Faith in the Public Square
Published -- January 28, 2007
Scientific and technological advances over the last century, especially those in the medical and bio-technology fields, have been a blessing. Life expectancy is reaching once unimaginable levels, and diseases that were once killers are now simply nuisances that can usually be prevented or at least controlled with medication. But, sometimes these advancements outstrip our ability to reflect ethically on their ramifications and consequences. As the Nazis proved, just because you can do something doesn't mean you should.
Embryonic stem cell research is one of those issues that's been caught up in these kinds of debates. While the vast majority of Americans support embryonic stem-cell research, a vocal opposition has been raising ethical and moral questions that have stymied efforts to fund research at the federal level. In 2006, when President Bush issued his first presidential veto and turned back a bipartisan bill to fund research, he argued that the destruction of embryos (even frozen ones that would be discarded if not implanted) crossed a moral boundary he was unwilling to support. This occurred despite polls suggesting that about 70 percent of Americans support this research.
With a ban on federal funds in place, many states, including California, have tried to fill the gap with state funding. Research is also being pursued overseas, but at least at the federal level the United States has opted out of the race to find the next “great cure.” That veto has delayed federal funding, but bipartisan efforts to find ways of funding the research continue to be pursued in Congress. The hope there is either a change of heart by the president, or a veto-proof majority. (Click to continue reading)