Democratic challenger John Kerry vowed to lift the restriction on stem cellsf for the sake of millions of Americans with debilitating diseases such as diabetes. "To those who pray each day for cures that are now beyond our reach, I want you to know that help is on the way," Kerry said in remarks taped for his party’s weekly radio address in the second week of a cross-country campaign tour with vice-presidential running mate John Edwards.
"Come next January," said Kerry, who hopes to be inaugurated as president at that time, "we’re going to create a new anniversary — one that will be cause for celebration. We’re going to lift the ban."
Stem cell research heated up as an election-year issue after the death in June of former President Ronald Reagan, who had Alzheimer’s disease. His son, Ron Reagan, made an emotional plea to expand such research at last month’s Democratic National Convention.
On August 9, 2001, Bush restricted the use of federal funds for embryonic stem cell research to cell lines that existed at that time. Critics complain more stem cell lines need to be opened to federally financed study.
Embryonic stem cells, taken from days-old human embryos, have the potential to form any kind of tissue in the body. Researchers hope to learn to use them to create tailor-made transplants to treat Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, and other illnesses.
Because an embryo must be destroyed to harvest the cells, some anti-abortion groups oppose their use.
Kerry said, "People of good will and good sense can resolve the ethical issues without stopping life-saving research."
"Right now," Kerry said, "more than 100 million Americans suffer from illnesses that one day could be wiped out with stem cell therapy."
At a midday rally that drew several thousand people on Saturday in La Junta, Colorado, following all-night train ride from Kansas City, Missouri, Kerry promoted his overall plans to upgrade and lower the cost of health care for all Americans.
"The other side had four years, four whole years, to present America with a health care plan and they don’t have anything. Nada," Kerry said.
"We can do better," Kerry said to sustained cheers. "Help is on the way."
Prevalence of total diabetes among people aged 20 years or older — United States, 2002
Age 20 years or older: 18 million. 8.7% of all people in this age group have diabetes.
Age 60 years or older: 8.6 million. 18.3% of all people in this age group have diabetes.
Men: 8.7 million. 8.7% of all men aged 20 years or older have diabetes.
Women: 9.3 million. 8.7% of all women aged 20 years or older have diabetes.