Last week’s announcement by Advanced Cell Technologies that it had perfected a method of generating embryonic stem cell lines without destroying embryos put the stem cell research debate back in the headlines.
The hope was that the new non-destructive technique – already used to check for genetic abnormalities in embryos created for in vitro fertilization – would satisfy those who oppose the research on moral grounds.
That’s unlikely. Even before the breakthrough was announced, opponents were lining up fresh objections.
President Bush has made his position clear on a number of occasions: he believes even a fertilized human egg is an individual human life and that sacrificing human lives, even to save the lives of others, crosses a moral boundary off-limits to decent societies.
For the sake of discussion, let’s assume Mr. Bush is correct about the blastocysts being people. Further, let’s do him the courtesy of taking his position – no lives sacrificed to save lives – seriously. That’s his belief and he’s entitled to it. Here’s what logically follows:
No more wars, certainly not wars that kill civilians. That means no Afghanistan, no Iraq. Not even to save American lives – remember, that would cross Mr. Bush’s moral line.
Terrorism is out in any case, but so is responding in a way that leads to the death of innocent non-combatants. So, no Israeli bombing of Lebanon.
The death penalty has to go. No human enterprise is carried through without error; inevitably, wrongly convicted prisoners will be killed.
Unless Mr. Bush is willing to give on these points or own up to his contradictions, his particular moral objection to the destruction of unconscious cell clusters carries no weight.
He won’t. So there we have it: major medical advances are being resisted on moral grounds by a president whose own moral compass – by his own definition – is out of whack.