i’m voting yes on michigan’s proposition two

Medical researchers at the University of Michigan, in hopes of influencing the public debate over embryonic stem cell research in these last weeks before we vote on Proposition 2, have released a list of five things they think everyone should know about stem cell research.

While I appreciate the efforts of those campaigning both for and against the ballot initiative that would see state regulations governing the use of human embryos in research relaxed, I’m more inclined to listen to scientists right now than I am either religious zealots or political activists, regardless of how well-intentioned they might be.

Had you asked me several years ago, I may have responded differently, but it seems to me as though the pendulum in our country has moved so far away from science in recent years that we need to take efforts to bring things back into balance. And I think passing this ballot measure in Michigan would be a great first step in reclaiming our country in the name of reason. I understand this is difficult subject for some, but, rationally speaking, I can’t find much to object to in the language of Proposition 2 (pdf). The embryos in question would, after all, be destroyed if they were not used for research.

For those of you who haven’t read the proposed legislation yet, we’re talking about donated embryos, of 14 or fewer days old, that were not selected for implantation during routine fertility treatments. They are presently, according to accepted protocol, destroyed and treated as medical waste. Even if one believed that this collection of cells was in fact a person, wouldn’t research into cures for debilitating diseases like Alzheimers be preferable to destruction?

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39 Comments

  1. Paw
    Posted October 14, 2008 at 10:09 am | Permalink

    I thought that Prop 2 was the one that was supposed to turn us all gay.

  2. Curt Waugh
    Posted October 14, 2008 at 10:23 am | Permalink

    No, soy products turned us gay. Then, watching Teletubbies turned us gayer. Preferring peace to war turned us unusually gay. Prop 2’s gonna turn us into a big steaming man-pile of homo-ganders.

    Oh, I forgot. Our state constitution protect us from being gay. Wait, I meant PREVENTS us from being gay.

  3. Jim
    Posted October 14, 2008 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

    The anti-2 people are running a dishonest campaign, claiming, for example, that the proposal mandates increased government spending on research, when it doesn’t. CureMichigan ran a good response ad, but it seems to me that they are being outspent. I’m also seeing lots of anti-2 yard signs, but no pro-2 signs. I’ve emailed CureMichigan, but I got no response. I think that if the pro-2 campaign makes its case to the voters, 2 will pass, but they need to step up their efforts.

    This proposal is crucial to Michigan’s future as a leader in life science research.

  4. Vera
    Posted October 14, 2008 at 2:25 pm | Permalink

    Stem cell research had my full support many years ago. However, in 1998 and 2001, I inquired about donating cord blood and was told that this was not an option. While I understand that these stem cells are not the same as those from embrios, I know they can be used for a vast amount of research. If there is such a strong need, why is this resource going to waste?

    This is not a rhetorical question. I’d really like to know. In what little research I have done, I have yet to see a reason.

  5. Vera
    Posted October 14, 2008 at 2:27 pm | Permalink

    Oops, forgot to check for typos.

  6. degutails
    Posted October 14, 2008 at 6:30 pm | Permalink

    stella – looks like st. joe’s is the only local hospital that takes cord blood donations, and you have to talk to your doctor prior to 34 weeks of pregnancy. if you did those things and you were at st. joe’s and didn’t have a medical condition that precluded you giving, you shouldn’t have been turned down.

    http://www.marrow.org/HELP/Donate_Cord_Blood_Share_Life/How_to_Donate_Cord_Blood/CB_Participating_Hospitals/nmdp_cord_blood_hospitals.pl#MI

    i tried to donate bone marrow to my cousin who was dying of lymphoma about 11 years ago, only to be turned down because of my asthma, which seemed stupid, then and now. but it hasn’t affected my support of stem cell research. they’re not even directly connected, exactly, in my understanding. cord blood is used like bone marrow to treat blood diseases, where embryonic stem cells are being used for research to prevent such diseases, regrow neurons to heal spinal cord injuries, and treat progressive diseases such as alzheimer’s. it’s a good thing to support, in my opinion.

    meredith

  7. degutails
    Posted October 14, 2008 at 6:31 pm | Permalink

    oops – i typed stella when i meant vera. my bad.

  8. Ben Voigt
    Posted October 14, 2008 at 8:12 pm | Permalink

    Well, medicine has progress again, and made destructive stem cell research totally unnecessary. It is now possible to obtain pluripotent stem cells without killing a single unborn human child. And the stem cells obtained are safer to use, carrying less risk of becoming cancerous.

    http://www.technologyreview.com/biomedicine/21487/

    Stop embryonic stem cell research. It’s bad science, it’s bad medicine, it’s bad morals.

  9. degutails
    Posted October 14, 2008 at 8:57 pm | Permalink

    from the technology review article linked above by ben voight:

    “Furthermore, in contrast with induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS), which are made by engineering embryonic stem-cell genes into normal adult cells with the help of retroviruses, the adult GSCs do not require significant manipulations and therefore avoid the associated cancer risks.”

    those aren’t the same, for the record, as embryonic stem cells. what they’re referring to here are cells induced to become stem-cell like, which is a change also associated with cancer, hence, i presume, the increased risk.

    this is an exciting development, indeed, but it’s only useful to people who can produce the spermatogenic cells (males), and only potentially. the truth is, there are a lot of ways being developed to get around the barriers to developing new embryonic stem cell lines, and some of them are darn cool, but we know what to do with the embryonic lines, and someone with alzheimers or a spinal cord injury isn’t probably willing to wait.

    meredith

  10. Jim
    Posted October 14, 2008 at 10:23 pm | Permalink

    I would just add to Meredith’s excellent comment that Proposal 2 would allow collection of stem cells from embryos created for fertility treatment purposes which would otherwise be discarded. If collecting stem cells from embryos less than 14 days old amounts to killing unborn children, then in vitro fertilization which creates unwanted zygotes should also be illegal.

  11. EoS
    Posted October 15, 2008 at 9:57 am | Permalink

    The reason that Prop 2 goes 2 far and you should vote against it is because it amends the state constitution to prohibit any regulation whatsoever in the future in regards to a multitude of applications of embryonic stem cell therapies, many of which can potentially devastate the human gene pool.

    Many persons argue that there are an unlimited supply of ESC’s that are now being stored in freezers and will be thrown in the garbage unless used for research. This is a myth. The vast majority of frozen embryos are designated for future attempts at pregnancy and patients have designated only 2.8% of stored, frozen embryos for research. Treatment of any major human disease, however, would require projects in human cloning, or the creation and destruction of vast numbers of new embryos carefully chosen to match the genetic diversity of the population. The myth of an unlimited supply of embryos is only a transitional step to a broader agenda. There are 17 million diabetes patients living in the United States today. By conservative estimates, using today’s technology, their treatment alone would require 170 million women of childbearing age, each donating 10 eggs. Multiply these numbers by each and every person with any chronic disease and it is readily apparent that the difficulties in obtaining a sufficient number of eggs is an insurmountable obstacle.

    Adult stem cell research has a proven track record of success, while all attempts at embryonic stem cell research have failed. Embryonic stem cells have the potential to differentiate into a wide variety of cell types. However, science does not yet understand all the factors required to control the growth of these cells, and they have frequently proved to be unstable in culture and their uncontrolled growth in animal testing has resulted in detriment to the organism. ESC’s have been shown to mutate at a much faster rate than adult cells and that the rate of mutation increases the longer they are cultured. In contrast, adult stem cells that are slightly differentiated have been proven to be much easier to regulate and control. They can be harvested and used without long term culture and have been successfully used to treat 73 different diseases to date.

    http://www.stemcellresearch.org/facts/CheckTheScore.pdf

    Numerous studies demonstrate that some adult cells are as flexible as embryonic stem cells.

    http://www.stemcellresearch.org/facts/ASCRPlasticity.pdf

    With so many competing demands, shouldn’t we use our limited resources in areas where there is the highest probability of successful application and medical treatment of diseases? Many of today’s experts in the stem cell area have already conceded that the best hope for future treatments lies in the adult stem cell field. In light of past research publications, why is popular opinion being driven towards utilizing embryos as the major source of stem cells?

    The economic cost, the moral choice, and the likelihood of achieving widespread treatment all favor using adult stem cells instead of embryonic cells. Vote No on Prop 2 and tell the scientists that human life is not to be toyed with in the laboratory or used as spare parts for the wealthy few.

  12. EoS
    Posted October 15, 2008 at 10:30 am | Permalink

    By the way Mark, researchers at the University of Michigan are prohibited by law from influencing the public debate over ballot proposals.

  13. Jim
    Posted October 15, 2008 at 11:22 am | Permalink

    EoS, could you please provide support for the claims you make in your first two paragraphs?

    I agree with Mark that on the question of the potential of embryonic stem cells versus that of induced pluripotent stem cells, we non-experts should trust neutral scientific bodies like the U of Michigan, rather than advocacy groups like Cure Michigan or the Coalition of Americans for Research Ethics. I appreciate that your second link to the Coalition of Americans for Research Ethics site does list actual scientific studies, but most of us do not have the qualifications to tell whether these studies really justify CARE’s claims.

  14. dude
    Posted October 15, 2008 at 11:47 am | Permalink

    “many of which can potentially devastate the human gene pool.”

    It would take a LOT to “devastate” the human gene pool. Probably, most people who will benefit from stem cell therapies are too sick to consider having children or too old anyway or too few since most folks won’t be able to afford it.

    I think that this statement is a bit overblown. I am sure that EoS will send us some links to Pro-life websites that will say otherwise but i’d like to see some (not just one) actual scientific papers that have empirically tested this possibility.

  15. Paw
    Posted October 15, 2008 at 11:55 am | Permalink

    Maybe not “influence” the debate, as much as “inform” the debate. Having read the UM piece, I don’t think they’re telling people how to vote. They’re just explaining the science.

  16. EoS
    Posted October 16, 2008 at 1:17 am | Permalink

    Jim-

    I agree that it is difficult for persons who are not familiar with modern molecular biological techniques to fully understand the issues surrounding embryonic stem cells and their implications. However, University research scientists are not disinterested parties in these discussions. Their careers and economic interests impede impartial analysis. Scientists will always push the edge of new technologies. More than ever in these times we need an educated electorate who can evaluate the moral implications and impose restraint when warranted. Here’s a link to a powerpoint that helps explain some of the technology in a manner that is slightly easier to understand. It has links to the scientific papers that document the facts as well.

    http://www.stemcellresearch.org/testimony/prentice_2005-01-03.pdf

    Paragraph 1 – It is a state constitutional amendment, which means our elected representatives cannot change any portion of it without putting it to a vote of all the people of the state. In a field that can change overnight with new emerging technologies it would seriously hamper the ability of legislative officials to respond in a timely manner. The language of the ballot proposal explicitly prohibits any state law that would
    “(i) prevent, RESTRICT, obstruct, or discourage ANY stem cell research or stem cell therapies and cures that are permitted by the provisions of this section; or
    (ii) create disincentives for any person to engage in or otherwise associate with such research or therapies or cures.”
    (emphasis mine)

    Section 27, Article 2, paragraph d from Mark’s original link to the language of Proposition 2 see page 14-16.

    The proposal does at this time prohibit human cloning. This means it would be illegal for scientists or doctors to let the embryo’s that result from stem cell research applications to grow inside of a woman’s body until birth. But it does allow scientists to create human clones in the laboratory and manipulate the DNA, adding sequences or fashioning designer babies with any desirable trait, or even mixing animal genes with human genes. These genetically engineered cells could then be stored in freezers for a future that might make human cloning in the state legal, or they could be sold today to medical clinics set up in foreign countries, where they could be inserted in a woman’s womb for nine month’s gestation and ultimate birth of genetically engineered humans. And the proposal would prohibit any additional provisions or regulations that would have government set up regulatory controls or oversight of human clones so that a rogue researcher could easily take home his/her “creation” and use it to impregnate his wife/herself.

    Scientists today want to grow embryonic stem cells in petri dishes in lab incubators to do experiments to test what chemicals or growth factors they need to add to the culture to manipulate the cells into growing into specific tissue types. For example, if a person has diabetes, they want to program the embryonic cells into growing into the cells found in a pancreas, hopefully so that they can insert these cells into a person’s pancreas and the new cells will continue to grow and start producing insulin and thereby an effective treatment for the patient. They can experiment using donated fertilized eggs to study how to make the embryonic cells do this. But, they can’t put these cells into another person without having the patients body attack the foreign cells and destroy them. In order to treat a specific patient, they need to take that patient’s DNA from any cell, say a skin cell, and put their DNA into an egg that has it nucleus (and it’s DNA) removed. Then they can treat the embryonic cells derived from that growing embryo and obtain cells to be implanted in the patient without having the problems of rejection. This procedure is called somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT) and it’s the exact same procedure used to produce human clones. There are so many problems and dangers associated with human cloning that almost every developed nation in the world has banned it.

    Paragraph 2

    Here’s a link to a story done about the number of frozen embryo’s stored in freezers in IVF clinics (400K) and the percentage that were donated to be used for research purposes (2.8%) http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/full/sci;317/5834/46

    Here’s a link to a fact sheet from the Human Genome Project about cloning. Only one out of 100 attempts creates an embryo that divides and grows and 30% or more of the embryos created by SCNT have severe abnormalities.

    http://www.ornl.gov/sci/techresources/Human_Genome/elsi/cloning.shtml

  17. dude
    Posted October 16, 2008 at 8:15 am | Permalink

    “I agree that it is difficult for persons who are not familiar with modern molecular biological techniques to fully understand the issues surrounding embryonic stem cells and their implications.”

    I’m rolling on the floor here. A creationist who disavows science in favor of a literal interpretation of the Bible accuses the rest of the world as being unable to understand stem cell research because of unfamiliarity with molecular biology.

  18. EoS
    Posted October 16, 2008 at 8:40 am | Permalink

    I am both a creationist and a scientist. I reject abiogenesis and macro-evolution due to the scientific flaws in the theories.

  19. Michael Schils
    Posted October 16, 2008 at 9:35 am | Permalink

    I am an atheist who thinks ‘creationist’ and ‘scientist’ are mutually exclusive terms.

    How old do you think our planet is, EoS? About six thouand years?

  20. EoS
    Posted October 16, 2008 at 9:43 am | Permalink

    I once thought that they were mutually exclusive terms as well. I was an atheist for 25 years. I was wrong.

  21. Michael Schils
    Posted October 16, 2008 at 10:15 am | Permalink

    OK, EoS. I will ask again. When you were an atheist, how old did you think our planet is?

    Btw, the agnostic part of me says that since God gave us this technology and knowledge to find cures–(s)he expects us to use it.

  22. EoS
    Posted October 16, 2008 at 10:31 am | Permalink

    When I was an atheist, I thought the universe was billions and billions of years old and the Cosmos was all there ever was, just like Carl Sagan preached. I now believe that the universe is somewhere between 6,000 and 10,000 years old. I also agree with your statement that God gave us technology and knowledge to find cures–(s)he expects us to use it. God gave us an ordered universe, and the ability to reason and investigate His creation to acquire knowledge.

  23. EoS
    Posted October 16, 2008 at 10:33 am | Permalink

    Sorry for the typo, it’s He, not (s)he.

  24. Curt Waugh
    Posted October 16, 2008 at 10:55 am | Permalink

    Well, there ya go. EoS is an avowed young earth creationist. He has willed his “scientific” self to ignore a body of evidence of the universe’s real age that is, in a word, MASSIVE. Every single branch of science has gathered ample evidence of a very old Earth in a very old universe. But somehow, this one guy considers himself smarter than all these scientists put together. You are one freakin’ genius, man.

  25. Michael Schils
    Posted October 16, 2008 at 10:58 am | Permalink

    EoS, you mentioned discovering “scientific flaws in the theories” and your view of the age of the cosmos went from several billion to 6-10 thousand years. Such a shortened time span would necessitate the co-existence of dinosaurs and humans (like on “The Flintstones”).

    I was wondering if you could be more specific about your “Road to Damascus”-moment. Did you discover something in the fossil record that made you determine that it was all a (divine?) charade to fool all the scientists?

    Please pardon my intrusiveness into your thought processes, Eos, but you are here trying to persuade citizens to vote against a proposal that could potentially save many lives (and create many jobs). Considering what’s at stake, a verification of your sanity would seem to be in order.

  26. EoS
    Posted October 16, 2008 at 11:08 am | Permalink

    I’m trying to persuade citizen’s to guide scientific investigation towards adult stem cell research that has proven results to save lives and create many jobs. It is much more economically feasible, much easier to accomplish using technology available today, and is advocated as the direction treatment should go by many of the leading stem cell scientists today. Your line of questioning is off the topic and I’ve already answered them in previous posts. Check the archives.

  27. Paw
    Posted October 16, 2008 at 11:34 am | Permalink

    In EoS’s defense, there is another explanation for the dinosaur bones. The Devil could have planted them here on the Earth in order to make us doubt the word of God.

  28. Paw
    Posted October 16, 2008 at 11:36 am | Permalink

    The same way he planted Darwin here.

  29. dude
    Posted October 16, 2008 at 12:18 pm | Permalink

    “Your line of questioning is off the topic and I’ve already answered them in previous posts. Check the archives.”

    I disagree. His line of questioning is entirely on the topic as it calls into question your credibility as a representative of science, assuming your goal is to convince people to vote no on 2 on the basis of scientific research.

  30. Michael Schils
    Posted October 16, 2008 at 1:51 pm | Permalink

    The scientific study being used to claim that adult stem cells offer the same medical potential as embryonic stem cells is shown to probably have been a fraud that used flipped images to produce false reports of success. Scientists have not been able to duplicate the results. The link (links to ‘USA Today’ article, which I couldn’t get this site’s software to accept):

    http://pub.ucsf.edu/fyi/fyi_summary.php?submit=submit&story_id=922

    Michigan is one of only five states that currently prohibit by law embryo research. EoS (“End of Science”? An agenda?) would have Michigan remain in the Dark Ages with these other four states based on an elevation of superstition over science. The Religious Right has always been WRONG in the past, and they’re wrong on this, too.

    Michigan scientists are losing out on funding and grants because of restrictive laws. Proposal 2 will finally be giving the injured and sick in this state a ray of hope and we need the jobs this research will bring. Vote YES on PROP 2.

    (Btw, EoS, your correction of your typo, above, would suggest that you believe that “God” has reproductive organs, specifically a ‘penis’ and ‘testicles’. But, yeah, that would be a bit off-topic, and a distraction from the more important subject, so just forget I ever brought it up.)

  31. Jim
    Posted October 16, 2008 at 7:02 pm | Permalink

    EoS, thanks for the links. I checked one of them
    and found that it illustrates well my point that non-experts may have difficulty interpreting scientific studies. This study says the opposite of what you claim. It questions the Hoffman study’s finding that only 2.8% of cryopreserved embryos, or 11,000 embryos, would be available for research, and argues that 100,000 embryos is a better estimate. The authors continue:

    If we continue with the Hoffman et al. assumptions about the success of deriving lines from cryopreserved embryos, we can calculate that if 65% of the embryos survive the freeze-thaw process, then 65,000 embryos would be available, 25% of which (16,250) could be expected to develop to the blastocyst stage. Of these, a conservative 15% could be expected to become a viable stem cell line, resulting in roughly 2000 to 3000 viable stem cell lines, about 100 times the number of lines currently available for federal funding.

    I agree with you that scientists are motivated by a desire to conduct their research. The scientists I know all dislike institutional review boards and other outsiders interfering with their work. Because embryonic stem cells involve a scientist in more oversight than other stem cells, scientists would gladly use non-embryonic stem cells if they worked as well as embryonic stem cells for all purposes.

    Finally, your fears that Prop 2 would leave the state unable to prevent mad scientists from creating human-animal chimera and taking them home to impregnate themselves and/or their spouses are crazy. Prop 2 would only “[p]rohibit state and local laws that prevent, restrict or discourage stem cell research, future therapies and cures.” The state will still be able to prohibit human cloning and the breeding of mutants.

  32. EoS
    Posted October 16, 2008 at 11:18 pm | Permalink

    Jim

    I appreciate the fact that you read one of the documents I cited. The numbers I cited were from the only national estimate of the number of embryos in the United States. The numbers you sited came from a media survey of only 2210 patients at one infertility clinic.

    I don’t disagree that Prop 2 would prohibit human cloning, and I stated so in my earlier post. My assertion is that Prop 2 would prohibit the means necessary to enforce that prohibition.

  33. Brackache
    Posted October 17, 2008 at 12:22 am | Permalink

    I’m all about the mutant chimera thing, but I’d prefer it were done with cord blood.

    Is there anything you CAN’T do with a ballot proposition? Like if we authored a proposition that ammended the state constitution to divert $400,000 of state funds to the freighthouse? We could call it “a proposition to prevent child molestation and for other purposes.”

    These inane comments brought to you by Crest Toothpaste. “Crest: our R&D guys have been grasping at straws for decades trying to keep their useless jobs improving on fucking toothpaste.”

  34. Jim
    Posted October 22, 2008 at 12:01 pm | Permalink

    Cure Michigan is now running an effective and proactive pro-2 ad. They are also distributing yard signs.

  35. Robert
    Posted October 30, 2008 at 12:08 pm | Permalink

    I think it was the anti-prop-2 ad which features a guy trying to sound like Morgan Freeman that persuaded me to vote yes on 2. I just hate bad Morgan Freeman imitations. They did the ad in the style of a PBS documentary on the Tuskegee Syphilis Experiments, obviously targeting the massive number of African-Americans who are going to the polls this election.

    I was also a little insulted by the ad where the sarcastic voice suggests it’s a contradiction to say something isn’t taxpayer funded and then saying it should be. They’re hoping stupid people won’t notice the word “should.” What dicks.

    They grease the audience first by saying “This isn’t a cat. It’s a feline.” and “This isn’t a pig, it’s a sow.” or some shit like that. What is that? Is that supposed to be an insult directed at scientific terms or something? How bizarre.

    I wonder how it feels to be so sure you can’t genuinely argue a point that you see it as necessary to consciously attempt that kind of manipulation. If you felt there were no genuinely persuasive arguments you could make about something, why wouldn’t that realization instead motivate you to soften your position, or to rethink it all together?

  36. deborahgsmith
    Posted November 3, 2008 at 1:15 pm | Permalink

    Its only at the very last statement in the proposal that will cause me to vote “No” tomorrow on Proposition 2:

    “Prohibit state and local laws that prevent, restrict or discourage stem cell research, future therapies and cures.”

    Does anyone have a crystal ball? Looks to me like we are giving up our states right to say what happens in the future.

    No thanks. We have already given up way too much and we don’t have much more to give.

    Take that statement out of there and I will vote for this proposal.

  37. KALAMAZOO
    Posted November 4, 2008 at 8:58 am | Permalink

    VOTE YES ON PROP 1 & 2

    OBAMA/BIDEN 2008

    HAPPY VOTING :)

  38. Jessie Ray
    Posted December 13, 2008 at 8:54 pm | Permalink

    For all of you that Voted YES on Prop. 2 that passed, I have to ask: What did we accomplish? Prop. 2 makes it now to where the state can now legally allow for Invetro fertility clinics to donate extra embryos to stem cell lines.

    “Once a stem cell line is established from a cell in the body, it is essentially IMMORTAL, no matter how it was derived. That is, the researcher using the line will not have to go through the rigorous procedure necessary to isolate stem cells again. Once established, a cell line can be grown in the laboratory indefinitely and cells may be frozen for storage or distribution to other researchers.” -http://stemcells.nih.gov/info/faqs.asp

    The Stem Cell Line(s) in Michigan did NOT need the stem cells from any more excess embryos seeing how they could’ve just got some donated stem cells from any of the other 60 or so Stem Cell Lines around the country. And if you really think about it, we do not NEED to donate ANYMORE excess embryos to science since these stem cell lines can basically keep on cloning the embryonic stem cells that already have.

    But there’s also the fact that those embryos were just going to be thrown away. Some of you might of said “Well in that case, they should be donated if they’re going to be destroyed anyways.” Well here’s the difference: those embryos are still an Alive human being (in alot of peoples opinion), the 23 and 23 chromosomes are now fused, all the genetic information is now in place, and all there is left is the developing and growing of it, which begins immediately. Would you donate your kid with cancer, that will die, to science (who would have to do the ACT of killing) for the purpose of finding a cure for that cancer? Why not, isn’t the child just going to die anyways?

    The main issue of this is what the Invetro fertility clinics are allowed to do, which is create EXTRA embryos which will most likely die. The people who oppose embryonic stem cell research should rather spend more time being against those clinics that are way more responsible for the destruction of human embryos.

    Feel free to email me at jcudahy@yahoo.com

  39. Michael Schils
    Posted June 7, 2009 at 1:50 pm | Permalink

    whew, I’m glad that not enough of the people who think, “Embryos are human beings!”, got out and voted.

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