What I find disturbing about this debate is the lack of discussion about how stem cells are already being used. It is already legal to do research on stem cells. It is already legal to use stem cells. It is already possible to get Federal funding for research using non embryonic stem cells. It is even possible to get Federal funding for certain lines of embryonic stem cells. The issue here isn’t stem cell research - it’s over who is going to pay for it.
We should keep in mind that the Federal government has no obligation to pay for any kind of research. We should also keep in mind that any good businessman who sees a good investment won’t hesitate to move on it. So why do we need Federal funds for this kind of research? Because it’s risky. While some businesses have invested in this research, there appear to be scientists out there who’ve haven’t managed to convince investors to fund them, so they’re looking for money from the Feds. And yet, these same people will want to benefit financially if something does come of this research.
Even if businesses won’t invest “enough” in this research, the public still can. If the public supports research in this area, let those who support it fund it. The March of Dimes, St. Judes, the Komen Breast Cancer Foundation and many other publicly funded institutions have been funneling money into medical research for years. Organizations like this have proven that many small contributions can result in a lot of money. And with the Web, it’s now easier than ever to raise money. In fact, in the race to decode the human genome, a grass roots campaign funded much of the research, and put much of the that research in the public domain. If some of the public wants to pay for something controversial, voluntary contributions are a simple, non controversial way to proceed. By requesting Federal funding, the public is really saying that they don’t believe in the research very much because they don’t want to take the risk investing their own money.
Those clamoring for Federal funding for embryonic stem cell research should keep in mind that those opposed to embryonic stem cell research are philosophically opposed to embryonic stem cell research of all types. By continually clamoring for more, they run the risk of a backlash that would make all fetal stem cell research illegal.
There is no reason that the US taxpayer should be required to pay for this kind of research.