I support that research. The president does not. In his Aug. 9, 2001, address to the nation, he opposed embryonic research using newly discarded embryos from fertility clinics.
I initially thought that the 2005 State of the Union declaration was signaling a retreat from that position. My firm understanding from subsequent inquiries is that it was not. The administration continues to oppose such research.
But note that Bush only prevented federal funding for it. Bush did not ban it. It continues legally in the private sector. His State of the Union proposal would do nothing to change that balance. (Since it deals only with creation, it leaves aside the question of discarded embryos.)
Presidents come and go. And when this president goes, the next president could, and likely will, reverse the Bush policy and allow federal funding for stem cells derived from newly discarded embryos.
I would applaud that. But I deplore the step that proponents of such research are already demanding: research cloning, i.e., creating special embryos entirely for the purpose of using them for their parts.
This is crossing a critical moral red line. We may honorably disagree about the moral dignity due a tiny human embryo. But we must establish some barrier to the most wanton, reckless and hubristic exploitation of the human embryo for our own purposes.
The line is easy to find: you do not create a human embryo to be a means to some other end. Most people with a moral sense, as demonstrated by the spontaneous response to the State of the Union declaration, understand immediately that there is something fundamentally different, fundamentally corrupting, fundamentally dangerous about allowing -- indeed encouraging -- the manufacture of human embryos for the purpose of their dissection and use for parts.
It is time to act on precisely that intuition and pass a law that draws that line: no creation for the purpose of destruction. We need to do it consensually. And we need to do it now. Tomorrow is too late. By tomorrow we will have an embryo manufacturing industry, and we will already be numb to it.
Charles Krauthammer is a 1987 Pulitzer Prize winner, 1984 National Magazine Award winner, and a columnist for The Washington Post since 1985.
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