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Applauding Bush's Veto on Stem Cells

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

Today, President Bush vetoed the first bill in his five-and-a-half year presidency, stem cell research legislation. The president said in a White House ceremony that embryonic stem cell research is wrong, and in his words it crosses a moral boundary.

President GEORGE W. BUSH: We must all remember that embryonic stem cells come from human embryos that are destroyed for their cells. 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.

SIEGEL: Yesterday on the program we had an essay opposed to the president on this issue. Today, we hear from commentator Joe Carter with the Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity. He commends President Bush on his veto but he still doesn't think the president has gone far enough.

JOE CARTER reporting:

What if I said I wanted to pursue medical research that might possibly, someday, maybe lead to treatments for various diseases? What if I also said that doing so would require killing thousands of human beings? Not important human beings, only those that are eventually going to die anyway. And what if I asked you not only to accept such research, but to pay for it, too?

Some people may not consider destroying an embryo the same as destroying a human being, but I do, and I'm not alone. For those like me who consider an embryo an early human life, anything that would encourage the destruction of embryos for stem-cell research is asking us to set aside our belief and the sanctity of life in favor of blind faith and biomedical progress.

Proponents of embryonic stem-cell research want us to overlook the fact that the federal government has already spent millions of dollars for such research and all we've received in return are promissory notes. They want us to use more of our tax dollars to fund research that we see as scientifically speculative and morally repugnant.

Proponents of such research tend to view themselves as being on the side of scientific progress, while portraying those who oppose such research as religiously motivated Luddites. Yet, they are the ones who ignore the fact that science by denying that the embryo is a human being. They inevitably justify their position by arguing that while the embryo may be a human being, it is not yet a person. Personhood is a term we use only when we want to deny it to a member of the human race. We hear claims that the embryo is simply a clump of cells. But no husband, upon hearing his wife is newly pregnant, brags that she's having my fetus. We now want to reproduce embryos like widgets and store them away in IVF clinics, living cadavers ready to be harvested for their parts.

It's (unintelligible) philosopher Yosef Peeper(ph) said that loving someone means being able to turn to them and say, it's good that you exist. It's good that you're in the world. This is the message we should be sending to what many of us consider to be the most vulnerable members of the human race.

President Bush believes that further federal funding of embryonic stem-cell research crosses an important moral line. I agree with him there. I'm glad he vetoed this bill. But many significant ethical boundaries have already been crossed on the issue of embryo destruction. The president's veto today just helped stop us from going even further down a path many of us believe we should never have started down in the first place.

SIEGEL: Joe Carter is with the Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity in Bannockburn, Illinois. You can hear both of our commentaries on stem-cell research at our website, NPR.org. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Joe Carter