Monday, August 8, 2005

MH - Senator Coleman and Stem Cells

Our junior senator, Norm Coleman, announced last week that he was joining the tide of senators supporting some type of embryonic stem cell research. In a line that sounds as if it came from the script of Inherit the Wind, Coleman said of Bush, "He's drawn a line in the sand that's not pro-science . . . We don't want to be the party that's anti-science. We're not finding real hope" for cures.

Of course, the real hope for cures lies in non-embryonic research. Use of adult stem cells has shown much more promise for medical breakthroughs, in areas such as gene therapy, the immune system, bone and cartilage disease, diabetes, and heart disease. This is nothing new; it's been known as far back as 2002.

Problem is, embryonic stem cell research is much sexier. It's been adopted by celebrities and other medical gadflies, and common sense would tell you that any medical researcher looking for grants to continue his work is going to see the embryonic route as being the most profitable.

That is, unless you're Senator Coleman. When confronted with the possibility that support for embryonic destruction could, in fact, hamper medical progress, he scoffed:

He said that a lobbyist for the National Right to Life Committee told him that his proposal will encourage researchers to come back in a couple of years and ask that the deadline be moved yet again. "I don't buy that," Coleman said. He argued that there are enough stem cell lines available now for researchers to make real breakthroughs.

By saying this, Coleman is either being incredibly naive or very disingenuous. If he actually doesn't believe that we're on a slippery slope that takes us into Dr. Mengele territory, then he really is too wet behind the ears to be representing us in Congress. On the other hand, if he's just being a politician feeding us a line, then you have to start looking back at the Democrats who warned Republicans that Coleman couldn't be trusted when he made his party switch in the 90s.

See, Coleman had made something of a name for himself in Minnesota with his pro-life stance. He was first elected mayor of St. Paul as a Democrat, but because of his opposition to abortion he was never really welcomed by the Dems ("hated" might be a better description), and eventually bolted the party for the Republicans. He claims to still be pro-life, naturally, failing to see the incompatibility of his policies.

The fact remains, and I'll state it again, that an embryo represents human life. To allow experimentation on that life, even for noble reasons, is barbaric. It comes far closer to the Nazi philosophy than most of the comparisons that we see thrown around so lightly these days.

Perhaps Coleman honestly believes that this research can remain limited, that it won't discourage funding for non-destructive research. Perhaps he still believes that the next step - cloning, more invasive research, and other grotesque experiments - is unthinkable.

Or maybe it's the bottom line for Coleman - increased financial support from industries that stand to profit from embryonic research, which would be most helpful in what is sure to be a bruising reelection bid. Or possibly praise from the Star Tribune for things like "growth" and "maturation" in office. Or maybe he thinks that, in joining his majority leader Bill Frist, he increases the possibility of moving up in the Republican hierarchy, of becoming more of a player in Washington.

Whatever the reason, Senator Coleman has given me yet another reason, if I didn't already need it, why I am no longer a Republican. If the Republicans can't be trusted with such basic issues as the sancity of life, it seems ridiculous to trust them with less important things like our money.

Frankly, I don't see any reason to trust Norm Coleman with either.

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