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Laura Bush’s Flawed Science

I don’t know what First Lady Laura Bush majored in, but I’ll go out on a limb and guess it wasn’t biology. In an interview with the Associated Press, she praised her husband’s policy virtually banning stem cell research in any lab that receives Federal funding.

To be exact, the Bush policy limits stem cell research to the 78 stem cell lines that were in existence on Aug. 9, 2001 — the date the ban was announced. It has turned out, for a variety of reasons, that only 21 of those lines have been useful. Some of those lines have other problems that limit their practical utility. About 99.9% of the lines that could potentially be studied are unavailable. The ban doesn’t apply to privately-funded research, but there are few laboratories and/or scientists that don’t receive Federal funding at some point, making the ban extremely effective at very nearly shutting down this avenue of research.

Laura Bush said, “We don’t even know that stem cell research will provide cures for anything — much less that it’s very close.” But of course, one seldom knows for sure that a scientific breakthrough is “very close” until it happens. The Bush policy ensures that progress, whether close or not, will come a lot more slowly than it should.

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