A BRIGHTER DAY: Stem Cell Elections in 2012
By Don C. Reed
2012 was a banner year for the cause of cure.
First among our stem cell electoral victories was the re-election of President Barack Obama. The impact of a pro-science president cannot be overestimated. In Obama we have both a man who can reason with facts (instead of blind ideology), but who also has the strength to stand by a decision. Obama took his stand on stem cells before the 2008 election — and has never wavered in that support.
In the Senate, there were 14 races crucial to the advancement of regenerative medicine; we won 12. Even in the Republican-dominated House, where political redistricting and Super PAC money warped the process, still we had more wins than losses.
Sadly, the opposition was almost entirely Republican.
It is to be hoped that the Grand Old Party will rethink its position on stem cells.
Republicans were once friends of scientific research; they should be so again. Think of Lincoln, Eisenhower, Ford — all strong supporters of science. Lincoln owned a patent on a scientific invention (a way to lift riverboats upstream); Eisenhower had a math and science program named after him, and Gerald Ford gave his personal endorsement to advanced stem cell research.
But for Republicans to call for a ban on embryonic stem cell research, both public and private?
That was shameful. As any student of research can verify, embryonic stem cells are made from microscopic blastocysts (fertilized eggs) left over from in vitro fertilization (IVF) procedures — and only after the decision has been made to discard the cells as medical waste. Would it not be better to try to use the cells to try and ease suffering?
For Democrats, backing the president’s moderate stance on stem cells is both right and natural, like supporting the Defense Department: Both are intended to protect the lives and well-being of our citizens. America is right to fund stem cell therapies for cures — to ease suffering, save lives, and reduce our mountain of medical debt.
Because stem cell research is backed by nearly 3/4 of the American public, it is increasingly foolish (as well as nonsensical) to vote against it.
Accordingly, some anti-research Republicans hide their position, by simply not listing it on their websites.
But an incumbent’s voting record can be checked. For example, no friend of research could vote against the very moderate Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act, offered twice in 2005 and 2007, passing House and Senate both times — before being vetoed by then-President George Bush.
New candidates of course have no voting records, but if they accept the endorsements of ideological groups opposing the research, that is an indicator of their stance.
Also, anyone who supports “personhood” is locked into an anti-research position. Personhood is the bizarre belief that fertilized eggs deserve full legal standing in a court of law. Enacted into law, personhood could overturn a woman’s right to choose, various forms of birth control, embryonic stem cell research — even IVF procedure itself.
On that basis, here are what I consider the 2012 losses and wins of stem cell contests.
SENATE LOSSES: (2)
Former Surgeon General Richard Carmona (D) was narrowly defeated by Jeff Flake (R). But Carmona went from far behind to very nearly defeating Flake.
Research supporter Bob Kerrey (D) was defeated by research opponent Deb Fischer (R). Kerry began 18 points down (having lived out of state for a decade) but nearly pulled off an upset, ending just three points below research opponent Fischer.
SENATE WINS: (12)
WIN: Patrick Murphy, (D) founder of his state’s stem cell program, defeated multi-millionaire opponent Linda McMahon (R).
Elizabeth Warren (D) defeated Scott Brown (R).
Debra Stabenow (D) defeated Pete Hoekstra (R).
Amy Klobuchar (D) defeated Kurt Bills (R).
Claire McCaskill (D) defeated Todd “legitimate rape” Akin (R), a personhood supporter. (He and defeated vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan who co-sponsored a personhood bill.)
Jon Tester (D) defeated Dennis Rehberg (R).
Robert Menendez (D) defeated Joe Kyrillos (R).
Kirsten Gillibrand (D) overwhelmingly defeated research opponent Wendy Long (R).
Heidi Heitkamp (D) defeated personhood proponent Rick Berg (R).
Sherrod Brown (D) defeated Super PAC-backed Josh Mandel (R).
Tim Kaine (D) defeated George Allen (R), a personhood supporter.
Tammy Baldwin (D) overcame embryonic stem cell research opponentTommy Thompson (R).
HOUSE LOSSES (9):
Joe Mikloski (D) lost to personhood supporter Mike Coffman (R).
Val Demings (D) (star of the future) lost to Dan Webster (R).
Leonard Boswell (D) lost to Tom Latham (R).
Christie Vilsack (D) lost to Steve King (R).
Gary McDowell (D) lost to Dan Benishek (R).
Mike Obermueller (D) lost to John Kline (R).
John Oceguera (D) lost to Joe Heck (R)
Joyce Healy-Abrams (D) lost to Bob Gibbs (R).
Betty Sutton (D) lost to Jim Renacci (R).
HOUSE WINS (12):
Ann Kirkpatrick (D) defeated Jonathan Paton (R).
Ami Bera (D) is winning (so far!) in the seemingly endless vote count against Republican Dan Lungren (R), vehement opponent of the research.
Julia Brownley (D) defeated Tony Strickland (R). This is a doubly satisfying result for me. Strickland not only opposed embryonic stem cell research, but also voted against funding the Roman Reed Spinal Cord Injury Research Act, the law named after my paralyzed son. I wish Mr. Strickland a well-deserved retirement.
Ed Perlmutter (D) defeated beer magnate Joe Coors (R), a personhood supporter.
Patrick Murphy (D) appears to have defeated Allen West (R) — but Mr. West has demanded a recount, which is currently ongoing.
Research supporter Lois Frankel (D) defeated Adam Hasner (R).
Tim Walz (D) defeated Allen Quist (R). Mr. Quist, reportedly a mentor to Michele Bachmann, opines that dinosaurs and people lived together on the planet, and that women are biologically designed to be submissive.
Rick Nolan (D) defeated Chip Cravaack (R).
Carol Shea-Porter (D) defeated Frank Guinta (R).
Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) defeated Janice Arnold-Jones (R).
Pete Gallego (D) over Francisco Canseco (R).
Every voter with a disability should take pride in our country’s decision. Every family with a loved one suffering chronic disease should feel relief; we dodged a bullet. The wrong people in office now could have delayed cure therapies for generations.
Tomorrow is brighter for the outcomes of one day: Nov. 6, 2012.
Follow Don C. Reed on Twitter: www.twitter.com/diverdonreed