Bravo to Bush for Stem-Cell Veto

“If this bill would have 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.”

With those words last Wednesday, President Bush cast the first veto of his presidency, sending back to Congress the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act, which would have provided federal tax dollars to researchers who kill human embryos taken from in vitro fertilization clinics in order to extract their stem cell. Later that day, the House fell 51 votes short of overriding the President’s veto.

Bush deserves support and applause for his courageous defense of a fundamental principle. At a White House veto ceremony he gathered around him people who had benefited from therapies based on adult stem cells and “snowflake” babies born after families adopted frozen embryos from in vitro fertilization clinics.

“We must also remember that embryonic stem cells come from human embryos that are destroyed for their cells,” said Bush. “Each of these human embryos is a unique human life with inherent dignity and matchless value. We see that value in the children who are with us today. Each of these children began his or her life as a frozen embryo that was created for in vitro fertilization, but remained unused after the fertility treatments were complete. Each of these children was adopted while still an embryo, and has been blessed with the chance to grow up in a loving family.”

“These boys and girls are not spare parts,” the President said.

I asked members of Congress last week if taxpayers should be forced to pay for the killing of embryos.

It seems to be that the crux of this argument is whether taxpayers should be funding the killing of embryos. Can you tell me why it should be this way? Why taxpayers should be forced to fund this?

Sen. Tom Harkin (D.-Iowa): Okay, I am opposed to the death penalty but my tax dollars are used to execute people. I am morally opposed to the death penalty. What’s the difference? I mean, I happen to be morally opposed to a lot of things that our government does in many ways. But we pay our taxes and, so, I don’t buy that argument. There’s a lot of things I am opposed to, but I pay my taxes and the government uses the money for it.

How exactly did we end up at this juncture where the U.S. federal government is poised to compel taxpayers to fund the killing of embryos, and two, can you be consistently pro-life and support the kind of action that’s happening in the Senate?

Rep. Joseph Pitts (R.-Pa.): I think it’s difficult for someone that is pro-life to support. I see a major inconsistency here. If you want to know how we got here, my sense of it is that how we got this information creates a false sense of hope. It’s imperative that we get the real debate down on this. We know for a fact there are cures with adult stem-cell research and technologies and therapies. There are no [indiscernible] applications at this time with the embryonic stem-cell approach. So why should we spend money, scarce federal money, right now on some hope that we might achieve something and spend time and money on something that is morally objectionable to many people throughout this country?

How exactly did we end up at this juncture where the U.S. federal government is poised to compel taxpayers to fund the killing of embryos, and two, can you be consistently pro-life and support the kind of action that’s happening in the Senate?

Rep. Mike Pence (R.-Ind.): It is simply morally wrong, as millions of pro-lifers agree as we do that life begins at conception, to fund this research that involves the destruction of a human embryo. I believe that historically, while Americans appear in most surveys to be evenly divided on the subject of abortion, 80% of Americans oppose the use of federal tax dollars to pay for abortion, and I believe that rightly understood that this debate when it properly focuses the attention of the American people on the facts that we are not asking, we’re not asking whether or not there should be stem cell research, we’re not even asking whether or not there should be embryonic stem-cell research. We’re simply asking who pays for it, and it is our belief that the American people understand asking billions of dollars from Americans who believe that life begins at conception to pay for the destruction of human embryos for research is morally wrong and the politics will take care of itself.

Yesterday, on the Senate floor, you referred to an ideological group as the “theocracy” and said if they didn’t like stem cells, they just shouldn’t use it. But why should they have to pay for it through their tax dollars?

Sen. Charles Schumer (D.-N.Y.): The bottom line is here that this is about scientific progress and research, and we fund so many other different types of cures. This is a major cure, and we should move forward on scientific progress.

Because this is such a controversial subject, that people don’t agree with it, why should their tax dollars be used to fund the killing of these embryos?

Sen. Gordon Smith (R.-Ore.): I mean, I don’t agree with many ways in which my tax dollars are spent.

Does that make it okay?

Smith: But our process is that we’re a nation of law, and we have a way of making laws. And we the people, the majority, ultimately rule, and we are bound to obey the law.

Should the federal government compel taxpayers to fund the killing of embryos?

Rep. Dave Weldon (R.-Fla.) [who is a physician]: Absolutely not. It’s morally and ethically wrong. It’s also a really bad use of taxpayer dollars. Embryonic stem cells will probably never be shown to be successful in any clinical treatments because the very thing that makes them attractive for bench researchers to use them, the fact that they grow robustly, makes them genetically unstable in animal models. They form tumors, and it’s a grandiose waste of money, in my opinion, to elevate embryonic stem cells above adult stem cells for human clinical research. Now, you can learn a lot of science by studying embryonic stem cells, but you can do that with animal models. You don’t have to use human embryos to do that.

Why is it imperative that taxpayers are going to be forced [to support] what many consider to be the killing of embryos?

Sen. Arlen Specter (R.-Pa.): Why are taxpayers going to be forced to support the embryonic stem-cell research? Well, there are many taxpayers that disagree with many governmental policies. You can start with the war in Iraq or you could take Amtrak, but we live in a society where the majority rules and we have very, very powerful public support and congressional support and time is on our side in embryonic stem-cell research. It is going to happen. And the sooner it happens the better, and I think President Bush will be applauded and will have a legacy if he is willing to reexamine his thinking on the subject and to agree with the hope that’s been so fervently expressed here routinely by the senators at this podium.

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R.-Utah): If I could just add to that. As a senator who believes that being pro-life is helping the living as well as the unborn, I can’t see for the life of me how we could justify 7,000-20,000 in vitro fertilized eggs being discarded as hospital waste every year as a justifiable thing. Why wouldn’t we use those eggs rather than having them become hospital waste and die? Why don’t we use them for the benefit of mankind, especially for our young children who have these dreaded diseases and have a lifetime ahead of them full of pain, distress and suffering? To me, I don’t think it’s pro-life to just accept that disposal of those 7,000-20,000 in vitro fertilized eggs and not doing everything we possibly can for people who are ill.