The debate over cloning embryos for stem cell research has been one of the most divisive and unpleasant public controversies of the last decade. Partisans on both sides have sought to polarize the issue for political advantage rather than look for middle-ground positions that a majority of Americans would welcome.
In general, Republicans have equated medical research using single-celled clonal embryos with murder, while Democrats have promoted state ballot initiatives enshrining human embryo cloning as a constitutional right and committing billions of taxpayer dollars to a procedure that could open the door to socially pernicious applications, threaten women's health and exacerbate healthcare inequities.
Now we have a chance to put the cloning debate behind us.
Scientists in Japan and the United States announced Tuesday that they have successfully reprogrammed human skin cells to act like embryonic stem cells. The new techniques bypass the need to create and destroy human embryos. Research using these techniques would be fully fundable under current U.S. federal government policy. It can be supported by liberal, pro-choice Democrats and socially conservative, pro-life Republicans alike.