EVAN BAYH: Taking a Stand for Stem Cell Research
By Don C. Reed
It has not always been “safe” to support stem cell research.
Today, the world knows the healing possibilities. One has only to visit the website of the California stem cell program and click on a disease to see some of the amazing progress that is being made right now.
For example, here are the chronic diseases and disabilities beginning with the letter “A”. If you click on any of them, you will find a pageful of possible avenues to cure, among which embryonic stem cells will be listed.
But this was not always the case. The research began in 1998. Almost immediately, some ideologues sought to put an end to it, or at least not allow government funding of it.
Misunderstandings—and mischaracterizations of the research– ran wild.
President George W. Bush called it “the taking of innocent human life”.
This is of course not an accurate statement. Embryonic stem cell research involves living tissue, not a life. This is easily verified. Just take all the tissues involved in the research—a microscopic fertilized egg in a lab dish of salt water—and watch them as long as you want. There will never be a life. Without implantation in a womb, there can be no pregnancy—without a pregnancy, it is biologically impossible for there to ever be a human life.
Even so, change is hard, and some will always resist.
One day I was gathering signatures in support of the California stem cell initiative (Proposition 71) on Telegraph and University Avenue in Berkeley, California. This would seem to be about the safest place in the world to voice a controversial opinion.
However, as I stood there, an elderly woman walked up to me, read my pro-stem cell sign– and spat on the toe of my shoe.
That was about all of the incident. The man beside her took his presumed wife away; I went on gathering my signatures, and the spittle on my shoe dried.
But on August 28, 2004, “a pipe bomb…blew out a number of windows at a Boston-area laboratory specializing in stem cell research… (Fortunately) no one was wounded in the blast at Watertown, Massachusetts-based Amaranth Bio, which is working on cures for diabetes and liver disorders…”
There is also the political risk of taking an unpopular position, to support stem cell research in a state so conservative it actually made some forms of stem cell research against the law.
On June 4th, 2004, Senator Evan Bayh risked his political career. He signed the following letter to President George W. Bush, a known opponent of embryonic stem cell research.
“Dear Mr. President:
We write to urge you to expand the current federal policy concerning embryonic stem cell research.
Embryonic stem cells have the potential to be used to treat and better understand deadly and disabling diseases and conditions that affect more than 100 million Americans, such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, multiple sclerosis, spinal cord injury, and many others.
We appreciate your words of support for the enormous potential of this research, and we know that you intended your policy to help promote this research to its fullest. As you know, the Administration’s policy limits federal funding only to embryonic stem cells that were derived by August 9, 2001.
However, scientists have told us that since the policy went into effect more than two years ago, we have learned that the embryonic stem cell lines eligible for federal funding will not be suitable to effectively promote this research. We therefore feel it is essential to relax the restrictions in the current policy for this research to be fully explored.
We would very much like to work with you to modify the current embryonic stem cell policy so that it provides this area of research the greatest opportunity to lead to the treatments and cures for which we are all hoping.
Senator Evan Bayh”
A single act, like a fingerprint, often reveals the man.
Evan Bayh had the vision to realize what stem cell research might become, potentially benefiting millions of suffering human beings. He also had the courage to take a stand for his beliefs, even when there was political risk involved.
The more men and women we have like Evan Bayh, the sooner we will have cures for many chronic diseases and disabilities which afflict our loved ones.
This is a standup kind of guy, worthy of Indiana’s—and America’s– respect and support.
He reminds me of something my paralyzed son Roman Reed often says:
“Take a stand, in favor of medical research.
“Take a stand, for stem cell therapies and cures.
“Take a stand—so one day, everybody can.”
Visit Evan Bayh’s website. https://evanbayhforindiana.com/