Rich Galen

That mouthpiece for the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy, the New York Times, reminded us yesterday that it has been "six years since President Bush, in the first major televised address of his presidency, drew a stark moral line against the destruction of human embryos in medical research."

That speech launched a thousand fundraising, political, religious and ethical campaigns for and against using human embryonic stems cells for research in to diseases heretofore considered incurable.

Now, according to yet another channel for Conservative thought in America, the San Francisco Chronicle:

Separate teams of scientists on two continents on Tuesday revealed they have created stem cells from human skin cells - a development that could eventually allow researchers to sidestep the contentious moral issues that have hobbled early studies in the promising field.

As someone who has been beset with heart disease first diagnosed when I was 39 and culminating in bypass surgery in 1998 I have a rooting interest in someone discovering a mechanism whereby I can grow new cardiac arteries.

As much as I would like for that to happen, I have been opposed to the use of human embryos because there is no doubt in my mind it would become an industry preying on young, poor women - pressuring them to become pregnant for the sole purpose of harvesting the resulting stem cells.

Even if you don't believe life begins at conception, you have to agree that would be - at its bare minimum - a repulsive development in the name of science and medicine.

You can read the background on all this. In brief, a technique of taking a human, grown up skin cell and manipulating the genes causes the cell to act like a stem cell - one able to replicate a cell in any organ.

Medical writer Sabin Russell's reporting in the Chronicle had the researcher, Dr. James Thompson, who originally perfected the harvesting of stem cells from embryos in 1995 saying, "The world has changed because of this new result."

This development will be publicly hailed as wondrous news. But in private there will be much gnashing of teeth and wringing of hands.

The "world" is much wider than medical research. The "world" also includes all those groups, organizations, PACS, and associations who have created a parallel industry raising money to lobby for or against the use of embryonic stem cells.

They are out of business effective yesterday.

The anti-embryonic stem cell folks will continue to raise money on an "I told you so" message: "I told you that embryos would not have to be sacrificed to this research," and those who agree might well throw another 20 bucks into the envelope to help pay for the victory party.

Rich Galen

Rich Galen has been a press secretary to Dan Quayle and Newt Gingrich. Rich Galen currently works as a journalist and writes at