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Political Science on the Hill

A resolution of the stem cell debate is in sight.

Jan 22, 2007, Vol. 12, No. 18 • By YUVAL LEVIN
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To press the point, the White House on Wednesday released a 64-page report, "Advancing Stem Cell Science Without Destroying Human Life," filled with citations to recent studies of ethical stem cell alternatives. Many supporters of the president's policy in the House also cited the newer research in their remarks. So far, though, the changing facts have not made a dent in congressional support for embryo-destructive research. The House passed the bill to overturn the Bush policy by a margin of 253 to 174--well short of the two-thirds needed to override Bush's veto, but precisely the margin one would have predicted by looking at last year's stem cell vote and the election results: no surprises, and essentially no changed minds either way.

The Senate is likely to take up the issue soon, and there, too, the bill is all but certain to pass. But with time, and with more studies showing success with alternative sources of pluripotent cells, the debate may well begin to shift. Increasingly it appears that the aim of the Bush policy--to advance stem cell science without destroying embryos--may be more attainable than anyone (including its architects) imagined in 2001. Stem cell research still won't cure all known maladies, but more and more we are realizing that it can be pursued without eroding America's longstanding regard for human life and dignity.

Yuval Levin is a fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center and senior editor at The New Atlantis magazine.