Magazine article Insight on the News

A Bitter Conclusion over Stem Cells

Magazine article Insight on the News

A Bitter Conclusion over Stem Cells

Article excerpt

In most struggles over the unborn, the pro-life cause begins with a profound disadvantage. Developed human beings, with all their sins, struggles and dreams, are easier to embrace than an unknown, invisible human being without a winning personality. It is why we have more sympathy for the plight of turtles than we do unborn children.

Now double that problem or, perhaps, multiply it by 10, for the debate over embryo-destroying stem-cell research.

The developed humans can't be accused of callously disposing of their own flesh for convenience, for an undisturbed prom or an uninterrupted college education. Instead, we see innocent victims of debilitating diseases or accidents: a shaking Michael J. Fox, a paralyzed Christopher Reeve. In the other corner of this right are fertilized embryos created by scientists for birth parents who wanted a child of their own to love and raise. But left behind in the laboratories is a neglected tide of unborn children, frozen in clusters of five or 10. They are, we are told, simply garbage waiting to happen. So why not destroy ("kill" is not a word we use, of course) them if others might live?

Their humanity is rarely visualized. A few weeks ago, several parents who adopted frozen embryos and gave birth to children made the abstraction concrete. But how many TV pictures did the country see? How many kitchen-table discussions empathetically considered how we all began as tiny embryos grasping for a uterine home?

With the very serious ethical questions blazing on this new scientific frontier, nobody could envy President George W. Bush's moral quandary. The disease lobbies and the abortion advocates argued that we don't hold memorial services for embryos that are swept away by contraceptives or even young fetuses that don't grow to the size of a fist. But the question remained: Should these abandoned lives be sacrificed for the greater good?

The president said this decision was not about politics, and that's true, to a point. How callous did reporters sound in evaluating whether he would consent to funding embryo destruction to appear centrist and gain points with independents and moderates on the Eastern Seaboard? Even more ridiculously, some suggested that a stand for endless embryo sacrifice would be a victory for "compassionate conservatism."

But considering the Bush administration's months of delay, followed by a summer filled with White House leaks about presidential "agonizing" a quick and principled stand for human life in its earliest stages became politically unthinkable. …

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