Sen. Barack Obama and Sen. John McCain, the respective Democratic and Republican presidential nominees, explained their stands on embryonic stem cell research in a Monday interview with ScienceDebate2008.com. Both candidates reiterated their support for funding embryonic stem cell research, while Sen. McCain clarified that he does not support funding research that deliberately creates embryos for destructive cell harvesting.
Obama charged that the Bush administration’s restrictions on embryonic stem cell research have “handcuffed our scientists and hindered our ability to compete with other nations.” Pledging to lift the restrictions, he said he would ensure the research is conducted “ethically and with rigorous oversight.”
Acknowledging ethical objections to funding research that harvests cells from human embryos, Obama said hundreds of thousands of embryos stored in in-vitro fertilization clinics will eventually be destroyed. He explained that he believes it is ethical to use such “extra embryos” for research “when they are freely donated for that express purpose.”
Expressing support for areas of non-embryonic stem cell research, he nonetheless insisted that embryonic stem cells remain the “gold standard” for research.
McCain said that, while he supports federal funding for embryonic stem cell research, he believes “clear lines should be drawn that reflect a refusal to sacrifice moral values and ethical principles for the sake of scientific progress.”
Expressing hope that scientific advances would render the debate “academic,” he too professed his support for non-embryonic stem cell research programs.
“I oppose the intentional creation of human embryos for research purposes and I voted to ban the practice of ‘fetal farming,’ making it a federal crime for researchers to use cells or fetal tissue from an embryo created for research purposes,” he told ScienceDebate2008.com.