Sunday Morning Talk Shows and Stem Cells

Amie Newman

The biggest governmental rescue in history (hint: it's not health care!), Sunday morning talk show fodder, and stem cells in Washington.

The United States’ financial future hangs in the balance. With a now $700 billion bail-out of our country’s largest financial institutions, most of the Sunday morning talk centers on the crisis and specifically what it means for American tax payers.

Scott asked the $64 million question the other day, back when it was a measly $85 million we were discussing when he asked why the far right spend inordinate amounts of time and energy blocking just a slice of that for critical family planning funds and other fundamental health care for Americans? 

George Bush is quoted on Meet the Press this morning discussing the "precarious nature of today’s financial markets…and their vital importance to the daily lives of the American people." He says that, "intervention is not only warranted it is essential."

The question then becomes even more relevant today as we discuss how all of us – and don’t forget our children and grandchildren who will be paying for this certainly until they’re old and grey – are held hostage to a rescue mission costing close to $1 trillion while we cannot seem to agree that a health care system in this nation that covers all Americans, from the most vulnerable and needy, is worthy of that same sort of rescue? Don’t forget, President George W. Bush has seen fit to withold $34 million for seven years now, totalling $235 million – a drop in the money bucket! – for UNFPA programs that  provide family planning and reproductive healthcare programs globally to women and families desperate for a way to have a sense of control over their health and lives. 

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Sunday Morning Talk: Softly Fanning the Flames of the Culture War

In other news, Chris Matthews had a lively discussion with Michele Norris of NPR, Andrea Mitchell of NBC News, and John Heileman of New York Magazine about, among other things, John McCain’s "comeback" and his choice of Sarah Palin as a running mate. 

Andrea Mitchell had some fascinating things to say, in particular about how McCain and Palin work as a team by fanning the culture wars just enough to engage and ensure successful relationships with the  fundamentalists; but not too much thereby keeping those suburban moms and more middle of the road Republican supporters close by:

Ms. Mitchell: I think there is a way to do that. You know, it requires being pretty adept, but if you notice in Palin’s speech [at the convention], she didn’t get into any of the specifics on abortion or any of the other issues that would have offended those suburban moms…Instead she was the poster child for inclusiveness, for being exactly like them.

Later on in the program, Mitchell talks about Palin’s appeal as the "she represents me" candidate. To explain, Matthews and Mitchell discuss how the simple act of holding up her baby, Trig, who has Down’s Syndrome, sends the signal she wants to send that she is "against abortion." 

I agree that, politically and symbolically, the McCain and Palin campaign’s decision to highlight Trig in the convention and beyond sends a message to those who oppose abortion. What I would interject here, however, is a vehement reminder that those of us who support women’s legal access to abortion and women and families’ ability to make private and personal decisions about their lives and health without government interference do not disagree with Palin’s decision, or any woman’s decision, to bring a child with developmental or other disabilities into the world. What those who support personal decision making and legal abortion support is the ability for all women to have the opportunity to make these same decisions about their bodies, their lives and their health as Palin has had the opportunity to do. 

Stem Cells Go To Washington

In Washington state (my home), we’re looking at a gubernatorial election. Incumbent Governor Christine Gregoire (Democrat) is running against Dino Rossi, a Republican who lost to Gregoire in the last election. 

In the news this week is a television ad Gregoire is running highlighting her support for stem cell research (including embryonic stem cells) and Rossi’s opposition to embryonic stem cell research. The ad centers on a mother whose child has juvenile diabetes and says that stem cell research gives her hope and angrily says: "So I get upset when a politician like Dino Rossi says he’s against stem cell research. Who is he to put his personal beliefs ahead of my child’s health?"

The Seattle Times reports that the ads are not accurate because: 

The ad makes it sound like Rossi opposes all stem-cell research. His campaign said that’s not true, noting that Rossi does support research using adult stem cells. But he opposes research using embryonic stem cells, which are collected from embryos that are destroyed in the process.

That quote begs to be dissected.

What the Rossi campaign fails to mention is that adult stem cell research has not been shown to yield anything close to the same potential for break-throughs on a range of medical conditions. In fact, thus far, the adult stem cell research has been shown to potentially cause cancer. 

In Scientific American, stem cell biologist Roberta Lanza, reiterated the danger and lack of viability of using adult stem cells saying: "I don’t think the FDA would allow us to use these virally-modified cells."

Secondly, saying that embryonic stem cells are "collected from embryos that are destroyed in the process" sounds dramatic but it’s not quite true. These are, as Amanda writes, "gathered from left-over embryos created during the in-vitro fertilization process that helps infertile couples conceive."

So, unless Rossi and others who are anti-embryonic stem cell research, would like to outlaw in-vitro fertilization, there will always be leftover embryos. With close to 150 million orphans in this country already, it’s hard for me to imagine that, even with Rossi’s anti-choice positions, he would call for all of these embryos to be adopted? What then would he propose for the embryonic stem cells? Instead of using them to find cures for diseases that all Americans have family members afflicted with, he would rather destroy them for no purpose whatsover? 

Finally, even John McCain supports embryonic stem cell research. It’s not unfair, or even inaccurate, for Gregoire’s campaign to call out opponent Dino Rossi for his lack of support for the only viable source of stem cell research at this point. 

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Reproductive rights are a public health issue. That's a fact.

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