Ken Connor

"The judge ruled that the Obama administration's policy was illegal because the administration's distinction between work that leads to the destruction of embryos – which cannot be financed by the federal government under the current policy – and the financing of work using stem cells created through embryonic destruction was meaningless. . . . In other words, the neat lines that the government had drawn between the process of embryonic destruction and the results of that destruction are not valid, the judge ruled."

As with so many other issues, the President's actions on E.S.C.R. illustrate his inability to identify with the moral and ethical concerns of anyone whose worldview differs from his own.

As incomprehensible as it may seem to President Obama, many Americans, myself included, view E.S.C.R. as morally repugnant and ethically flawed because it involves the destruction of human embryos. Tiny though they may be, each embryo possesses all the genetic material necessary to mature into a distinct human being. To take nascent life and destroy it for the sake of "scientific research" is to fly in the face of the self-evident truths articulated in our Declaration of Independence. As Americans, we claim to believe that all humans are endowed with an inalienable right to life. Those of us that embrace this principle to its full extent believe that no human being should be the subject of such experimentation. We believe that human rights and human dignity are not diminished by the size of human subject. In other words, big people don't have more rights than small ones. Neither should age be a factor, or cognitive sophistication. An embryo's age and early stage of development doesn't vitiate its humanity. Likewise, the circumstances of conception (in vitro vs. in utero, planned vs. unplanned, voluntary vs. involuntary) do not diminish our humanity. Once a human being is in existence, he or she has a right to the same constitutional protections as other human beings.

President Obama's insistence on pushing this issue – despite the demonstrated success of non-controversial alternatives like adult stem cell research – reveals that he values advancing ideology over seeking unity through common ground. His administration advocates one point of view with regard to human embryos and their instrumental value to the scientific community, and from that point of view the Administration is unwilling to depart. Why else would they remove funding from a program that allows the adoption of surplus embryos, and why would they end funding for non-controversial alternatives to E.S.C.R.? As I've said before, if you want to know what a President values, just look at how he spends your money.

The fate of President Obama's executive order now rests with a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. circuit. Hopefully, in this venue, the law will prevail over ideology.

Ken Connor

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