As you might guess, the news has been dominated by the president’s veto of the embryonic stem cell bill. Most of the headlines express anger or frustration on the part of many Americans and researchers; others talk about what will come next. There also seems to be a lot of how this is a problem for Republicans and may damage their campaigns come November. Editorials and letters are all over the place, as you would expect.
I want to highlight one editorial, which appeared in the Pittsburgh Tribune Review. Some background on why I am blogging this one instead of one from other papers: this paper was, until a newspaper strike in Pittsburgh some dozen years ago, the newspaper of a small Pennsylvania town and it had an exceedingly conservative bias. Furthermore, western Pennsylvania is generally a socially conservative region—when it votes Democrat, it is because of issues important to the working class and unions, not because of pro-choice or “bleeding heart liberal” stances. It is a highly Catholic area. Conservative Senator Rick Santorum got his start as a representative from the Pittsburgh area. Consequently, I was stunned to read this editorial, which says what I have been saying about the war in Iraq and stem cells. I don’t know what the paper’s general slant is now, but for this paper, in this area of the country, to come out with this editorial, just blows me away and makes me think there is hope for America after all.
Some of the other fallout—California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger ordered a state loan of $150 million dollars to the California stem cell institute. According to the Los Angeles Times, "We can no longer afford to wait to fund this important research," Schwarzenegger wrote in a letter that directed his finance director to make the loan. "I remain committed to advancing stem cell research in California, in the promise it holds for millions of our citizens who suffer from chronic diseases and injuries that could be helped as a result of stem cell research." The paper says that the loan is quadruple the NIH budget for stem cell research.
In Illinois, Governor Rod Blagojevich is directing $5 million from an administrative line in the state budget to stem cell research. (See the Chicago Sun Times.) The Wall Street Journal has an interesting article on the importance of stem cell issue to a Chicago Congressional election.
I’m wondering if the veto is going to heighten the awareness of the issue of embryonic stem cell research for many people who have not been giving it a lot of thought. The debate may begin to take shape in ways that it has not yet. Saddle up!