John McCain and Embryonic Stem Cells

Chelsea2008 Election, Embryonic Stem Cell Research2 Comments

Last week there was a big comment discussion on one of Jay’s posts about what John McCain’s position on ESC research actually is anymore. It seems there has been some confusion lately. He very vaguely addressed this during last Saturday’s Civil Forum with Rick Warren at his Saddleback church, but let’s look at everything, shall we?

For years John McCain has been in favor of ESC research on so-called “surplus” embryos created for IVF. In 2004 he signed a letter to the president urging him to expand funding for ESC research. He voted twice in favor of the embryonic stem cell research enhancement act (so did Obama), even once taking time on the floor to speak in favor of the funding. In April of 2007 he told Christian talk show host Bob Dutko that he, and those who oppose ESC research “just have an open and honest disagreement”:

Lately, however, there have been a few reports from some ESC research supporters who are worried he is not committed to his past position in favor of the research. Some pro-lifers have even suggested that McCain has been open to changing his mind and is slowly coming around on the issue. Indeed, in the last year he has remained fairly quiet about ESCs, focusing his comments on touting alternative sources. His campaign website makes no mention of his past ESC research support or whether he would refuse expanded ESC research funding, but says only that he would support funding “promising research programs…that do not involve the use of human embryos.” But does this indicate a change or a change in the works? Personally, I wouldn’t bet on that just yet.

Earlier this year he defended his support for research using embryos that would be, “either discarded or kept in permanent frozen status.” And last night, when asked if he would favor or oppose funding for ESC research McCain, using the vaguest wording possible (notice, he uses the blanket term “stem cell research”), essentially reiterated his position:

For those of us in the pro-life community this has been a great struggle and a terrible dilemma because we’re also taught other obligations that we have as well. I’ve come down on the side of stem cell research. But I am wildly optimistic that skin cell research, which is coming more and more into focus and practicability, will make this debate an academic one.

As Fr. Martin Fox said re: McCain’s fuzzy website language:

when you read his site’s statement very closely, you will discover, accompanied by a sick feeling in your stomach, just how fine an art it is for those in politics to parse words to sound like they say more than they do.

If McCain wants to say clearly he’s against research on embryonic stem cells, it’s just that easy to say that. In all that verbiage, that clear statement does not appear.

Based on that all we can assume is that, yes, John McCain still favors funding for ESC research and will continue to do so when he is president.

He may be anti-abortion, but, under different circumstances, he still supports the destruction of innocent human life and that’s not insignificant – especially considering the fact that he also told Rick Warren that human beings are entitled to human rights at the moment of conception.

2 Comments on “John McCain and Embryonic Stem Cells”

  1. It could be that Senator McCain is going the Joni Mitchell route by trying to play “both sides, now.” He may be trying to placate the ESCR crowd without alienating those against. Or…perhaps he’s really having a change of heart, spurred on by ASCs doing well and iPSCs becoming more and more promising. Remember: he could always promise to devote more money to ESCR and then do so by throwing just $300,000 at it or something, saying, “I have fulfilled my promise, but, really, we should be looking more these days at these less controversial alternatives, at finding cures by using methods we can ALL agree with…”

    I’m not sure which it is. I DO believe, however, that he’d be far easier to persuade to go the ethical route than Senator Obama would be. At least when McCain voted to expand federal funding for ESCR, he stated his respectful disagreement with President Bush, rather than go off his banjo (a la Reid, Harkin, Kennedy, Clinton…and, to some extent, Obama) about how the President was somehow standing in the way of help for millions of Americans and all that garbage…

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