Friday, January 02, 2009

Is stem cell research a divisive issue?

The NYT writes that Democratic leaders are deciding between legislation and executive order as a way of approving funding for stem cell research:
The debate is not academic. Democrats who oppose abortion say such a legislative fight holds the potential to get the year off to a difficult beginning, even though the outcome is certain given solid majorities in both the House and the Senate for expanded embryonic stem cell research.

"It is a very divisive issue, and it is a tough way to start," said Senator Ben Nelson, a moderate Democrat from Nebraska. "You don't want to stumble out of the box."
Wait, is this a "very divisive issue"? My overall reading of the stem cell debate is that funding research is broadly popular and basically separate in the public's eyes from the abortion debate as such. I'm quite sure it can pass without Sen. Ben Nelson's vote -- in fact, it already did!

Clearly there are a small set of anti-abortion activists who strongly object to this, and could conceivably make so much noise as to make it a divisive issue. But I don't see it. Essentially this was an issue that commanded majorities in both houses of Congress and then was vetoed by a president who didn't care much about his approval rating. I think legislation is the likely course here.

That, and in the same NYT piece Nancy Pelosi says she favors the legislative approach. So I think it gets done.

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