Ever since President Obama used his executive power to reverse President George W. Bush's restrictions on federally funded embryonic stem cell research, there has been a flurry of column writing and general tongue clucking from the most unlikely places, places that were silent on the moral problem of embryonic stem cell research when President Obama was campaigning and promising to do exactly what he did this week. Clearly everyone knew this was coming. Certainly the Catholic Church was out there trying to warn people about the inherent moral dilemma that comes with exchanging one life for another. We cannot use a human life -- or create human life -- to save or cure another. A civilized world just doesn't work that way. And yet, Obama's supporters, even many conservatives who are otherwise pro-life, remained silent or split hairs in an effort to have it both ways.
Now, suddenly, some of those people are starting to tell the truth about embryonic stem cell research (ESCR). Unfortunately, it's too late. We needed those voice before the election. Voices like Charles Krauthammer, who was paralyzed during a 1972 diving accident and differed with President Bush on the use of 'leftover' IFV embryos . Today, in a Washington Post column, he asserts that President Obama has "left open the creation of cloned -- and noncloned sperm-and-egg-derived -- human embryos solely for the purpose of dismemberment and use for parts." Saying that he is not religious and does not believe "personhood is conferred at conception," he went on to say, however, that a human embryo is not the equivalent of a "hangnail" and that lines must be drawn -- by the likes of President Obama -- given the "well-recorded human propensity for evil even in the pursuit of good."
Well, yes, that was the point of ESCR opponents all along. A human embryo is a life, not a hangnail. It is not an appendage that can be used or discarded as others see fit. And, yes, science must be balanced by ethics or it will end up in a place that none of us want to go. Now, it seems, we're well on our way to that place.
Another Washington Post columnist, Kathleen Parker, also came out against the Obama reversal on ESCR, saying that the new president was more intent on keeping political promises than acknowledging scientific advances that would allow stem cell research to continue to move forward by leaps and bounds minus the controversial use of human embryos. Which was kind of surprising, given the contemptuous November column she wrote about religious folks, whom she referred to as the "oogedy-boogedy branch of the GOP." In fact, she literally spelled out G-O-D as the "great big problem." Now, she's trying to make nice, saying that "good people can disagree" and that the "objectification of human life is never a trivial matter."
"...every single one of the successes in treating patients with stem cells thus far — for spinal cord injuries and multiple sclerosis, for example — have involved adult or umbilical cord blood stem cells, not embryonic. And though federal dollars still won’t directly fund embryo destruction, federally funded researchers can obtain embryos privately created only for experimentation. Thus, taxpayers now are incentivizing a market for embryo creation and destruction," Parker wrote this week.
Hmm...Where have I heard that before? Oh yes, from the Catholic Church. Did everyone have cotton in their ears for the last four years? Even the New York Times, which did nothing to address the truth about ESCR in the months leading up to the election (or in the last eight years, for that matter), ran a story this week saying that the president's support for ESCR "comes at a time when many advances have been made with other sorts of stem cells. "
"For researchers, reprogramming an adult cell can be much more convenient, and there have never been any restrictions on working with adult stem cells," the Times reports. And let's add to that the fact that diseases are actually being cured right now, today, with umbilical cord and adult stem cells, and no one had to die to make it happen.
People still don't seem to understand that there are different types of stem cell research -- the kind that takes a life and the kind that doesn't. It is the latter, the uncontroversial and wildly successful adult stem cell research, that we should be pursuing. Maybe next time, instead of writing the Church off as ideologically charged and scientifically off base, people will pay attention, although I doubt it.