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Bush's Flawed Logic
Embryonic stem cell decision morally indefensible

By Jeff Brewer
jbrewer@politicalusa.com

8/23/2001

 

President Bushís decision to fund stem cell research on "already destroyed" embryos has left many grappling with the moral and political implications of his pronouncement. Politically, the choice has played very well in more liberal quarters and even in several of the more hard-core pro-life camps. Reverends Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson among others, have both voiced their support of Bushís decision while groups like NOW and NARAL offered up only mild discontent, protesting only that the Presidentís edict doesnít go far enough.

Morally and ethically, however, the decision has many pundits and astute observes stumped. On one hand, it is illegal for the federal government to fund any research on living, human embryos for any reason, but yet, if the embryos have already had their stem cells extracted, suddenly, the government is absolved of all wrongdoing, all responsibility, and can fund research on the stem cell lines derived from once-living embryos. This strikes me as inconsistent.

The President apparently finds it permissible to allow funding of cell line research as long as the government had no part in the killing of the embryos that resulted from the harvesting of the stem cells in the first place. This is analogous to exonerating oneself from any wrong doing after you spend a bag full of money that you knew was stolen from a bank! You would be prosecuted regardless of whether or not you didnít assist in the initial act of robbery because you knowingly spent the stolen cash. 

Another example of this tortured logic appears every time riotous thugs destroy storefronts in the midst of chaotic protesting and in the name of equality, and then claim innocence because someone else committed deviancy first. Everyone knows that this is stupid rationale. Any person who lifts any items contained in a given store is certainly guilty of stealing regardless of whether or not they initiated the break-in (and regardless of any claimed injustice).

In the same way, President Bush acquits himself of any immoral offense because "the federal government is going to be operating on stem cell lines already extracted from now-dead embryos." This reminds me of the hyena roaming the Serengeti looking for food; while he wonít dare take on a wild buffalo himself, heíll gladly sup from the beastís carcassÖafter a pride of lions takes it down.

While President Bushís decision isnít completely congruous to the example of the hyena, one can draw a comparison between the Presidentís hair-splitting and the hyenaís wary cowardliness. "Let someone else deal with the larger issue (the killing of embryos or the slaying of the giant buffalo), and Iíll come on the scene after the hardest task is complete and clean up with little or no risk to myself (the Presidentís decision to fund research on already destroyed embryos or the hyenaís devouring of some other animalís kill). Both the hyena and the president have sidestepped the larger issue and in doing so live to face another day. This may be permissible in the animal kingdom, but I expect more from my reasoning President

Consider, would it be permissible for the federal health gurus at the National Institutes of Health to collect research on cadavers already killed purposely for the "promise" of future research to be done on them? Of course not; this is akin to the worst of all pre-mediated murders, that of allowing or tacitly condoning the slaughter of humans by others and afterwards having the feds jump in and say "murdering these folks was wrong, but since theyíre already dead and since we didnít kill them, we can do what we wish to the cadavers."

Would anyone not agree that to permit killing solely for the "rewards" of future research on dead humans is totally immoral and illegal? Then accordingly, why would anyone give funding and license to research on stem cell lines derived from embryos that were purposely created and then likewise purposely destroyed for the sole aim of harvesting some nebulous future reward? Those stem cell lines President Bush has now permitted to be explored were created and then wantonly killed, purposely!

What is to keep the folks over at NIH from repeatedly drawing upon already destroyed embryos procured from the private sector and then obtaining funding for their research by virtue of these embryos having been killed by someone other than the feds? This is in effect what just happened with the Presidentís decision, and I canít help but wonder what will keep this from occurring over and over again.

The crux of the issue, then, is intent. Did the creators of these embryos intend to kill the embryos from the outset? Yes. And so the government is not removed from any complicity in the matter. Indeed, the government is the worst offender of them all, because the governmentís folly is two fold: allowing embryos to be killed in the first place (which is illegal and evil before the law and President Bush), but then also absolving itself from wrongdoing because Uncle Sam didnít technically kill the embryos. That would be akin to a psychiatrist watching without intervening, a deranged person killing another human, for the exact purpose of being able to study the brain wave patterns of the deranged subject after the killer is committed/sentenced to the psychiatristís ward by a liberal judge. Is not the psychiatrist just as guilty as the killer because she didnít intervene and allowed the murder to take place without calling on the authorities or else acting herself simply to gain a top-flight research specimen? I think so.

Should government be in the business of rewarding illegal behavior? As a friend reminded me recently, isnít the same principle at work here the same principle that has kept pro-lifers solidly opposed to any research on dead fetal tissue because such research only encourages more abortions?

I still support the President; I trust him to be a good man with a good heart, but his decision is inconsistent, and as I pointed out in my last column, it opens the door just enough to legitimize further embryonic stem cell research four years from now.

Letís hope that Congress and/or the President think on these things a bit more and reverse the treacherous course we are now embarked upon.

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