Perhaps Virginia Democrats are hoping to capitalize on the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge with their latest ad, which attacks Republican Barbara Comstock, running for Congress in Old Dominion’s tenth district, for her votes against state funding of embryonic-stem-cell research during her tenure in the Virginia House of Delegates.
“Embryonic stem cells have so much promise,” says Virginia resident Roz Rakoff, whose husband died of ALS this year. “But Barbara Comstock voted to ban that research funding. . . . That takes away hope for a cure, but also for families like ours, who just wanted a little more time.” Rakoff cites Nancy Reagan’s support for embryonic-stem-cell research to suggest that Comstock is an extremist out of keeping with her own party.
But not only is Comstock in line with her party (she voted, for example, with 60-plus other Republicans on the embryonic-stem-cell research amendment to Virginia’s 2012 budget bill, H.B. 30, cited in the ad). She is in line with the retiring congressman from her district, Republican Frank Wolf, who voted in 2005 against repealing restrictions on federal funding for research on embryos. Wolf represented Virginia’s tenth district for more than three decades. However, Wolf supported research on adult stem cells, which poses no moral dilemma — and so does Comstock. “Barbara Comstock supports adult-stem-cell research,” Comstock campaign manager Susan Falconer told the Washington Post, “and the Virginia state budget does fund adult- and placental-stem-cell research.”
And, as a practical matter, that may be money better spent. Embryonic-stem-cell research has yet to result in clinical treatments. Adult stem cells, meanwhile, have already provided substantial benefit to patients suffering from Parkinson’s disease, autoimmune diseases, diabetes, paralysis, and numerous other afflictions.
Finally, it would be absurd to think that Comstock’s stance on state funding for embryonic-stem-cell research means she opposes research for ALS patients and others. In fact, Comstock herself took the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge in August (watch it here), and donated to the search for a cure.
Comstock is not, as the House Majority PAC’s ad claims, “too extreme.” She is a principled politician in keeping with her party — and, if Frank Wolf’s 18 electoral victories are any indication, with the voters of Virginia’s tenth district.