tuesday, he told delegates that while he understood there were ethical and religious objections to the research, 'it does not follow that the theology of a few should be allowed to forestall the health and well-being of the many'.

While Ron Reagan did not mention the presidential candidates by name, his speech at the DNC has been seen as 'a tacit endorsement' of John Kerry, and derision of Bush: 'There are those who would stand in the way of this remarkable future, who would deny the federal funding so crucial to basic research', he said.  Kerry, the prospective Democratic candidate, opposes President Bush's restrictions on ES cell research. At a campaigning meeting at Cape Canaveral, Florida, the US's national space centre, on Monday, he told the 400-strong crowd that he would promote ES cell science. He said that America needs a president 'who believes in science, and who is prepared to invest America's efforts to cure Parkinson's and AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome) and diabetes and Alzheimer's and do stem cell research'. He added: 'we need to push the curve of discovery. We need to move forward'.

Ron Reagan's speech comes in the wake of other high-profile support for ES cell research at the DNC. On Monday, Senator Hilary Clinton, wife of former president Bill Clinton, also spoke out in favour, and called on Bush to relax his 2001 restrictions on funding for federal scientists who wish to undertake ES cell research. Both Ron Reagan and Hilary Clinton add their voices to other vocal supporters of the ES cell research campaign, including Nancy Reagan and a number of celebrities and businessmen. In May, a bipartisan group of 206 Congress members wrote to Bush to ask him to rethink his policy and, in June, 58 Democratic and Republican Senators wrote a similar letter.

Later in June legislation supported by members of both political parties was introduced to Congress. Sponsored by Michael Castle (Republican) and Diana De Gette (Democrat), it would require the US government to fund ES cell research. However, a spokesman for the House said at the time that despite the support it has, the bill was likely to be 'doomed' this year, and it has failed to be scheduled for debate. And despite all the calls for change, White House spokesmen have confirmed that President Bush has no plans to change his ES cell policy.

SOURCES & REFERENCES
Politics aside, Reagan pitches for stem cells
The Boston Herald |  28 July 2004
Reagan urges Democrats to back stem-cell research
The Washington Times |  28 July 2004
Ron Reagan's question
The Boston Globe |  28 July 2004
US Democrats embrace stem-cell issues
Nature |  28 July 2004
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