THREE VICTORIES– AND A NEW AGE?
Three great victories have been won: now we must utilize the opportunity they bring.
1. First, the Presidency and the elective offices.
In Barrack Obama, we have a man who has the potential to be as great as Lincoln. He can think, he is not afraid, and he is on our side. Our prayers go with him.
Also, the shifting of Congress and the Senate was overwhelmingly in our favor. The defeat of Senators like Elizabeth Dole and John Sununu meant fewer anti-researchers to have to cope with. On the positive side, strong supporters like Kay Hagan, Jeanne Shaheen and Vickie Englund give us much to smile about.
2. Second, embryonic stem cell research is no longer controversial: that has been forever settled by Michigan’s Proposal 2, which (in an extraordinarily conservative state) took on the issue: to allow the use of blastocysts left over from In Vitro Fertility procedures.
The opposition knew this was a crucial test of strength. The Religious Right brought in their big guns, and made Michigan a social battleground state. They funded a massive propaganda attack, expensive TV ads in a Falsehood-a-Week ad campaign, with massive financial backing from the Catholic Church and ideological groups.
Michiganians took the heat for everyone. Almost alone, that small state fought. We outsiders should have done a lot more. Some did help: Bob Klein came out to fight for the finances to make the campaign possible. The Coalition for the Advancement of Medical Research endorsed the effort. Individuals (especially, one great man, A. Albert Taubman, a champion of research, made the campaign possible with his generosity–) but by and large, the campaign was on its own.
After a somewhat muddled and confused beginning, Michiganians came together in a white heat of unity.
When the votes were counted, Proposal 2 had prevailed.
They won, for all of us.
3. The third victory was the overwhelming defeat of the “personhood” effort, Amendment 48 of Colorado, the attempt to give a sperm-and-egg microscopic blastocyst citizenship rights. Fortunately, this was recognized as the nonsense it was—dangerous nonsense—and it was crushed, losing nearly three to one.
The leaders in that victory were the Women’s rights groups: NOW, NARAL, Planned Parenthood : who saw it (quite rightly) as a threat to a woman’s right to choose. For us in the regenerative medicine movement, the “personhood” movement could well have ended embryonic stem cell research.
Three victories: the national implications are huge. Regenerative research is no longer controversial; and we have men and women in the White House, Congress and Senate who support our efforts.
Now is the time to ask for a lot.
When President Bush was in office, the best we could hope for was the very cautious Castle/DeGette bill: the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act: a little permissions bill. Even that was vetoed by President Bush.
That was then, this is now.
Today, our cause has been proven right.
We must no longer plead timidly for permission to do the research. That can be accomplished by the stroke of a Presidential pen. On his first day in office, President Obama can reverse the Bush restrictions, which means we do not need Castle/DeGette.
If Castle/DeGette goes forward at all, it should be substantively rewritten.
We may only have one major “ask”—we must think carefully on what to ask for.
What we need now is money to do research, all across the nation.
We must think in terms of doubling or tripling the budget of the National Institutes for Health (NIH), because we are up against the most gigantic health problems (literally) in the history of the world. An extra billion or two (not even enough to make up for inflation losses after 5 years of flat funding)—that is nothing compared to the need.
Just as we would unify against an invasion of our country—imagine how we would react to a “body count” of one hundred million killed or wounded—even so we must come together to fund regenerative medicine.
We must think of the NIH like the Defense Department: one fights with guns against invaders, the other uses test tubes—but both are fighting to save lives.
We must no longer be splinter groups, weak and divided, but come together instead as what we are: a nation and a world working together against the common threat of chronic disease and disability.
If we can see beyond ourselves, and act on our better convictions, a new Age begins.