Stem Cell Research Detained No More: Hope for Science and the Rule of Law Returns

Two fairly remarkable bits of news … The Decider in Chief got whacked by the most conservative Supreme Court in U.S. History on his efforts for military tribunals relating to Muslim detainees in Guantanamo Bay. While that case has nothing to do with the issues we cover on this site, it does get to a philosophy of governing that is increasingly being repudiated by voters (responding in polls, the proof comes in the November pudding) and now the court.

The second item yesterday, seemingly unrelated, is that the United States Senate, after two years of holds and blocks by social conservatives, will finally take up the issue of expanding research on stem cells. "Social conservatives liken the research to abortion because the process of extracting stem cells from a days-old embryo results in its death. Bush, who believes the practice is immoral, has threatened to veto the legislation," according to the New York Times. I'm going out on a limb here, a fairly thick one, by prediciting that in this even-numbered year, with his poll numbers, and narrow Congressional majorities on the line …. not to mention social conservatives in Congress caving on their "morals" on this issue, that this bill won't be vetoed.

Senator Tom Coburn (OK) has been one of the chief blockers to this bill and it will be interesting to learn what finally "persuaded" him to let go. Could it be the 70 percent of support voters give to the promise of life-saving treatments this cutting edge science could bring? That support has been there consistently, so surely it couldn't be that? Unless of course the fact that only 33 percent of voters now support the President's policies, and fewer support the actions of the current Congress, those numbers have changed dramatically in the two years Seantor Colburn has blocked this bill, and the life-saving scientific progress it promises.

I raise these two unrelated issues, the former having nothing to do with reproductive health, the latter only by implication, because the reproductive health community is finally tuned to watching shifts and nuance from this court, and from the electorate. On this day we are reminded the rule of law still matters, and that when the majority of Americans support something consistently, as they do with access to birth control, comprehensive sex education, more funding for HIV/AIDS, and a woman's right to make her own health care decisions … that matters too.

The race for the center is a cherished Washington tradition, but when you've been as far out of the mainstream as social conservatives have been lately, the road back is mighty long.

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