Saturday, September 22, 2007

Watts Says He Favors Stem Cell Research – Somewhat

I remember reading this article awhile back when Mikal Watts first launched his exploratory committee in his bid for Texas’ US Senate seat currently being occupied by John Cornyn. Someone reminded me of it the other day.

Asked whether he is in favor of a woman’s right to choose to have, or not have, an abortion Watts replied in this way:
“I personally have the view: I hold the pro-life position with three exceptions: one for rape, one for incest, one for the life of the mother.”
We’ve heard this time and time again and he has not wavered from this stance despite all of the hot water he has gotten into among progressive Democrats. Democrats who would simply want a candidate that they nominate for office to follow the Democratic Party’s own platform on this issue. But Mikal Watts proudly proclaims his opposition to abortion upon demand. I have said it before that I don’t think Watts has any personal viewpoint at all on this but has taken this stance to negate debate on the subject against conservative and anti-choice Texas Senator John Cornyn. It is this cold stance, and not his political ideals, that has shown me the way to supporting Rick Noriega.

And to oppose Watts.

Mikal Watts also knows that Texas has a large Catholic population, and this meshes with some of their core beliefs as well. He’s playing the numbers, not proclaiming a moral imperative.

Then I wondered why he disapproves of abortion, yet is in favor of stem cell research, as he said in the next sentences:
“But I don't claim to the Republican position of slippery slopes that you have to eliminate incredibly important medical research into Alzheimer's and Parkinson's because of the slippery slope argument on stem cells. I don't buy into that at all. There are clean stem cells and there are fabulous doctors all over the country who are making incredible progress toward two diseases that debilitate a large portion of our elderly population.”
If he believes that life begins at conception, as he claims to, why does he favor stem cell research, or more importantly embryonic stem cell research? Is this not just as bad as abortion?

Well, no. Watts has the view that we already have in existence lines of embryonic stem cells. Researchers grow them and extend them without destroying a single new blastocyst. It was a sin against God, but hey, the damage is done so why not use what we already have?

This, by the way, is the moral equivalent to what upper echelons in the US Army did in not prosecuting some Japanese medical researchers at the end of the World War II in exchange for the information they gathered from their experiments on our captured GIs.

But Watts is absolutely wrong here. In saying that “there are clean stem cells” in existence, he is wrong. By clean stem cells, he is referring to the fact that researchers used to use mouse fetal cells upon which to grow human embryonic stem cells. The argument here is that this process and methodology introduces animal pathogens into humans. Use of animal fetal material may introduce animal diseases to humans via this method. Watts is referring to new techniques that prevent this from happening, thus the term “clean stem cells”.

But he is very, very wrong.

There are no “clean” embryonic stem cells. None. This is not new news, it was discovered by scientists working at the Salk Institute on the UC San Diego campus in 2005. Every line of human embryonic stem cells is contaminated by a non-human, cell-surface sialic acid called N-glycolylneuraminic acid. Humans do not produce this compound. These human embryonic stem cells do. All of them.

Every line has been infected.

This is the same as saying that the Japanese studies were fatally flawed because they studied humans under incarceration, not the average human.

Mikal Watts is horribly uninformed. He does not have that political comfort zone that allows him to be in favor of human embryonic stem cell research on the one hand, and against a woman’s right to chose what to do with her own body, on the other. If you are against one, you are against the other. I believe that Mikal Watts opposes science that will save human life, not because he is a malevolent soul but because he is poorly informed, or chooses poorly what science he is willing to listen to, based on his politics.

But this is not something that he will be letting on. He favors using a tainted line of human embryonic stem cells in research that will be forever tainted. If scientists cannot guarantee the purity of their samples, their analytical results are questionable in the best of all possible worlds. Will kill people in the least of all possible worlds.

We need people in high office who are informed. Who don’t choose between sciences like they choose which brand of peas and carrots they will buy at the market. We need thoughtful people who listen to those in the know. People who will make decisions based on what is best for the people, not what is best for their political appearance.

This is one of the many reasons why I support Rick Noriega. This is a man with high integrity. A learned man who has one of the most progressive voting records in the Texas legislature.

Rick favors true embryonic stem cell research. Valid research that makes use of valid samples. This is the one we want, the one that all Texans need in office. Because despite party lines, we all contract disease at some point. Who will you support? Someone who relies on flawed science to find solutions to human disease? Or someone who knows about and supports good science that will one day find cures to Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Emphysema, and all kinds of cancer?

Unlike a woman’s right to choose to have, or not have a baby, I really don’t think that Texans have a choice here.

He favors it because it is the only scientifically valid stem cell research in existence. The next big breakthrough in human health studies will be here. I am told that it will make Jenner’s pioneering work in vaccination look like rubbing sticks together to make fire.

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