Wednesday, July 19, 2006

President Vetos Stem-Cell Legislation

Today President Bush issued his first-ever veto, blocking legislation passed by Congress attempting to expand federal research on stem cells.

“This bill would support the taking of innocent human life,” Mr. Bush said at the White House. “Each of these human embryos is a unique human life with inherent dignity and matchless value.”

The President, like many, believes that life begins at conception. By that reasoning using an embryo for research purposes is the same as murder. But apparently that reasoning has its limits. In October 2001 the administration partitioned $90 million for research on stem-cell lines in existence before Aug. 9, 2001. Apparently it's alright to "murder" embryos created before that time. The church applauded the measure, hailing it as defense of life.

I can think of no greater example of the healthy amount of ambivalence Americans live with every day than that residing in the stem cell issue. Every day thousands of Americans go to in-vitro clinics to partake in the wonders of modern medicine, in these cases to be fertilized so one day they can become parents. In those cases many eggs are fertilized so that one can be born. The remaining embryos are frozen. Again, is the belief that those embryos are alive? If so why don't I hear people of faith upset about the the hundreds of thousands of frozen lives currently in America? Or the practice that creates those conditions? Some will be adopted, but the vast majority will either remain frozen or be destroyed. How come up to 45% of Americans are against stem cell research but only the the most fundamental are against freezing humans alive?

That, from a conservative Christian perspective, is only scratching the surface. There are a myriad of issues a follower of Jesus should be concerned about regarding in-vitro fertilization including bypassing the natural method of conception, usurping God’s will, and fertilizing excess embryos whose fate is uncertain. What God fearing person brings life into the world and walks away simply by signing a paper? I would expect those who claim to defend life to have a little more conviction than that.

The reason why there is no outcry about this treatment of life is because millions of believers engage in the activity that creates it. They themselves use IVF clinics for fertilization, creating embryos which hang in limbo. Christians are taught to seek God’s will, but that really only goes so far. When the issues hit home, like the desire to have children, many find themselves down at the clinic, hoping and praying not for God’s will, but for His blessing.

Regardless, the bill President Bush vetoed on behalf of life applied only to excess embryos harvested for in-vitro fertilization that would be destroyed if not used for research. The bill’s reasoning was if they’re going to be destroyed anyway, use them for research. The president believes the embryos are alive, and he vetoes the bill that leads to their death anyway, with nothing gained. How logical is that?

The lives so many conservatives are trying to defend stay frozen in labs. How does that fact sit with their consciences? I fail to understand how the agenda of life is forwarded by either keeping embryos frozen or destroying them. If they had any integrity they’d go after the entire practice of in-vitro fertilization which creates the lives that end up hanging in limbo.

This debate turns not on any type of logic or reasoning but on emotion. At the White House ceremony today the president was surrounded by happy children born as a result of embryo adoption. It is wonderful that those children could be brought out of their frozen state, and nurtured to birth. Their lives represent a miracle of science and belief in the sanctity of life. But the fact is that none of the embryos affected by today's bill would have survived anyway. No life was saved by vetoing the bill. The question has never been about how many lives are being saved--the President has never tried to stop embryo "murder"--but how many lives are being lost now that no research can be conducted on cells that were doomed to die anyway.

Science remains a tricky double-edged sword most fundamentalists just can’t seem to wield accurately. Many use it to enhance their own lives, even at the expense of life by their own definition. We will be judged, if not in this life, then surely in the next, by our conscience and by our reasoning. Those who believe life begins at conception and participate in its creating and discarding carry a heavy burden. Ignoring certain facts will not alleviate responsibility. Often those yelling the loudest are indict themselves. They protest too much. They would do well to go and learn what this means: blessed is the man who does not condemn himself by what he believes.

1 comment:

Ali B. said...

I'm pretty sure the reason for any inconsistency in public opinion about this issue (as well as for the apparently high percentage of Americans against research using stem cells) is that the vast majority of people have no clue what they're talking about. I really feel that at this point, no one should be allowed to express an opinion about an issue that they have zero knowledge about. Is that so much to ask? Considering the current culture, with its unambiguous embrace of stupidity and blind faith, it probably is.