John Leo

Slippery-slope fears also apply to the possible impact of embryonic stem-cell funding on the abortion wars. In 2001, columnist and author Anna Quindlen said she thinks that the stem-cell issue will decrease opposition to abortion. Once the killing of embryos is routine and government-financed, will size matter?

Those who favor spending federal money on ESCR have a number of clear advantages. One is that opponents of such funding have made no effort to prevent the destruction of surplus embryos created through in vitro fertilization, a glaring inconsistency if protection of nascent human life is so important.

Another big advantage for backers of ESCR is support from the mainstream media. The news business has clearly taken a stand, overplaying the promise of early results, underplaying the advances in adult stem-cell research, and ignoring the large and growing amount of non-federal money available for embryonic work. Portuguese neurologist Carlos Lima and his team published research showing that a patient's own adult stem cells can treat paralysis caused by spinal cord injury. It's not a cure. It's an impressive advance. Wesley Smith, on his blog, Secondhand Smoke, wrote, "I will bet that the mainstream media ignores the story." He won the bet. They did ignore it.

Even worse, mainstream media have a way of dismissing moral objections to ESCR as trivial and marginal concerns. One report referred to the tiny embryos as "unused material," which sounds like something Goebbels would say.

Conservative opposition to evolutionary theory and resistance to data on global warming has hurt too, enabling Democrats to lump all three issues as examples of an anti-science mentality. But the lumping is unfair. Unlike the issues of evolution and global warming, in the stem-cell debate nobody is challenging the science involved. The issue is one of moral judgment.

An ad by the Campaign to Defend the Constitution identifies one stem-cell scientist as "a lone voice who breaks with the mainstream medical establishment in his rejection of embryonic stem-cell advancement." In fact, there are many mainstream scientists who oppose the killing of tiny embryos. Many more think that the government shouldn't be financing such morally dicey research in any way. They have a point.


John Leo

John Leo is editor of and a former contributing editor at U.S. News and World Report.

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