The moral problem for that majority of Americans who, like me, don't believe that a zygote or blastocyst has all the attributes and therefore merits all the rights of personhood, is this: Does that mean that everything is permissible with a human embryo?
Don't they understand the real threat? It is not so much the destruction of existing human embryos -- God knows, more than a million are already destroyed every year in abortions, thousands doomed to die in IVF clinics. A handful drawn from fertility clinics where they will be destroyed anyway alters no great moral balance.
The real threat to our humanity is the creation of new human life willfully for the sole purpose of making it the means to someone else's end -- dissecting it for its parts the way we would dissect something with no more moral standing than a mollusk or paramecium. The real Brave New World looming before us is the rise of the industry of human manufacture, where human embryos are created not to produce children -- the purpose of IVF clinics -- but for spare body parts.
It is this creation-for-the-purpose-of-destruction that needs to be stopped -- and it does not matter whether that creation occurs by joining sperm and egg (as the Jones Institute in Virginia has already done) or by cloning a cell from an adult, turning it into a human embryo, and then destroying it for its stem cells.
Both in my writings and as a member of the President's Council on Bioethics, I have advocated this dual policy for years: expand federal funding of stem cell research by using discarded embryos but couple that with a firm national ban on creating human embryos for any purpose other than the birth of a human baby. We finally have a chance to enact this grand compromise -- but only if a majority of senators insist that the welcome expansion provided in the Castle-DeGette bill, which will yield a near endless supply of embryonic stem cells, cannot take place unless the door is firmly closed now, while we still have the chance, on the manufacture of human embryos for research and destruction.
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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