President Bush's Split Cell Decision

By Bonnie Chernin Rogoff
Rightgrrl Contributor
Founder, Jews For Life

August 10, 2001

President Bush spent the first half of his address on embryonic stem cell research detailing the potential dangers in a society that destroys human life to sustain or improve human life. Regrettably, he forgot about human nature, which rejects self-restraint. He should have thought long and hard about that before he gave his approval to allow federal funds for limited research on existing stem cells. When human greed is involved, there are no limits.

His solution is being called a political compromise. What Bush presented to America was a split cell decision; something he hoped would please everyone. He appeased the mainstream pro-life movement by shutting the door on federal funding for future embryonic research, but upset research enthusiasts for not opening the door wide enough. Very rigid guidelines will be in place.

The magic number is sixty. That’s how many stem cells have been extracted from embryos that have already been destroyed. On those, President Bush will allow limited funding for research. Pro-lifers can be assured that no that additional embryos will be destroyed, if Bush’s plan is enforced without change. That is key.

David Stevens, MD and Executive Director of the Christian Medical Association,
had this to say:

"I am concerned that by funding research on stem cells taken from embryos who were previously destroyed, we are breaking down a vital moral barrier. This moral barrier is embodied by the longstanding ethical medical principle of 'do no harm.' This moral barrier is also embodied by the biblical principle, 'Thou shalt not kill.'

He’s right. The moral barrier has been broken.

These sixty cells are not even under the microscope yet, and already those favoring unlimited federal funding are picking at the number. Mary Tyler Moore, Christopher Reeve and Montel Williams appeared on Larry King Live, superficially pleased with the “good start” Bush proposed. However, they all expect Congress to intervene and move the research forward even further than Bush’s prescribed limits. And they will.

Senator Orrin Hatch was also a guest on Larry King Live, and expressed concerns that the President’s decision won’t allow the research to go far enough. He was worried that some of the existing cells were “contaminated,” and “have not met NIH guidelines.” President Bush’s decision would put “roadblocks” in the way of extending the research past the sixty. This, from a “pro-life” Republican.

Since abortion was legalized in 1973, have we ever seen any limits? From early suction to saline, from saline to dilation and evacuation, and partial birth abortion. Next came the harvesting and sale of fetal body parts. These are the reasons I am dismayed by President Bush’s decision. I know where it will lead.

Prior to ESCR taking center stage, the most contentious issue was partial birth abortion, which has been put on the back burner for obvious reasons. There has been a turnover in the U.S. Senate in Election 2000, and many new Democratic Senators are pro-abortion. Senator Jeffords has defected, giving the Democrats control of powerful committees. Meanwhile, the pervasive anti-life contingent in the Republican Party rarely supports legislation that would save unborn babies. You see where I’m going with this. President Bush is hoping that if he shows willingness to compromise on embryonic stem cell research, perhaps on future pro-life legislation the Democrats will show an equal willingness toward cooperation.

Perhaps they will approve his conservative Supreme Court nominations.
Perhaps they will accommodate his life-affirming decision on the Mexico City policy. Perhaps they will be more receptive to a partial birth abortion ban.

Unfortunately, President Bush is a good guy who believes that if you extend a hand, the opposition won’t bite. He’s wrong. When you’re facing a Boxer in the Senate, you need boxing gloves.

President Bush always claimed he would do what is right, rather than follow public opinion polls. Like many other pro-life Republicans today, he is walking a tightrope between his values and those of the party. He has shown willingness to bow down to political pressure, and caved. Some of that pressure comes from the GOP rank-and-file, most from special interest groups. However, President Bush broke his campaign pledge, as did his father on taxes. The stage is set for compromise involving other abortion issues, and possibly for President Bush to lose a substantial voting bloc in 2004.

Now the question becomes, when will federal funding be expanded? When will sixty become six hundred? When will research turn to government-sanctioned experimentation? The next step is cloning. Two doctors, one from Italy and one in Lexington, Kentucky, have formed an alliance and announced they will clone embryos to help infertile couples. Many of Dr. Severino Antinori’s patients, who will soon being the cloning experiments, have dubbed him, “The Miracle Doctor.” One year ago, can you imagine anyone referring to cloning as a “miracle?”

Once cloning commences, as it most likely will, we will all be victims. Who’s to say scientists won’t create a strain of bacteria or virus for which we have no immunity or cure, or one that can wipe us out like the bubonic plague? Who’s to say we won’t create a society of monsters out to create a master race? Will embryonic stem cell experimentation be of any value to us then?

To help victims beset by severe crippling diseases, funding should be allocated only toward adult stem cell research, which does not destroy human life and has shown very promising results in both preventing and curing disease. Bush’s motives were noble, his solution reasoned, and he prayed he his decision was the right one. However, I dread the prospect of even limited funding. Soon, the creation of embryos for their destruction will be accepted practice, followed later by experimentation that will trump faith, limitations, and moral reason.

President Bush will not be President forever. Someday, the threshold will be crossed into additional funding. Nazi-like experimentation toward perfecting the human race is inevitable. Experiments on embryos will be Chapter One of a Cloner’s Manual, with all the instructions necessary for a future anti-life administration to begin experimenting. All they’ll need to do is read the manual, follow the political instructions, alter the content, and begin the process to “repair” people.

If you think I’m an alarmist, remember this. Colorado was the first state to legalize abortion on April 25, 1967, for rape, incest and to save the mother’s life. That was only 34 years ago. Look where we are now.

Copyright 2001 by Bonnie Chernin Rogoff. Not to be reproduced in any fashion, in whole or in part, without written consent from the author. All rights reserved.