First it was the fetus, a blob of tissue, not an unborn child. Just another body part in the Our Bodies, Ourselves self-absorbed world of feminism. But then tiny cameras were able to see into the womb, and surgeons were able to heal tiny humans, and they were born and survived at earlier and earlier stages.
Eventually, babies were aborted who were older than preemies who survived.
And in a particularly gruesome method of abortion, babies on the point of birth were stabbed in the base of the skull and their brains were sucked out to collapse their heads, so their lifeless bodies could be removed more easily. Most objective observers viewed this as murder, or at the very least, infanticide.
Perhaps the Chinese were more benevolent than this with their dying rooms, or in leaving babies out on a hillside at the mercy of the elements. Perhaps not.
Enter stem cell research as a proxy and veiled justification for abortion. This was science, you see, and who could be opposed to the advancement of science? (The record of the Nazis might have given a thinking person pause.) The object was to save lives. Of course. Never mind that you would take a life to achieve that. In theory anyway. Because no lives had as yet been saved by the destruction of a human embryo. Meanwhile, sanctimonious, slimy, pandering-to-the- feminazis politicians ignored the real contributions of adult and placental stem cells.
In August 2001 President Bush approved federal funding for embryonic stem cell research but restricted it to the existing lines. Private funded research could continue unimpeded. There was no blanket ban.
There were cries of outrage from the Left. Those who were morally opposed to embryonic stem cell research were called ignorant and heartless, standing in the way of sure cures. Recall John Edwards, glibly raising false hopes among some, while casually consigning others to death.
Now scientists have discovered a way to generate stem cells from skin cells. In the same issue of Time magazine that heralded the breakthrough, signaling an end to that moral debate, the cover story asks--What Makes Us Good/Evil:
Humans are the planet's most noble creatures--and its most savage. Science is discovering why:What does, or ought to, separate us then is our highly developed sense of morality, a primal understanding of good and bad, of right and wrong, of what it means to suffer not only our own pain—something anything with a rudimentary nervous system can do—but also the pain of others. That quality is the distilled essence of what it means to be human. Why it's an essence that so often spoils, no one can say.Ah, but the article goes on to say, there's morality, and there's social convention--there's an intuitive sense of morality, but human behavior is inconsistent. Peers are influential:
This kind of brutal line between insiders and outsiders is evident everywhere--mobsters (or feminists) say, who kill promiscuously yet go on rhapsodically about "family." (how about the sisterhood)
Absent strong moral objections from the pro-life movement, and the president's restrictions, would scientists have been so quick to come up with an alternative that preserves human dignity?
So at least on this part of the debate we can retire the rancor, and embrace a win-win. Life wins out.
Princeton's legal philosopher Robert P. George, who also serves on the President's Council on Bioethics, told me, "From the beginning we have been arguing that we must do everything we can to advance the cause of stem cell science but without sacrificing our respect for nascent human life and the principle of the inherent and equal dignity of each and every member of the human family. This latest news just goes to show that it really is possible."
It also is illustrative of the politics of science. Had a President Gore or a President Kerry allowed the science to go forward without regard for moral principle, it would have set a terrible precedent. A Gore or Kerry presidency would have bestowed federal blessing and taxpayer funds on laboratory work predicated on the assumption that embryonic human beings can be treated as spare parts and that cloning to kill is acceptable.But because President Bush stood his ground, we have avoided that moral catastrophe. Had Bush lost either election, or had he caved to pressure from those who slandered him as "antiscience," it is very possible that the new method of stem cell production--the new gold standard, in all likelihood--would never have been found. Most likely, science and the public would have accommodated themselves to the mass production and mass killing of human embryos.
Indeed, it is not Bush alone, but the entire pro-life movement, that has been vindicated. [snip]
And Congress was wrong. Considering the realities of Washington, it is no surprise that the pro-embryo-destruction forces in the House of Representatives actually teamed up to defeat a bill that would have funded research on reprogramming, which they dismissed as a distraction. President Bush then issued another executive order, this one instructing the National Institutes of Health to promote reprogramming research. As it turns out, the breakthrough Thomson study was partially funded by NIH.