Ken Connor

Some proponents of embryonic stem cell research argue that embryos are merely clumps of cells that in no way resemble human beings. Since they do not look like humans, they do not qualify as members of the human family. In reality, however, an embryo looks exactly like a human being -- every human being -- at that stage in development. Let's face it, life brings a succession of changes to our outward form. At 60, one does not look like they did at 16, or at six-months. But changes in the way we look should not diminish our right to life. Whether or not someone "looks" human is irrelevant to his or objective worth.

Others argue that since the embryos involved in embryonic stem cell research reside in Petri dishes rather than in their mother's wombs, they cannot be fully human. The logic does not hold. Where we are does not determine what we are. A person's essential nature does not change based on their location. A man who lives in a nursing home is not worth more or less than a woman who lives at the Ritz Carlton. It make no sense to say that an embryo outside the womb is less human simply because it is outside the womb.

Upon careful reflection, then, it is not reasonable to claim that embryos have less worth because of their age, size, or location. Factoring such criteria into debates about human dignity contradicts our founding principles: that all men are created equal and that we all have an inalienable right to life.

While it is true that destroying some lives might lead to genuinely wonderful medical advances, embracing a utilitarian ethic poses many dangers. Should the majority have the right to run scientific experiments on the minority, especially the weak and defenseless, simply because the tests hold great promise? Do we really want to go down that path? One's right to life should not be bargained away because another may benefit from the transaction.

Fortunately President Bush has rejected the utilitarian argument that it is permissible to use, mutilate, or destroy some human beings in order to advance the health and happiness of others. In doing so, Mr. Bush stands on solid ethical ground. All who believe that human life and human dignity should be respected and protected should stand with him.

Ken Connor

Ken Connor is Chairman of the Center for a Just Society in Washington, DC.