“Mr. President, Having Vetoed Stem-Cell Research…”

Just a small musing by David Mamet at the *Huffington Post*.

22 Responses to ““Mr. President, Having Vetoed Stem-Cell Research…””

  1. Fred Chamberlain Says:

    Sadly, asking for any moral introspection, or any real in depth introspection, from the current president is a fruitless venture. His lack of learning curve has been the most disturbing aspect of his time in office for me.

  2. Charles Bryan Says:

    It was “interesting” that Bush’s first veto was applied to a measure meant to potentially save lives. With Hatch in support (and Frist, too?), somebody in the White House should have been able to indicate that the President could still cover his political butt while signing this measure.

    Sad, but unsurprising; however, I am grateful to the Republican Party for pushing through that two-term limit fifty-some years ago.

  3. Bart Lidofsky Says:

    In the interests of accuracy:

    1) Bush did not veto stem cell research. he vetoed use of federal money to pay for fetal stem cell research. Privately funded fetal stem cell research (or funded by state governments) is still entirely legal. One does wonder, however, if fetal stem cell research is as promising as it is claimed to be, then why the private funding is not more forthcoming; one would think that there were scads of profits to be made.

    2) He encouraged funding for adult stem cell research; an attempt at that was killed by the same people who were strongly backing the fetal stem cell research. It seems that the President is not the only one blocking the use of federal money for the progress of promising medical treatments.

    3) I am still trying to find what the advantage is of fetal stem cell over adult stem cells, except for the possibility of creating human clones for spare parts. Of course, the 13th Amendment would interfere with that (note that the Supreme Court carefully sidestepped the issue of whether or not a fetus is a person in Roe vs. Wade), but declaring them as “unpersons” would take care of that, as well as setting a precedent of declaring any group not currently in power as “unpersons”, without rights.

  4. Bart Lidofsky Says:

    By the way, when looking up some stuff, I found a cool page:


    Also, I know of several cases in the past and present where people were treated as “unpersons”. Feel free to bring them up, if you feel a necessity.

  5. beau Says:

    Nice link, Bart; thanks. I’m querying
    a friend of mine, a professor of genetics
    at USC, for a summary on the pros and cons
    of fetal v. adult stem cell research.

    As for the legal status of a fetus, at
    common law we had the “born alive” rule,
    linguistic inquiry argues we should still
    hold to that rule (look at the relationship
    of the words “spirit” and “inspiration”
    and breath.) Personhood should vest
    when the first breath is drawn, not before.


  6. Bart Lidofsky Says:

    As I have stated, the courts have not quite decided on “personhood”. What they HAVE decided is that a woman’s right to control the use of her body is unconditionally greater than the right of the fetus to live in the first trimester, almost unconditionally in the 2nd, and conditions may be set in the 3rd. Note that, contrary to literature on both sides, it is NOT declaring the fetus to be part of the mother’s body; it is a recognition that the fetus is SHARING the mother’s body. That’s why, for example, it’s a crime for someone to kill a fetus WITHOUT the mother’s consent.

  7. Brian Spence Says:

    Bart, adult stem cells would have to be manipulated to behave as embryonic stem cells, which, to date, they haven’t been able to do. The question remains, if adult stem cells are made to behave like embryonic stem cells, then they would have the ability to form life, as well. Also, many, many, many embryonic stem cells are thrown in the garbage. They will never become living beings. So why are you so against scientists using them? General consensus among scientists is that adult stem cells are NOT equal for research as embryonic stem cells.

  8. Brian Spence Says:

    good blog and talkback:


  9. Brian Spence Says:

    And, this is a long one, from another website (http://www.isscr.org):

    Why is U.S. federal funding important for stem cell research?
    Federal funding for research involving mouse embryonic stem cells and adult stem cells (both mouse and human) is currently available and is not restricted. However, federal funding for research involving human embryonic stem cells is limited to research involving only those cell lines that were approved by the Bush administration in August 2001. In contrast, no restrictions in the type of research that can be performed with private funds are in place. There are several reasons why these limitations are problematic.

    In the United States, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) provides the greatest amount of federal funding to scientists on a competitive basis, and holds a long-term perspective on biomedical research, where profit is irrelevant and the progress of science for the benefit of public health is critical. The limited amount of funding from private sources will be unable to keep pace with the needs of the stem cell research community. Less restricted availability of federal funds for human embryonic stem cell research would certainly accelerate progress in this field, and improve the health of the American people in the long-term.

    As the regulations now stand, any scientist receiving federal funds is precluded from generating additional human embryonic stem cell lines. It is still not clear to what extent the data obtained with the limited set of cell lines now available, can be generalized to the whole human population, especially given the known variability among different mouse embryonic stem cell lines. In addition, the development of efficient ways to generate new cell lines will likely be necessary if embryonic stem cells are ever to be used for therapies.

    Although the private sector can conduct research to generate new cell lines, this can lead to several problems. One is that, because of intellectual property issues, the dissemination of knowledge may be slower when the most cutting edge research is done in private companies. The results of any research performed with private funds would be out of public control, and when knowledge is not in the public domain, progress can be slowed.

    A second problem is that private companies need to benefit from their investments and at some point, make a profit. Historically, if profit is deemed unlikely, research can be stopped no matter how important it may be for public health or for the progress of science.

    It should be pointed out that research on human embryonic stem cells may not only lead to novel therapies for diseases that are currently difficult or impossible to treat, but also to novel insights into human development and into the nature of our species that could never be obtained from work with experimental animals. This type of fundamental scientific inquiry has generally been funded through the extensive federal government grants program.

  10. Charles Bryan Says:

    And for more info on stem cells, might I advise this link:


    The American Association for the Advancement of Science is the publisher of “Science”, the long running and well respected research journal.

    A number of the websites I looked at seemed to be pushing for a particular side in the issue; the AAAS is less involved.

    However, the Bush Administration has been willing to continue to fund research into Anti-Missile Missiles — based on scientific ideas that have debatable credibility — so the stance that “this stuff won’t work” seemingly does not eliminate it from eligibility for support.

  11. Bart Lidofsky Says:

    To Brian Spence: with difficulty, I found and checked out your first link. It does not state that fetal cell research is superior to adult cell, as much as necessary to understand adult stem cell research (something that I have seen confirmed from several other sources). However, as Congress also succeeded in cutting off funding to adult stem cell research, there must be something else going on.

    As for your second (which you were kind enough to quote), it does not mention WHY fetal stem cell research should be done to the exclusion of adult stem cell research, but does imply that there’s no profit in it, which contradicts all the people saying how incredibly valuable it is, unless it’s REALLY long term. In addition, it does imply (but does not state) that George Bush has never cut funding in fetal stem cell research; as a matter of fact, he is the first President to provide federal funding for fetal stem cell research.

    To Charles Bryan: Your report is lacking in detail (well, it’s from 1999), however, it does say, in a large heading, “Public funding should be provided for embryonic stem cell and embryonic germ cell research, but not at this time for activities involved in the isolation of embryonic stem cells, about which there remains continuing debate.” Well, that’s what George Bush did.

    As far as anti-missiles go, that’s a non-sequitur.

  12. Micah Says:


    “George Bush has never cut funding in fetal stem cell research; as a matter of fact, he is the first President to provide federal funding for fetal stem cell research.”

    “Bush…vetoed use of federal money to pay for fetal stem cell research.”

    These two quotes of yours seem to contradict. ‘splain, lucy.

    Just honestly curious, I’m learning lots here from both sides without doing any of my own research. Thanks.

  13. Charles Bryan Says:

    Regarding the alleged non-sequitur: Since part of the objections to embryonic stem cell research seem to arise from the idea that money shouldn’t be put into activities with uncertain payoffs, I was pointing out that government money has been put into such activities that have faced less than complete public support. I was drawing an analogy, one which I think is as relevant here as discussion of groups being declared “unpersons”.

    And how you can conclude that this 50 page (granted, there are repetiitive sections) PDF file “lacks detail” about the subject escapes me.

    Yes, the quote you’ve included is in the document; it acknowledges the existing opposition to the process, and concluded, if I may interpret, that it wasn’t worth the political battle to obtain federal funding for isolation of cells from embryos.

    The reason I included a link to that document was that I found it to be very even-handed in discussion of how stem cell research should be handled. The ISSCR site (amongst others), to me, was more biased, so I didn’t refer to it in this discussion.

    Elsewhere in the AAAS document, there are discussions of the role public funding can play in any scientific activity, a role that private funding alone cannot play.

    The major reason I included the reference was because, in your original post in this column, you stated that you couldn’t find any information that explained the differences in application of embryonic stem cells and adult stem cells.

    Thank goodness there’s Google.

  14. beau Says:


    A friend who happens to be a USC genetics Prof. (teaching and research) states, generally, “Embryonic stem cells can differentiate into cells of all
    different developmental pathways while the adult stem cells cannot.” I said above, before others offered more substantive references, that I’d be asking this person for an easy-to-grasp statement on the pros and cons of embryonic v. adult stem cell research. I add the above to the references from others mostly to keep that obligation. I’ve actually seen mouse stem cells in her lab, as well as cell’s she’s modified to glow green under UV light (which, in turn helps her analyses.)


    You quote from another site that embryonic stem cell research promises to yield “novel insights into human development and into the nature of our species.” This is probably the most important part of why the Christian right, in the body of George W. Bush, must resist such research. These people fear (and believe) bolstering the view that we are a species to be thus understood undermines their special place in God’s plan—and they seem to instinctively fear that all their rigidly held beliefs will shatter if that one piece is stretched. (Good to see another pharygula reader hangin’ out.)


    I’m generally unclear on where you’re coming from. On reading your questions at the top of the thread it seems more that you are making a statment by implication than actually seeking information which you could have got by googling. What’s *your* take on stem cell research, embryonic or otherwise, fedrally funded or otherwise? I come away from your posts here feeling you’ve got an axe to grind, but you don’t want anyone to see it. For insteance, you say:

    [Bush] encouraged funding for adult stem cell research; an attempt at that was killed by the same people who were strongly backing the fetal stem cell research.

    Whom, exactly, are you talking about here? That is, who, specifically, are the people backing embryonic stem cell research but killing attempts at getting adult stem cell research federally funded?

    You also say,

    Note that, contrary to literature on both sides, it is NOT declaring the fetus to be part of the mother’s body; it is a recognition that the fetus is SHARING the mother’s body.

    It’s an unpopular stance, but I maintain that a fetus is indeed the woman’s chattel, and wrongheaded policies to the contrary are dangerous. But the abortion issue (and isn’t it about time someone came out and said that’s what this is really all about?) is to us what transubstantiation was to earlier generations: the ultimate non-rational dividing line.

    A closing thought: Too many folks are drawn into the abortion/stem-cell issue on the straw-man issue of when *life* begins. What is really meant, as Bart alludes to, is, “When does personhood begin.” The sperm in Daddy’s pants is alive, as is the egg in Mama’s girdle; neither the egg nor the sperm is a person until sometime after they get together. At common law, and through thousands of years of human history personhood vested with the first breath of a fetus “of woman born.” Thus it should ever be. Note that strict application would rule out personhood for folks born by Cesarean (and note too the name of that procedure; ponder on it’s origins.) Embryonic stem cell research only merges into the abortion issue (and, again, why else do you think there’s so much fuss…and why eles did W make such a photo op of his veto?) because certain religious groups have succeeded in confounding rational analysis by illegitimately conflating “life” and “conception” and “personhood.”

  15. beau Says:

    Sorry about the “shouting” in the above; should probably have used em tags instead of strong. Peace.

  16. beau Says:


    I’ve used a quote from your post; it’s on my site. I think you were quoting the isscr site, but I failed to find the exact string when searching there. Anyway, if you want attribution, leave me a comment at my place (no need to further clutter Steve’s) or drop me a line at beau mumble-mutter oblios-cap.com.

    Steve, I’ve tracked back to this thread on the above referenced post. The url is http://oblios-cap.com/2006/07/28#655

  17. Brian Spence Says:

    Here’s one straight from God himself:

    In the Bible, it tells of two brawling men accidentally striking a pregnant woman. If the woman is injured, the inadvertent assailant gets punished, receiving the very same wound he caused the woman: an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. If the woman dies, then it is a life for a life and the man who caused the injury dies. But if the woman miscarries, then the assailant just pays a fine.


    If you were to have an affair with a woman, both you and the woman you had sex with WOULD BE PUT TO DEATH.

    So having an affair is worse than an abortion according to the bible.

  18. Bart Lidofsky Says:

    OK. First of all, there are a lot of ulterior motives behind the federal funding of stem cell research, not the least of which are right to abortion, human cloning, and those who do not want human fetuses created for the purpose of scientific experimentation. So, there is talk about cost and benefit. George Bush approved funding for fetal stem cell research using existing lines, but not for creation of new lines. And the last I heard, failing to increase funding is NOT the same thing as cutting funding. And failing to increase funding is NOT banning.

    There was a second bill to provide federal funding to encourage stem cell research that did not involve the destruction of embryos; that was put down, largely by the efforts of those pushing the fetal stem cell research bill.

    The long PDF (which I read, in its entirety) did not give a lot of detail about the differences between the stem cells, or the potentials of the techniques, and, being 7 years old, I would not expect it to give more than it did.

    As far as statement supposedly from the Bible goes, that is NOT what the Bible says. That’s an interpretation based on a mistranslation, but we can ignore it, as the Bible has no legal force in the United States, anyway, except perhaps as an inspiration.

  19. Bart Lidofsky Says:

    One other thing: I notice some confusion because I have not made my own position in this question clear. I believe that the use of stem cells from fetuses that would otherwise be destroyed should be allowed, and that it would be a good use for federal funding. However, from what I have read SO FAR (which is why I asked for help), it appears that adult stem cell research has more promise, and should be encouraged even more. In addition, I have read from political (and therefore unreliable) sources that the main advantage of fetal stem cell research over adult stem cell research is for the eventual use of clones for spare parts. I am very much against this, IF IT IS TRUE.

    Finally, the entire question may become moot; a Singapore company has announced that it has something which may fit the bill for both Bush and his honest opponents, here.

  20. Charles Bryan Says:

    Bart — in your initial post it looked like you were looking for infomation about the differing potentials of the types of stem cells. The article does contian descrptions of the types, and what the potentials could be.

    I have no idea what “details” you’re looking for, but I hope you find them, and live a happy life.

  21. Bart Lidofsky Says:

    To Charles Bryan: The Congress is pushing bills which effectively provide federal funding of fetal stem cell research TO THE EXCLUSION of adult stem cell research. This would imply that there is some innate superior potential to fetal stem cell research to an extent that adult stem cell research should be dropped in its favor. Yet, the literature I have read has, at most, said that both are important, with adult stem cell research being where the major promise lays (fetal stem cell research is apparently useful, and probably necessary, for the understanding necessary for the adult stem cell research). So, as near as I can tell, both sides have ulterior motives, which, in the balance, will cost lives.

  22. Steve Gerber Says:

    This Newsweek column by Jonathan Alter may help clarify at least one aspect of this debate: the reason proponents of embryonic stem cell research have opposed some bills funding adult stem cell research.

    Big surprise: it’s politics.