US Senate passes embryonic stem cell bill; President vetoes
US President George Bush recently vetoed a bill that would allow federal funding for creation of new embryonic stem cell (ESC) lines (for an in-depth discussion on what stem cells are, the failures of embryonic stem cells and the many successes of somatic (‘adult’) stem cells, and the moral issues, please see Stem cells and Genesis).
The President said:
‘This bill would support the taking of innocent human life in the hope of finding medical benefits for others. It crosses a moral boundary that our decent society needs to respect.’
Currently, the U.S. allows federal funding for stem cell lines created before 9 August 2001, but the federal government may not fund ESC lines created after that. Some senators who support the bill claim that by holding back ESC research, opponents are holding back science. However, this assertion is shown to be absurd when examined thoroughly.
First of all, let us clarify that the bill does not affect the legality of doing ESC research, but federal funding of that research. Several U.S. states have elected to fund ESC from their own coffers, and private organizations are not restricted from pursuing ESC research. That said, if ESC is the key to so many cures, which would surely be immensely profitable to the people who discover them, why aren’t private companies and individuals investing? Even a proven cure for male pattern baldness would make the discoverer rich beyond his dreams; let alone all the hype about how ESC research would have made Christopher Reeve walk again.
But embryonic stem cells have yet to produce a single effective cure for any disease. However, even if it did produce the cures that have been promised from them, ESC research would still be immoral because it destroys human life.
To create an embryonic stem cell line, an embryo must be killed and its stem cells removed.1 All existing stem cell lines have been created with ‘left-over’ embryos from fertility treatments, and many people think that because they probably would never be implanted (creating more embryos than are going to be implanted is an entirely different moral discussion), that we might as well use them for stem cell research. But using the same logic, why not harvest organs from death row inmates? At least with this scenario, the individual presumably did something deserving of death.
Two pieces of non-controversial ‘sister legislation’ went the Senate at the same time as the failed ESCR bill. One bill passed, criminalizing ‘fetal farming’, the implantation and harvesting of embryos for research purposes (though since embryonic stem cell research is still legal in the US, it seems to give the impression that the embryo is more valuable in the womb than outside of it. And it is still perfectly legal in the US to kill the baby by abortion at any stage of pregnancy for any reason; it is just illegal to use his/her body for medical experiments.).
Australia also recently affirmed its ban on federal funding of embryo cloning for medical research purposes, though states may fund their own research. National Party Senator Ron Boswell (Queensland) came out strongly in favour of adult (somatic) stem cell research, saying:
‘The only way Australia stands to lose brains and investment and international prestige is if we don’t recognise the good science in adult stem cells when we see it … most importantly, for patients suffering terrible disease, embryonic answers for them are decades away according to leading embryo research supporters. Adult stem cells are their only realistic hope—and that’ based on fact, not promise.’
As shown, Senator Boswell’s statement is scientifically accurate. In fact, his home state of Queensland is actually a leader in adult stem cell research. For example, Professor Alan Mackay-Sim was 2003 Queenslander of the Year for his successful research into nose stem cells.
The other bill, which would have provided for more funding of somatic (‘adult’) stem cell research, fell short of the two-thirds majority required for it to pass. Yet adult stem cells have had numerable successes—they really have enabled people like Christopher Reeve to walk again.
So aside from the issue of whether the state should be ‘picking winners’ at all, the failure to support research that has been proven to work shows that the tears cried over Reeves were really crocodilian. Rather, it supports the idea that the purpose of the ESC support was not so much to cure diseases but to dehumanize the unborn. That is, it defines them not as human beings who have value by what they are, but only valuable as spare parts for others.
This is yet another example of the secularists pushing the moral envelope, while many in the Church fail to recognize that the culture is becoming more and more anti-christian.
- There were recent claims in the biased mainstream media that Advanced Cell Technology (ACT) has found a new method of generating embryonic stem cells without destroying embryos. Yet Lancet 368(9538):816 2 September 2006 pointed out, ‘It turns out that none of the 16 embryos used in these experiments survived intact and that multiple cells were taken from each embryo, not just one or two as would occur during preimplantation genetic diagnosis.’ See also Embryonic Stem Cell Research Misstatements Get Pass in Mainstream Media. Return to text.