There Are No 'Excess' Human Beings

This week the U.S. Senate will make life and death decisions when it takes stem cell research into consideration. All those who seek justice should be on high alert: the Senate will be deciding whether or not human dignity will be preserved at all stages of human development.

Three bills are up for consideration. The first is called the Fetus Farming Prohibition Act (S. 3504). This act would make it illegal for scientists to use, create, or gestate human beings to harvest their organs, body parts or tissue. In other words, scientists would be prohibited from creating embryos specifically for the purpose of "farming" or "cannibalizing" them for spare parts.

Imagine a world where human beings have become so greedy, so self-obsessed, that they see others not as creatures made in the image of God, but as mere "junk-yards" from which to retrieve spare parts if necessary. Human beings are more than the sum of their parts and their lives should not be destroyed because one or more of their parts may be of benefit to another. Passage of the Fetus Farming Prohibition Act will send the message that human beings are more than the aggregation of their organs and, regardless of their stage of development, they are of infinite worth, value and dignity.

The second bill under consideration is the Alternative Pluripotent Stem Cell Therapies Enhancement Act (S. 2754). This bill calls on the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to pioneer alternative ways of developing stem cells. Some of the alternatives on the horizon are non-controversial; others, however, provoke sharp divisions — even within the pro-life community — over the ethics involved. The problem many see with the bill is that it accords too much discretion to future congresses (who may be infected with political correctness) and to scientists at NIH (who may be more concerned with research than ethics) to determine whether what is created in the quest for embryonic stem cells is actually a human embryo. If they deem the creation not to be an embryonic human being, then the scientists will have a license to destroy it in the name of "research." History has shown that the power to determine who is and is not a member of the human race is an awesome responsibility with which not everyone can be trusted. It is a power that should be exercised with the utmost care, and any doubt must be resolved in favor of the protection of human life.

The third bill up for consideration has already been passed in the House. It is called the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act of 2005 (H.R. 810). The bill would permit Federal funds to be used in embryonic stem cell research on "excess" embryos obtained from in vitro fertilization clinics. The problem with this bill is that it affirms the notion that there are "excess" human beings. Under the logic of this bill, if one is deemed to be "excess" their life is not deemed worthy of protection. One is deemed "excess", of course, if they are unwanted by their progenitors. What an utterly noxious concept! All human beings — large or small, wanted or unwanted — are worthy of protection under the law.

Embedded within utilitarian impulses emanating out of congress is the idea that "the ends justify the means." They most assuredly do not, however. To hold otherwise leads us inevitably into the swamp of moral relativism. When applied to bioethics, "ends-means" logic holds that it is acceptable to destroy very young, very small human beings in order to benefit bigger, older ones. But neither size nor age equate with significance. Big people are not worth more than small ones, and the old are not worth more than the young. Our humanity is not dependent on our age, size, or location (i.e. inside or outside of the womb). Young or old, big or little, in the womb or out — we are all God’s children, entitled to equal protection under the law. When we negotiate this point, we fall into deadly error and open the door to nightmarish possibilities. Citizens in quest of a just society are duty bound to defend life against the creeping culture of death. We therefore oppose any form of "research" that results in the deliberate destruction of embryonic human beings.

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