President's Stem Cell Position Makes Little Sense
On Tuesday, the House of Representatives passed an embryonic stem-cell research bill that would provide federal funding for the controversial science. Passed with bipartisan support on a 238-194 vote, the issue nevertheless brought out some heightened and even extreme rhetoric.
According to AP, “Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, said the embryonic research bill would force taxpayers to finance ‘the dismemberment of living, distinct human beings.’”
While President Bush weighed in with: "This bill would take us across a critical ethical line by creating new incentives for the ongoing destruction of emerging human life. Crossing this line would be a great mistake."
There is indeed a very real need to consider the ethical implications of this research. But, as we have argued, this bill creates standards that are ethical. Given that the only embryos that will be used for research would otherwise be discarded by fertility clinics, the rhetoric from Delay and the President seems rather over-the-top.
If these men believe fertility clinics are unethical, they should come out and say so. But if they support fertility clinics, then their statements on stem-cell research lacks any consistency of conviction. How are we advancing the culture of life by choosing to discard embryos rather than using them in research that could improve the lives of tens of thousands of people?
Privately funded research on new embryonic stem-cell lines is perfectly legal. Do Delay and the President believe such research should be illegal? How can they say it is unethical to federally fund it but ethical to let it continue privately?
If opponents want to argue that we shouldn’t be using government money to fund scientific research, that’s at least a consistent argument, if rather short-sighted. But the position taken by Delay, Bush and others is, frankly, nonsensical and appears to be an attempt to pander to the extreme-right Republican base while avoiding the political liability of pushing for an out-right ban on embryonic stem-cell research (not to mention fertility clinics).
The Senate should pass this bill as soon as possible and force the President to face the American public and explain exactly how a science is too unethical to fund with government money but ethical enough to permit to continue with private funding. It’s an untenable position.