2 August 2006: Stem-cell Opposition

Bush inconsistent on stem-cell opposition

If George Bush were consistent, he would issue an executive order banning fertility clinics for the same reason he opposes gay marriage and stem sell research. The intellectual and moral conundrum faced by “pro-life” conservative Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) likewise gives evidence to the contortions those whose approach to life is ideological rather than pragmatic, common sense undergo.

The July/August issue of Mother Jones has a thoughtful essay called “Souls on Ice,” written by Liza Mundy, that looks at the struggle of parents who have had their children by way of in vitro fertilization (IVF). A number of testimonials describe their struggles about what to do with the remaining embryos. There is a glut of them, some 400,000, of which only a few hundred have been “adopted” and brought to term, and there does not seem to be a waiting line forming of prospective mothers.

It is quite obvious Rohrabacher has done major mental gymnastics to assuage his conscience by now positing that conception does not occur when the sperm and the egg join as “pro-lifers” have insisted over the years. Mundy quotes Rohrabacher: “For a long time, I’ve been pro-life, and I still consider myself pro-life. I have done a lot of soul-searching but also a lot of re-thinking about reality, and what’s going on here, and I have come to the conclusion that I’m…first, I’m still pro-life. But I always said life begins at conception. But…I was always predicating that on the idea that life begins at conception when conception begins in a woman’s body.” He goes on to say, “I don’t think the potential for human life exists in human embryo until it’s implanted in a human body.” That should keep him out of hell one hopes as well as the fundamentalist doghouse.

Bush’s press secretary Tony Snowe initially said Bush considers stem cell research “murder,” but later flip-flopped and retracted that terminology. However, Snowe is correct, that is if one believes life begins with conception, even if it is done at a clinic vis-à-vis IVF. Such an absolutist must hold that killing of even of a zygote is in fact murder if done pre-meditatively.

The potential for stem cell usage for cures is phenomenal. Former First Lady Nancy Reagan has been a prime mover in getting the research back on track. Even Majority Leader Sen. Bill Frist, who had farcically misdiagnosed Terri Schiavo via TV, is on board. And polls clearly show the majority of Americans, even a good number of “pro-lifers,” reject the extreme thinking and support moving forward with the research hopeful that someday soon sufferers like my niece, having lost 90 percent of her sight, and a friend, a quadriplegic for over 25 years, will be able to lead healthy and pain-free lives.

Absolutists and other ideologues paint themselves into a corner by approaching life from hard-core predefined worldviews that are completely at odds with the reality of human experience, in this case by insisting that zygotes are tiny little human beings with the same natural rights you and I possess. The same holds true for global warming deniers, gay marriage opponents, the wars on terror and drugs promoters, and immigrant bashers. On those and other issues, polls indicate Americans have had it with rigid thinkers and are anxious for leaders who offer solution for problems and not diatribe that castigates and demonizes others for their opinions.

Correction: The word democrat in my last article was changed to uppercase when it should have remained in the lower case, which had the effect of making the thought confusing. It should have read: “When it comes to finding wedge issues to serve in their demagoguery, apparently being a democrat is a small price to pay for some to be a Republican.” My apologies.

Welcome!: After reading his piece last week I would like to welcome Steven Graeber as an honorary Chicken Little in Al Gore’s “The Sky Is Falling Club.” His column essentially argues that nuclear power is a solution for global warming. The issues of safety as well as the spent fuel rods would need to be resolved, but it seems we are agreed that the atmosphere is heating rapidly and only human intervention, the primary cause of the heating, can reverse it.

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