Why is George W. Bush Trying to Send America's Best Medical Researchers to Jail?
What can you do about it?

Irregular TimesThat's right, jail. George W. Bush is trying to get a law passed that would imprison and heavily fine any researcher, doctor or patient who uses a new medical procedure called somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT) to treat a debilitating illness. H.R. 534, the bill that George W. Bush supports, has already been passed by a mostly Republican coalition in the House of Representatives and is moving through the Senate. Even going to another country where the procedure is legal for purposes of treatment may be criminal next year if Mr. Bush and his allies in Congress get their way.

What sort of dastardly act merits this kind of punishment? Are these researchers, doctors and patients part of some nefarious plot to traffic in human organs? Would the procedure harm or violate the rights of any adult, child, infant or fetus? Is SCNT some kind of quackery outside of mainstream science?

No, no, and no.

The promise in SCNT lies simply in taking cells from a patient's own body and creating stem cell cultures (not organs or babies) matching that patient's genetic code. In this way, flexible medical treatment may be possible without risk of auto-immune rejection. With proper research, SCNT has the capability to soon play a crucial role in the treatment of degenerative diseases, spinal cord injuries and even cancers. This potential is not theoretical: SCNT has recently been demonstrated by researchers to cure Parkinson's disease in animal tests.

You don't need to be injured or ill to benefit from SCNT therapy. I'm in fine health right now, and I'm fortunate enough that nobody in my family has an illness or injury of the devastating sort that SCNT therapy could ameliorate. But I also know that the chances are good that someone I know will eventually need the sort of treatment that SCNT could provide.

SCNT research into what is also called therapeutic cloning has been endorsed by the National Academy of Sciences and the American Medical Association. According to a poll carried out in the spring of 2003, a majority of Americans support the research that scientists are ready to initiate. Internationally, more than sixty national science acadmies from every continent on the globe have signed a statement expressing official support for SCNT research.

But George W. Bush and politicians in Washington continue to stand in the way of science, medicine and public opinion. Bush continues to insist, despite evidence to the contrary, that 12 aging stem cell lines contaminated by mouse proteins are sufficient to engage in productive research and protect the public health. If he and his allies in the Congress gets their way, countless doctors will face the choice of going to jail or forsaking the patients who need them the most.

It's Not Too Late: Take Action

Although the House of Representatives has already passed the bill to prohibit SCNT, it has not yet been enacted with the force of law. With Senate approval and George W. Bush's signature yet to be obtained, this effort to criminalize hope can still be stopped. But to stop this juggernaut you will need to exercise your right and responsibility to get involved. Here's what you can do:

  1. Step 1: Educate Yourself
    No policy advocate should rely simply on what others say about a subject. So don't take my word for it: educate yourself. Here are a number of resources you can use to become more familiar with SCNT and the Bush coalition's effort to block it:

  2. Step 2: Contact Your Senators
    Go to The Senate's Official Website and select your state. You'll be taken to a web page that shows all the contact information (regular mail, phone and e-mail) for your two elected Senators.

    Although the Coalition for the Advancement of Medical Research has an automatic fax-your-Senators option with pre-written text, I discourage you from going that route for two reasons. First, Senators' staffs are wise to this tactic and tend to dump canned appeals in the trash. Staffs are much more likely to respond to individually-written letters and phone calls. Second, it's an ethically questionable (although common) practice to represent someone else's words as your own in political communication. It may take a minute or two more, but composing your own comments is more honest and productive.

    In your letter or phone call, be specific: mention H.R. 534 by name, indicate your understanding of the bill's status before the Senate, and be clear in your recommendation to the Senator both in general support of SCNT and in opposition to H.R. 534 or any similar bill.

  3. Step 3: Contact George W. Bush
    Ultimately, the buck stops at the Oval Office and its occupant, George W. Bush. On an issue this important, we cannot assume that Bush is incapable of changing his mind in the face of the overwhelming voice of public opinion. It is therefore crucial that you register your support for SCNT research with President Bush. Calling Mr. Bush's office at (202) 456-1111 will not, unfortunately, allow you to speak with the man himself. But his staff will register your opinion on the issue. If enough people call on the subject, Bush will get the message.

  4. Step 4: Spread the Word
    No one person can achieve great results alone. In order for Steps 2 and 3 to be effective, a number of people will need to act together. This means that those of us who are committed to defending SCNT research must encourage others to get involved. There are a number of ways to do this. One is the publication of articles such as this. At a smaller scale, spreading the word your friends, neighbors and coworkers is especially effective. To encourage the flow of information, invite discussion and help you show your support in a public way, we are proud to offer the series of posters, stickers, license plate frames, shirts and mugs displayed to the right. Sport any of these in a public place, and you'll be amazed how conversations can get started. And that's precisely how grass-roots change for the better can begin.
To encourage the flow of information, invite discussion and help you show your support in a public way, we are proud to offer the following items. Sport any of these in a public place, and you'll be amazed how conversations can get started. And that's precisely how grass-roots change for the better can begin.

Curing Disease is not a sin. 11x17 poster I support SCNT research. 11x17 poster

I support stem cell research. 11x17 poster

SCNT Research: George Bush blocks it

George W. Bush blocks research. 11x17 poster

Saving lives could be criminal. 16x20 poster

George Bush wants to arrest scientists

Bush wants to jail researchers posters

stem cell research coffee mug

stem cell research bumper sticker

stem cell research license plate frame

Taking away hope is a sin t-shirt

George W. Bush blocks research t-shirt

Could saving your life be a crime?

stem cell research t-shirt

ask me about scnt t-shirt

ask me about scnt baseball jersey

ask me about scnt polo golf shirt

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