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

Scott Swenson

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.

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.

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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.

News Politics

Colorado Republicans Pick Anti-Choice County Commissioner for U.S. Senate Race

Jason Salzman

Darryl Glenn, an anti-choice Colorado Springs County Commissioner, defeated a pro-choice GOP rival and three other anti-choice Republicans in the race to take on pro-choice Sen. Michael Bennet in November.

In Colorado’s Republican senatorial primary Tuesday, Darryl Glenn, a conservative county commissioner from Colorado Springs, scored a decisive victory over Jack Graham, a former Colorado State University official, who stood out from the GOP field of five candidates for his atypical pro-choice stance.

Glenn received about 38 percent of the primary vote versus nearly 25 percent for Graham, who finished second.

Glenn made no secret of his anti-choice stance during the primary election, describing himself in interviews as an “unapologetic Christian, constitutional conservative” and supporting “personhood” rights for fertilized human eggs (zygotes), a stance that could outlaw abortion and many forms of contraception.

Consistent with this, Glenn is also opposed to the Roe v. Wade decision.

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Glenn frequently brought up his faith in interviews. For example, Glenn broke out from his Republican rivals at the GOP state convention in April, where he gave an impassioned speech during which he discussed Planned Parenthood and opposing abortion ​before delegates voted him on to the GOP primary ballot.

Asked about the speech by conservative radio host Richard Randall, Glenn said, “Well, that wasn’t me. That was the Holy Spirit coming through, just speaking the truth.”

Seriously?” replied the KVOR radio host.

Absolutely,” Glenn replied on air. “This campaign has always been about honoring and serving God and stepping up and doing the right thing.”

Political observers say Glenn’s position on abortion, coupled with his other conservative stances and his promise never to compromise, spell trouble for him in November’s general election against Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet.

“Glenn’s stance on abortion isn’t necessarily disqualifying,” Jennifer Duffy, senior editor of the Cook Political Report, which offers non-partisan election analysis, in Washington D.C., told Rewire via email. “Colorado has sent pro-life Republicans to the Senate. But, the cumulative effect of all Glenn’s conservative positions on social, economic, and foreign policy, as well as his association with Tea Party-affiliated groups and his lack of funding make it very, very difficult to see a path to victory for him.”

In the final weeks of the primary, Glenn was supported by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.

Glenn’s ties to the right wing of the Republican Party drew criticism during the campaign from GOP Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. He criticized Glenn for accepting the endorsement of the Senate Conservatives Fund, which gave Glenn $500,000.

Duffy doesn’t expect the race to be “very competitive,” an observation that aligns with the “Democrat favored” assessment of the race by the Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report. Last year, Bennet was widely considered one of only two vulnerable U.S. Senate Democrats.

“Darryl Glenn’s support for ‘personhood’ puts him on the wrong side of Colorado voters’ values, including many pro-choice Republicans and unaffiliated voters,” said Karen Middleton, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Colorado, in an email to Rewire. “Support for reproductive freedom crosses party lines in Colorado, as demonstrated by the landslide losses by three ‘personhood’ ballot measures. Glenn’s chances of beating pro-choice champion Michael Bennet were already slim. This puts it closer to none.”

Glenn did not immediately return a call for comment.

In 2014, U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO), who is anti-choice, defeated pro-choice Democratic Sen. Mark Udall, who hammered Gardner on his abortion stance throughout the campaign. 

Gardner threw his support behind Glenn Wednesday, reportedly saying to Roll Call that Glenn has fundraising challenges ahead of him but that he’s “winning when nobody expected him to.” And that, Gardner was quoted as saying, “bodes well for November.”

Roundups Politics

Campaign Week in Review: Clinton Calls Out Debate Moderators for Ignoring Abortion

Ally Boguhn

Reproductive rights and justice advocates, including Planned Parenthood and NARAL Pro-Choice America, have spent months demanding Democratic debate moderators address abortion, organizing around the hashtag #AskAboutAbortion.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) this week on the campaign trail ignored questions about whether he supports radical “personhood” legislation, while Hillary Clinton called out Democratic debate decision makers for failing to ask the candidates about abortion rights.

Clinton Critical of Democratic Debates for Ignoring Abortion Rights and Access 

After moderators at eight debates failed to ask Democratic presidential candidates about abortion, Clinton called out the unwillingness to address the issue during CNN’s Thursday debate in Brooklyn.

“You know, there is no doubt that the only people that I would ever appoint to the Supreme Court are people who believe that Roe v. Wade is settled law and Citizens United needs to be overturned. And I want to say something about this, since we’re talking about the Supreme Court and what’s at stake,” Clinton said. “We’ve had eight debates before, this is our ninth. We’ve not had one question about a woman’s right to make her own decisions about reproductive health care, not one question.”

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“We have states, governors doing everything they can to restrict women’s rights,” the former secretary of state continued. “We have a presidential candidate by the name of Donald Trump saying that women should be punished. And we are never asked about this.”

Fact-checking site Politifact pored over transcripts of each Democratic debate during the 2016 presidential race. “We could not find any example of a moderator asking a direct question about abortion,” the site concluded, rating the claim “true.”

Reproductive rights and justice advocates, including Planned Parenthood and NARAL Pro-Choice America, have spent months demanding Democratic debate moderators address the topic, organizing around the hashtag #AskAboutAbortion.

“You might be thinking, Clinton and Sanders are both pro-choice and miles ahead of the Republican candidates, so what’s the point in talking about it? Well, both candidates support expanding health care access and regulating Wall Street, but that hasn’t stopped them from clashing over how to do it. It should be the same for abortion,” reproductive justice advocate Renee Bracey Sherman explained in an article for Glamour ahead of Thursday’s debate. “We can’t continue to allow anti-choice candidates to define the conversation. We must demand that our pro-choice politicians do more than just check the box. They must advance access to care, not maintain the status quo.”

Cruz Won’t Address His Anti-Choice Record During MSNBC Town Hall

The Texas senator on Thursday tried to gloss over his extreme anti-choice record during a town hall event hosted by MSNBC, refusing to answer eight direct questions about whether he supports so-called personhood legislation, which could outlaw abortion and many forms of contraception.

“I told you I’m not going to get into the labels, but what I will say is we should protect life. But I’m not interested in anything that restricts birth control,” Cruz said when confronted by moderator Chuck Todd about whether he supports legislation that would define life as beginning at conception, thereby granting constitutional rights to fertilized eggs, zygotes, and embryos. “And I’m not interested in anything that restricts in vitro fertilization because I think parents who are struggling to create life, to have a child, that is a wonderful thing,” continued the Republican presidential candidate.

But as MSNBC’s Jane C. Timm noted, “It’s unclear what Cruz defines to be birth control,” as he refused to answer Todd’s inquiry about whether Cruz considers intrauterine devices a form of contraception. Cruz has falsely equated some forms of hormonal contraception to “abortion-inducing drugs.

Cruz may have refused to discuss “personhood” during his MSNBC appearance, but he has, for the most part, been a vocal proponent of such legislation. The candidate in February released a video promising to “do everything” within his power to end abortion access if elected president, as Rewire reported. Cruz in the video threw his support behind a South Carolina bill that proposed giving fertilized eggs, embryos, and fetuses full constitutional rights.

He also gave his support for a similar measure in Georgia.

“I have been around conservatives my entire life. I have never met a single human being, in any place, who wanted to ban contraceptives,” Cruz said. Though Cruz has repeatedly alleged that Republicans have never tried to ban contraceptives, he has consistently pushed for legislation to do just that.

Along with the “personhood” measures he has supported, Cruz has crusaded to defund Planned Parenthood, applauded Texas Republicans for restricting Medicaid funding for abortion care while encouraging other states to do the same, and used his Senate seat to attempt to restrict access to contraception.

Cruz also worked to block a Washington, D.C. law to protect residents from discrimination based on their reproductive health decisions, which could have made accessing contraception more difficult had he succeeded.

What Else We’re Reading

Donald Trump’s campaign manager won’t be prosecuted for allegedly assaulting journalist Michelle Fields.

The campaigns of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Clinton are joining the Democratic Party in a lawsuit against Arizona’s Maricopa County after voters there faced hours-long waits to cast a ballot in their state’s primary. The lawsuit alleges that Arizona’s “alarmingly inadequate number of voting centers resulted in severe, inexcusable burdens on voters county-wide, as well as the ultimate disenfranchisement of untold numbers of voters who were unable or unwilling to wait in intolerably long lines.” The situation was “particularly burdensome” for communities of color, who had less placesand in some cases no placesto vote.

The New York Times’ editorial board encouraged Clinton to “say more about the crime bill” which she supported and was signed into law by her husband in 1994. Another article in the Times explained that while the bill was not singularly responsible for mass incarceration, it added to prison populations and the “results may still be playing out.”

Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) couldn’t believe that a young woman at one of his campaign rallies came up with a question for him about social security on her own. “Did somebody tell you to ask this question?” Kasich asked the woman, according to the Huffington Post. “No,” she told the Republican presidential candidate. “I think for myself.”

Mother Jones’ David Corn reported that Cruz once defended a law criminalizing the sale of sex toys. In their brief, Cruz’s legal team declared, “There is no substantive-due-process right to stimulate one’s genitals for non-medical purposes unrelated to procreation or outside of an interpersonal relationship.”

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) asked a federal judge to block Kansas’ restrictive voter ID law. The GOP measure requires proof of American citizenship when registering to vote while applying for a driver’s license pending the outcome of their suit against the law. At least 16,000 people have been stopped from registering to vote by the law, according to the ACLU. The preliminary injunction would stop the law from being enforced ahead of upcoming elections in August and November.

A Black man from Wisconsin brought three forms of identification to the polls in Wisconsin and still wasn’t allowed to vote thanks to the state’s Republican-backed voter ID law.