Recent Report Indicates Majority of Americans Support Embryonic Stem Cell Research

Issue of Funding Embryonic Stem Cell Research Could Cause Friction in 2012 Presidential Debate

A recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine suggests that a majority of Americans support embryonic stem cell research and believe the government should fund future research endeavors.

As the report implies, presidential candidates must choose between their party's allegiance and the majority vote when debating embryonic stem cell research and funding in the upcoming 2012 election.

Stem cells prove especially helpful to researchers because they can make exact copies of themselves indefinitely. The more controversial cell used for this research is the embryonic stem cell, derived from an early-stage embryo, which is destroyed during the research process.

Christians oppose stem-cell research, employing the argument of life beginning at conception, with some pointing to Bible for support.

One often referred to verse is Psalm 139:16, which reads: "Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them."

Similarly, in Jeremiah 1:5, it states: "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you."

According to the research results, 62 percent of Americans approve of using embryonic stem cells for medical research purposes, whereas 62 percent also believe it is morally acceptable.

Similarly, 55 percent of Americans believe the government should fund research that uses newly created stem cells from human embryos.

In a speech made at the Christian Scholars' Conference at Pepperdine University in June, Lutheran pastor and theologian Dr. Ted Peters argued that Christians should support stem-cell research.

"I don't think we are baby killers when it comes to disaggregating the blastocyst," Peters said. A blastocyst precedes an embryo, and forms five days after conception.

"I think we have the opportunity to dramatically help human health and well-being," Peters added. "I don’t think it dehumanizes people to do stem cell research."

Results relating to political affiliation, however, showed that a majority of Republicans, at 58 percent, oppose government funding of stem cell research, while only half (52 percent) support stem cell research in general.

The report also states that those questioned in the U.S. who attend religious services weekly or more frequently oppose embryonic stem cell research by 40 percent.

According to the report, this result proves telling because statistics show religious people are more likely to vote Republican, and at the same time, Republicans are more likely to declare themselves religious.

"This analysis suggests that if the leaders of the two political parties focus mostly on responding to their own adherents' views, their differences could affect future federal funding for embryonic stem-cell research, depending on the outcome of the 2012 election," wrote Robert J. Blendon, Minah Kang Kim and John M. Benson, all of whom are involved with the Harvard School of Public Health.

The authors go on to contend that "alternatively, if they focus their policy positions more on the views of the broader U.S. public, future federal research funding is likely to be secure regardless of which party wins the election."

Several presidential candidates running for the 2012 election have stated that if elected, they plan to reduce federal funding of stem cell research.

For example, Republican candidate Mitt Romney states he is opposed to embryonic stem cell research funding and sees embryonic stem cell research as morally wrong, even though his wife, Anne, has multiple sclerosis, a disease which yields encouraging results from stem cell research.

The 2012 elections will prove telling regarding candidates' desire to appease public opinion or stay true to their religious/political party convictions.

While some Christians continue to vehemently oppose stem cell research, others offer a more compromising perspective. Pastor Peters, for example, argues that the debate over embryonic stem cell research does not have to be an "irreconcilable war."