Pro-life groups are refuting arguments Ron Reagan made in favor of lifting restrictions on embryonic stem cell research, which he delivered to 20,000 attendees at the Democratic National Convention on July 27. Although Reagan, son of the late President Ronald Reagan, devoted much of his speech evoking sympathy from Democrats, suggesting the current policy on embryonic stem cell research is withholding a ground-breaking cure for his diabetic 13-year old friend, pro-lifers say he is not telling the full story on the issue.
"There is already stem-cell research taking place,” said Mike Reagan, the oldest son of President Reagan, who has stood by his father’s belief that human life begins at conception. “The media would have you believe – and my brother would have you believe – that stem-cell research is not going on. But it is."
Time and time again, pro-lifers have clarified to the public that stem-cell research is not banned.
In 2001, President Bush placed restrictions on federal funding of embryonic stem cell research, allowing it only for stem cells created before Aug. 9, 2001.
“There is no ban,” said President of Family Research Council Tony Perkins, “even though the Democrats probably feel that if the taxpayers are not funding it, that constitutes a ban.”
The National Institutes of Health is currently spending $25 million per year on embryonic stem-cell research and considering adding $18 million to the effort. The (NIH) has also announced it will develop three “centers of excellence” devoted to speed research on the embryonic cell lines covered in the policy but its efforts have still left supporters of the embryonic stem-cell research dissatisfied.
During Reagan’s address, he also left out a large side of the coin in the stem-cell research debate, according to pro-lifers.
“All that Ron Reagan advocated can be achieved through adult stem cell research,” said Dr. John Kilner, President of The Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity, a think-tank for ethical issues. “But he amazingly never mentioned adult stem cells.”
While pro-lifers reject embryonic stem-cell research, which results in the destruction of human embryonic life upon harvesting its stem cells, they champion research using adult stem-cells from such places as human bone marrow.
However, Reagan does not believe an embryo is a human being.
Although he touted his address was not about “partisanship,” his remarks were reminiscent of those made by democratic presidential nominee John Kerry in an interview with CNN’s Peter Jennings.
"An embryo is not a human being," said Reagan. “No fetuses are created, none destroyed.”
"Ron, it is murder," said Judie Brown, president of American Life League, the nation's largest pro-life educational organization, in response to his speech. "It is human sacrifice. It is an accepted scientific fact that a human being's life begins at fertilization. A human embryo, from fertilization, has unique DNA and distinct individual characteristics. Put simply, this is a living human being.
“Reagan's fanciful claims amount to nothing more than science fiction designed to mislead Americans into accepting the utilitarian mindset that one life is more important than another,” she said.
The embryonic stem-cell debate has heated up after Nancy Reagan, wife of the late President Reagan, began proactively pushing for a lift on Bush’s stem-cell research policy. Joined by a group of Senators, Nancy Reagan argues that embryonic stem-cell research has the potential to discover a cure for Alzhiemers, a disease which lead to her husband’s death. Ron Reagan has taken the same position as his mother.
However, pro-lifers say their hope in embryonic stem-cell research is misplaced. While adult stem-cell research has already led to the cure for 45 diseases, embryonic stem-cell research has cured none and even poses the risk of developing tumors.
"While adult stem cells are showing great promise in being used to develop therapies,” said Focus on the Family Senior Bioethics Analyst Carrie Gordon Earll, “embryonic stem cells have shown just the opposite: tests have produced tumors in lab animals and there’s no reason to think that would not be repeated in human trials.”
"The ends, no matter how well- intentioned, can never justify the means. It is never acceptable to end an innocent human being's life. The acquisition of human embryonic stem cells does exactly that,” said Brown.