Last Tuesday, I stood in front of the steps of Maryland State House as one of the speakers at an annual pro-life rally. Nearly 1,000 demonstrators chanted, sang, and vowed to return to their homes that night to strategize organizing their houses of worship, schools, and communities to fight the continuing devaluation of human life by the American public. When it came time for my remarks, I reminded the crowd that the battle for life was not over – we simply have new battle lines.
The day before our rally, President Obama made a powerful but concerning speech, justifying his decision to remove the restraints against government funding of embryonic stem research. The president warned twice that overstating the promise of stem cell research is wrong. This was wise, as embryonic stem cell zealots are promising handicapped men and women breakthroughs during their lifetime for the most debilitating diseases. Although it was refreshing to hear a cry for tempered expectation from the president, future research could lead to major ethical transgressions, such as human cloning.
Most pro-life conservatives believe that Congress should have banned federal involvement in human embryonic stem cell research based on the fact that it destroys a human being. We believe that the nation should never approve the destruction of living human beings to preserve or promote the health of other living human beings in the name of science. Based on this moral posture, the religious community especially encourages the use of alternative sources of stem cells, such as adult stem cells, those from umbilical cords or placentas, or other new sources such as reprogrammed skin cells by increasing federal funding for this type of research.
The embryonic stem cell research debate became personal for me this past September when my wife needed a stem cell transplant. All other treatment for her blood cancer - multiple myeloma - had failed. Let me take a moment to describe her treatment protocol. Weeks before the transplant, she went into the hospital where her own stem cells were frozen and stored. Later on, high-dose chemotherapy was administered to her in a sterile hospital unit on a 24 hour basis for a week. Finally, her stem cells were given back.
Bishop Harry Jackson is chairman of the High Impact Leadership Coalition and senior pastor of Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, MD, and co-authored, Personal Faith, Public Policy [FrontLine; March 2008] with Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council.