July 19, 2006

Respecting Life

This afternoon President Bush issued the first veto of his presidency. The bill, H.R. 810, would have allowed excess embryos created in fertility clinics - embryos that would otherwise be discarded, embryos that would never be implanted in a womb - to be used in research on the treatment of a huge number of chronic and terminal illnesses, injuries, and disabilities, from Alzheimer's to diabetes to MS to leukemia to spinal injuries to brain damage and on and on and on.

From CNN.com:

"This bill would support the taking of innocent human life in the hope of finding medical benefits for others," Bush said Wednesday afternoon. "It crosses a moral boundary that our decent society needs to respect. So I vetoed it."
What is it that you're respecting, Mr. President? Certainly not my loved ones. I'm close to many people who are living with chronic illnesses. It has been agonizing for me to watch the hope for treatments and cures that stem cell research offers be dangled in front of their eyes only to be snatched away again and again by politicians citing rhetoric that frames the research as killing babies. Forget the question of whether embryos are babies - it's not killing. It's the exact opposite. To put it in Bush's right-to-life frame, H.R. 810 was about allowing embryos that would be discarded (AKA "killed") the chance to "live on" in other people, to save lives.

My cousin developed primary-progressive multiple sclerosis when she was twenty-three, very close to the age of many of the readers of this blog. By the time she was thirty, she had developed quadriplegia (paralysis of all four limbs), and her health is deteriorating. I love her and look up to her so much, and I want her to have all the chances she can possibly have to fight this disease. I want her to still be in my life in ten years, in twenty, in thirty. I want my children to know her, because she's amazing.

That's why this veto is so upsetting. But the vote in the house was only 50 votes short of the 2/3 majority required to override Bush. PLEASE write to your congresspeople and tell them that you care about stem cell research. The democrats have set up a webform you can use, and there's also one at DEFCON.


raine said...

::pumps fist:: thanks so much for bringing this up, spork. i wouldn't exist if it weren't for stem cell research, and my grandma has parkinson's, so it's an issue that hits close to home for me as well. people, you should all check out the link to defcon...i recently discovered them, and they're great.

Anonymous said...

Rarely do I find myself nodding to this blog, but here I am in complete agreement. Bush's use of the veto this morning is an embarrassment to the country. The good thing that comes out of this, however--if we're in a "glass half full" kind of mood--is that a lot of Americans are outraged by Bush's action. Most Americans support stem cell research.

As we look toward the future...the future in which we will enable this science in the way it should be enabled, I think it is important to resist the temptation to politicize this issue too much...not to make it a conservative/liberal thing, a religious/nonreligious thing... Many conservatives...and many conservative Christians...support stem cell research.

Also, we must maintain a separation between the politics of stem cells and the politics of abortion. It's not the same moral issue. If we start talking about stem cell research along the pro-choice/pro-life divide, we will alienate moderates who are comfortable with stem cell research but not abortion.

Yale professor Gene Outka sums up the issue best, I think. His "Nothing is Lost" principal basically says that if embryonic stem cells are going to be disregarded anyway, then it is irresponsible, immoral even, to not use that material to create stem cell lines that could save millions.

That is pretty hard to argue with, I think.

Happy Summer.
--Lucy Morrow Caldwell

spork said...

You're completely right. It's true that people across all political affiliations and religious beliefs support stem cell research.

I also agree that it's a mistake to lump stem cells in with abortion - not only is it an awful tactical move for the pro-stem cells crowd, but the two just aren't the same thing at all.

I'm frustrated that Bush seems to have conflated the two, though. He talks about respecting life and about how we all begin our lives as a small collection of cells, and uses that to say that using to-be-discarded stem cells for research is akin to murder. He's managed to frame the stem cells debate as an extension of the divide over abortion... his press-conference with kindergarteners "adopted" as embryos was ridiculous. Some couples receive donated embryos, and that's great - but those embryos are not what this bill was talking about at all, as they would not fit the "would otherwise be discarded" criteria.

In conclusion, to everyone: contact your representatives, especially if they voted No on H.R. 810. An override is still possible.

spork said...
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