As US presidential primaries draw nearer, candidates seek to position themselves as very caring politicians. First it was healthcare, and now it is stem cell research.
On Friday Hillary Rodham Clinton was joined by ten-year-old Alex Walter with Type 1diabetes and Laura Clark paralyzed since a car crash three years ago.
Together they appealed at a meeting in New Hampshire for more funds for stem cell research, a move resisted by President Bush.
Steve Walter, father of Alex, said he is a registered Republican but supports Clinton because he is frustrated with the Bush administration's stance on stem cell research. His son has endured 10 to 12 blood tests a day and about 100 insulin injections a month since being diagnosed at age 4.
"This is not a religious issue," he said. "It's really about a little boy who's 10 years old, and another 100 million Americans who could benefit from this research."
Laura Clark's mother, Kathleen, also a Republican, said her daughter's experience has been life-shattering for the family. But she also made a practical appeal, noting the billions spent on people with chronic spinal cord injuries. Even modest advances through stem cell research — allowing quadriplegics to regain the use of their hands — would lead to a significant savings in health care costs, she said.
Clinton said the administration's position was part of its general contempt for science and disregard of evidence in favor of ideology.
"Every day that passes, we have families like the Walters and the Clarks waiting and wondering whether their government is really on the side of helping and saving the lives of their loved ones," she said. "Where we are now is, we're going backward. We're not just stalled. We're going backward."
She was speaking days after days the House voted to ease limits on the federally funded research despite President Bush's veto threat.
Bush says the legislation would compel taxpayers to support "the deliberate destruction of human embryos." Lawmakers lack the votes to overturn a veto.
But Clinton emphasized that the bill would permit funding only for research on embryonic stem cells donated from in-vitro fertilization clinics — with the donor's approval — that otherwise would be discarded.
"We do take seriously the ethical concerns," she said. "This is not something that has been done in a quick, poorly thought out way. ... I think there is a false difference between the president's position and ours."