But instrumentalising life in this way, bringing an individual into being solely to benefit other individuals, is utterly inimical to the deepest belief of our civilisation that every human life deserves equal dignity and respect.
Last year the WSJ asked, What Funding Ban?.
There continues to be an overwhelming amount of misinformation and propaganda on the subject. Today’s WSJ explains:
So what’s happened, research-wise, since 2001? Given the rhetoric of some of the President’s critics, you might think the answer is nothing. In fact, federal funding for all forms of stem-cell research (including adult and umbilical stem cells) has nearly doubled, to $566 million from $306 million. The federal government has also made 22 fully developed embryonic stem-cell lines available to researchers, although researchers complain of bureaucratic bottlenecks at the National Institutes of Health.
At the state level, Californians passed Proposition 71, which commits $3 billion over 10 years for stem-cell research. New Jersey is building a $380 million Stem Cell Institute. The Massachusetts Legislature has passed a bill authorizing stem-cell research by a veto-proof margin, and similar legislation is in the works in Connecticut and Wisconsin.
Then there’s the private sector. According to Navigant Consulting, the U.S. stem-cell therapeutics market will generate revenues of $3.6 billion by 2015. Some 70 companies are now doing stem-cell research, with Geron, ES Cell International and Advanced Cell Technologies being leaders in embryonic research. Clinical trials using embryonic stem-cell technologies for spinal cord injuries are due to begin sometime next year.
. . .
All of which is to say that if embryonic stem-cell researchers can get this far within the regime Mr. Bush imposed in 2001, then surely they can go further without additional federal help. The same goes for the $79 million the President and his allies in Congress are proposing to spend on umbilical cord stem-cell research. Here, too, the government is spending tax dollars to subsidize a private sector that already has every incentive to invest.
To me and to many, embryonic stem cell research is a moral issue. I’m glad the WSJ is discussing it in light of the facts.
The notion that these embryos are “discarded” or “surplus” arises from another of the developments of recent years, fertilization outside the womb. Once the mother-in-intent is satisfied that the baby in her belly will grow to term, what use has she for the “extra” embryos that were created to assure her of at least one viable one? Are they nothing but refuse? Can’t we “get some use out of them?”
Time was, the answer would have been obvious and universally understood: This is wrong. It’s as wrong as cannibalism, or kidnapping, or tearing the organs out of one living, breathing man to save the life of another. It requires that Smith’s life be demoted beneath Jones’s in importance, deeming it a means instead of an end in itself, without Smith having committed a crime. This cannot be justified without either declassifying Smith as human, or stripping humans categorically of the right to life.
Update Andrew Sullivan concurs.