Posted by: Randy Allgaier | July 19, 2006

Abandoned Embryos v. Fox, Reeve, Reagan et al.

Today was a day that will be held high in the annals of the religious right.  President Bush used his veto power for the first time since taking office 5 1/2 years ago, saying that a embryonic stem-cell research bill “crossed a moral boundary.”   This was a blow for the hard advocacy done by Christopher and Dana Reeve, Michael J. Fox and Nancy Reagan.

The bill, which the Senate passed Tuesday in a 63-37 vote, would have loosened the restrictions on federal funding for stem-cell research. House Republican leaders have said they would try for an override vote on the measure, but it’s unlikely to pass, lacking the two-thirds majority needed in each chamber.“This bill would support the taking of innocent human life in the hope of finding medical benefits for others,” Bush said. “It crosses a moral boundary that our decent society needs to respect. So I vetoed it.” 

The measure, which the House of Representatives passed in May 2005, allows couples who have had embryos frozen for fertility treatments to donate them to researchers rather than let them be destroyed.   Bush said, “If this bill were to become law, American taxpayers would, for the first time in our history, be compelled to fund the deliberate destruction of human embryos, and I’m not going to allow it.”

This was an obvious bow to the religious right and their overzealous “Right to Life” platform.  This writer is pro-choice, but anti-abortion.  I fully believe that abortion should be avoided at all costs, but that women should have the option to end a pregnancy.  Besides, I am a male and I do not feel as if I have any moral authority to speak about issues of a woman’s right to choose.  So I leave it to them to choose; it shouldn’t be the purvue of men.  Of course, having inadequate information on birth control available to women and having an abstinence-only policy on the books certainly does little to avoiding abortions and most likely increases the abortion rate. 

But the use of embryonic stem cells that have been donated to researchers by couples is a far cry from any abortion or choice issue and in my opinion the arguments in that debate do not apply to this one.  This veto is an affront to science and the millions of Americans who can be helped by stem cell research and technologies.  In essence it ratifies that the rights of these discarded embryos have more weight than breathing and living people.

While it is true that non-federally funded research can use embryonic stem cells, much of the scientific breakthroughs in medicine over the past century have come through research either partially or fully funded by the federal government.  In the name of politics and pandering to the right, the Bush administration is abandoning the United States’ important role in medical technology and ensuring that millions of Americans that could be helped by this technology will likely have to wait longer to end their sufferings and could die waiting.

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