Video: Seeking fewer restrictions

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updated 7/27/2004 5:58:50 PM ET 2004-07-27T21:58:50

When Ron Reagan takes the stage, he will be speaking on behalf of himself and his family. It was just 10 weeks ago when his mother, Nancy Reagan, urged politicians of all stripes to lift the restrictions on stem cell research.

“I just don’t see how we can turn our backs on this,” she said. “There are so many diseases that can be cured, or at least helped. We’ve lost so much time already and I just really can’t bear to lose anymore.”

Stem cells serve as a type of repair system for the body, and have the potential of growing into any particular cell or tissue. Scientists believe that stem cell research could lead to cures for Parkinson’s disease, diabetes, spinal cord injuries, and some types of cancer.

The controversy involves the fact that stem cells with the greatest potential are found in human embryos… and that’s an issue for conservatives including President Bush.

Three years ago, the president announced a compromise policy: No new embryos could be destroyed for research, but research could go forward involving existing cell lines.

The problem is that scientists say there are fewer viable lines available to them. As a result, most stem cell research has come to a grinding halt.

Conventions have long been the platform for causes that were said to be above politics.

In 1992, Elisabeth Glaser, suffering from AIDS, spoke at the Democratic convention in New York, while the Republican convention featured Mary Fisher.

In 1996, a paralyzed Christopher Reeve spoke at the Democratic convention, urging all Americans to support spinal chord research.

Ironically, when it comes to stem cells, many Republicans including 14 in the U.S. Senate, support lifting the restrictions.

For Democrats, the issue is a no-brainer. And they are delighted  to put the focus on it this evening. After all, conservatives may love the Bush family… but tonight, the Democrats have a Reagan.

David Shuster is a Hardball correspondent. He's also blogging for Hardblogger.MSNBC.com at the Democratic National Convention.

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