Democratic Presidential Candidate Kerry Says He Would Boost Funding for Embryonic Stem Cell Research
Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Sen. John Kerry (Mass.) on Monday at a campaign appearance in Denver pledged his support for increased federal funding for human embryonic stem cell research, saying that "contrary to the record of the last four years, Americans deserve a president who believes in science," the Boston Globe reports (Healy, Boston Globe, 6/22). Kerry said that the Bush administration is "letting ideology trump science" by limiting federal funding for embryonic stem cell research, according to the New York Times (Wilgoren, New York Times, 6/22). President Bush's policy, which he announced on Aug. 9, 2001, limits federally funded embryonic stem cell research to cell lines created on or before that date (California Healthline, 6/15). Kerry said, "It is vital we lift these barriers that stand in the way of stem cell research," adding, "We must push the boundaries of medical exploration so that researchers can find treatments that are there, if only they are allowed to look." He also said that such research could be done "while providing strict ethical oversight," adding, "We have the common sense to do both. With leadership that isn't ideological, we will do both" (Henley, Colorado Springs Gazette, 6/22). Kerry during his speech also pledged to increase funding for NIH and the National Science Foundation but did not offer specific proposals, according to the Washington Post (Farhi, Washington Post, 6/22).
Before his Denver speech, 48 Nobel Prize-winning scientists announced their endorsement of Kerry, the Chicago Tribune reports (Zuckman, Chicago Tribune, 6/22). The scientists also wrote an "Open Letter to the American People," saying that the Bush administration is "impeding medical advances" by limiting federal funding for stem cell research, according to the Denver Post. The letter says, "Unlike previous administrations, Republican and Democrat alike, the Bush administration has ignored unbiased scientific advice in the policy-making that is so important to our collective welfare." The letter adds that if Kerry is elected president, he "will restore science to its appropriate place in government and bring it back into the White House" (Agre et al., Denver Post, 6/21). Burton Richter, who won the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1976 and worked to organize the letter supporting Kerry, said it is "unusual" for a large number of Nobel laureates to endorse a single political candidate, according to the Denver Post. "I hope you take [this] as a sign of how seriously all of us think the errors of our present course are," Richter said (Olinger/Crummy, Denver Post, 6/22).
Steve Schmidt, a spokesperson for Bush's re-election campaign, denied that "ideology" influences the administration's decisions on scientific issues, according to the Los Angeles Times. Schmidt said, "America is the world leader in patents, research and development and Nobel prizes, and the president's budget raises federal research and development funding to $132 billion for 2005, a 44% increase since taking office" (Finnegan, Los Angeles Times, 6/22). According to the Washington Times, some of the scientists who signed the letter have a "history of involvement in liberal advocacy." Terry Holt, a Bush campaign spokesperson, said, "John Kerry just doesn't get it," adding, "You don't take science as a couple of pet projects but as a long-term way to keep America going forward" (Dinan, Washington Times, 6/22).
NPR's "Day to Day" on Friday reported on the debate over whether to use human embryonic stem cells for research. The segment includes comments from Bush, Kerry, Rep. Michael Castle (R-Del.) and Dr. Sam Gandy, vice chair of the Alzheimer's Association's Medical and Scientific Council (Pesca, "Day to Day," NPR, 6/18). The complete segment is available online in RealPlayer.This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.