Letter to the Editor



Whatever else he has done or may yet do in office, President Bush made the right decision when he ended federal funding of certain kinds of stem-cell research.

In your editorial you pointed out that the U.S. "has achieved much of its dominant international position" by developing new technologies, citing the work of "the National Aeronautics and Space Administration" in space flight, communications, and computers as an example of the need for unfettered American scientific research. Yes, President Bush's decision may result in economic loss to the nation by hindering medical research, but to cite your own example, NASA's research did not cost a human life every time it began a new experiment.

So no, editors, saving lives does not justify taking lives. You wrote "a human embryo is more similar to a couple skin cells than a human being. An embryo is a small cluster of cells produced immediately after fertilization." If an embryo is what is produced immediately after fertilization, she is no longer simply human cells, but an individual genetically unique in all the cosmos. She is clearly alive - she's not dead, after all - and you have already declared her a "human" embryo. If someone is genetically distinct as an individual, alive, and human, what can we understand her to be but a living human being, however fragile, small, and vulnerable?

Those who regard embryos otherwise do not usually rely on a religious faith for their opinion, nor on good science, but on the U.S. Supreme Court, a body of appointed politicians, infamous for its inconsistency. The Court is no less fallible now, when it holds that pre-term girls and boys are not persons within the meaning of the Constitution, than it was when it ruled that African-American slaves were not persons under the Constitution. If we're going to apply political philosophy to the issue of stem-cell research, and turn to a political text as our source for inspiration and precepts, I'd much rather look to the Declaration of Independence and its assertion that the right to life is endowed by our Creator and inalienable.