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Huntsman Campaign Attempts to Clarify Position on Stem Cell Research

Morgen on June 30, 2011 at 9:55 am

A couple of weeks ago I dug up and posted this snippet of an interview with Jon Huntsman from 2004 which strongly suggested that he was a supporter of embryonic stem cell research:

Being familiar with the Eagle Forum, can you think of a few issues on which you disagree with them?

Sure. At the risk of making all kinds of enemies—because I respect people on all sides of the political debate—I probably disagree with them on guns in churches and schools. Probably on land use. Stem cell research would be another issue on which we part company, and perhaps the issue of reciprocal beneficiary rights would be an area of disagreement.

The Eagle Forum is a staunchly conservative, pro-life organization founded by Phyllis Schafly and thus it seemed like a pretty safe bet that if Huntsman was staking out a position in opposition to the Eagle Forum, then it was in support of embryonic stem cell research.

I tipped my finding to LifeNews expecting they would be able to elicit a response from the Huntsman campaign on this. Well sure enough, they did: (emphasis added)

LifeNews.com contacted the Huntsman campaign and spokesman Tim Miller says the former governor takes a pro-life position. The comment makes it appear Huntsman supports the policy pro-life President George W. Bush put into place of funding research with older embryonic stem cells where the life and death decision had already been made but not any new lines requiring the destruction of human embryos — unique human beings days after conception.

“Jon Huntsman is a passionate supporter of stem cell research which is leading to new discoveries that will improve and lengthen the lives of many Americans,” Miller said.

“He supports federal funding for lines that have a demonstrated history of success — adult stem cells, non-embryonic stem-cells and certain types of embryonic stem cell research. Gov. Huntsman opposes federal funding for new lines that would do harm to embryos,” Miller added.

President Barack Obama issued an executive order during his first few months in office overturning the Bush protections against forcing taxpayers to fund new embryonic stem cell research. The quotes make it appear Huntsman, like other pro-life candidates in the Republican presidential race, would put the Bush policy back in place and stop funding of research that has never been tried in humans because of massive problems such as causing tumors and immune system rejection issues.

While I am pleased to see the campaign take a position in clear opposition to any research which would result in the destruction of human embryos, this doesn’t really address Huntsman’s 2004 statement about the Eagle Forum or his past position on this issue in general. Huntsman is already being criticized for his past support of an individual mandate for health insurance, and cap and trade, and a flip-flop on stem cell research will further call into question his credibility on yet another issue which is important to many conservatives.

I wonder if Steven Ertelt with LifeNews was thinking along the same lines. Note his use of the phrase “makes it appear” on the issue of whether Huntsman would repeal President Obama’s executive order allowing federal funding for embryonic stem cell research.

I think two things ultimately need to happen for this to be truly settled. One, Jon Huntsman needs to speak directly on this issue including whether he was ever an advocate of federal funding for embryonic stem cell research, and what exactly is meant by the fact that he supports “certain types” of such research. The Huntsman Cancer Institute, an organization founded by Huntsman’s father, played a prominent role in advocating for the lifting of the bar against federal funding, and Huntsman served as the organization’s first President. Did he ultimately break with the Institute (and his father) over this issue? If so, it’s somewhat surprising that nothing seems to be on the record documenting his stance on this. (On the flip side, there were his comments about the Eagle Forum.)

Secondly, Huntsman needs to be asked directly whether he will commit to re-instating the ban on federal funding that President Obama lifted upon entering office. I think for many conservatives this is the most important thing he could do to alleviate any concern over this.

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Category: Politics, Pro-Life |

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