Suddenly, stem cells are everywhere. Once relegated to the depths of esoteric health journals, the microscopic clusters have made their way to the nation�s front pages. The complexity and drama surrounding these relatively simple cells has increased due a ticking clock: By the end of the month, President Bush is scheduled to decide whether to continue federal funding for stem cell research. The question of using stem cells for research is intrinsically scientific, and yet has become the political cause du jour in Washington. The debate surrounding the cells threatens to rend traditional alliances, challenging our comprehension of life and leaving some abortion opponents in a very uncomfortable spot: Is it possible to protect the strict boundaries inherent in the "sanctity of life" and still harvest these cells to help the living among us? Bringing the cells to light
In scientific terms, stem cells� rise to fame has been straightforward: Recent studies suggest these cells may hold the secret to treatment — even cures — for some of our most baffling diseases, including Alzheimer�s and Parkinson�s. In political terms, however, the ascension has been less smooth. At the heart of the stem cell debate is a battle over abortion — but with a twist. Yes, these are cells from embryos. And according to the religious orthodoxy, an embryo is life. Indeed, some pro-life advocates have likened using stem cells for research to what Nazi doctors did during World War II. But these cells also hold great promise for millions of ailing patients and their families. Moreover, many of the embryos would otherwise be unceremoniously discarded. The political stakes are high, and almost everyone involved in the debate has been obliged to reevaluate their position. The political debate
For the first time in his presidency, George W. Bush finds himself in what may prove an unwinnable situation. In the next few weeks, the President is expected to decide whether to continue federal...
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