President Barack Obama has once again demonstrated his shocking disregard for the sanctity of human life by lifting the ban on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research that was imposed by his predecessor George W. Bush. In announcing the new policy, Obama professed: “As a person of faith, I believe we are called to care for each other and work to ease human suffering.” Quite so. But as a person of faith, Obama should also understand that the biblical commandment “Thou shalt not kill” prohibits the deliberate killing of any innocent human being.
Yet, Obama is an implacable supporter of abortion on demand. Unlike Bush, he does not care about safeguarding the lives of babies in the womb and he has no compunction about medical research that entails the deliberate destruction of the tiniest and most vulnerable of our fellow human beings during the first days of life. The Bush administration at least limited federal funding for embryonic stem cell research to already-existing stem cell lines. Now, Obama has extended federal support to research on all new, as well as old, stem cell lines produced in privately financed laboratories.
In addition, Obama has summoned the Congress to “act on a bipartisan basis to provide further support for this research.” In particular, he would like the Congress to rescind legislation first enacted during the Clinton administration that prohibits the use of federal funding to create or destroy human embryos for medical research. Obama has even gone so far as to suggest that the Congress should authorize human cloning for medical research. Nonetheless, he promises: “We will ensure that our government never opens the door to the use of cloning for human reproduction. It is dangerous, profoundly wrong and has no place in our society or any society.”
Indeed. Why, though, can Obama not grasp that human cloning for medical research is also dangerous and profoundly wrong, if only because it is all too likely to lead to human cloning for reproduction?
Canadian regulations on embryonic stem cell research are woefully inadequate, but at least it is a criminal offence in this country to create a human embryo for medical research and to clone a human embryo for any purpose. Obama would have the United States Congress legalize both of these dangerous and immoral procedures.
Ironically, just eight days before Obama expanded funding for embryonic stem cell research, two teams of scientists, one led by Dr. Keisuke Kaji of the University of Edinburgh and the other by Dr. Andras Nagy of Toronto’s Mount Sinai Hospital, disclosed in Nature, a leading scientific journal, that they have come up with a practical method for transforming ordinary skin cells into pluripotent stem cells. According to Nagy, this revolutionary new procedure “could lead to possible cures for devastating diseases including spinal cord injury, macular degeneration, diabetes and Parkinson’s disease.”
Similar claims have been made for embryonic stem cell research. Obama has recalled how Christopher Reeve, the actor, quadriplegic and champion of embryonic stem cell research, once told a reporter: “If you came back here in 10 years, I expect that I’d walk to the door to greet you.” Obama added: “Christopher never got that chance. But if we pursue this research, maybe one day – maybe not in our lifetime or even in our children’s lifetime – but maybe one day, others like Christopher Reeve might.”
Perhaps so. Yet, not even the sure and certain prospect of a cure for devastating spinal cord injuries can justify the deliberate killing of an innocent human being. Scientists should focus instead on legitimate avenues of research, such as the new method for creating pluripotent stem cells from skin cells. Kaji has hailed this discovery as a “step towards the practical use of reprogramed cells in medicine, perhaps even eliminating the need for human embryos as a source of stem cells.”
Let us hope and pray that Kaji’s hopes are fulfilled. For pro-lifers, that would be a striking victory. Having played a key role in encouraging scientists to explore alternatives to embryonic stem cell research, we should not relent in our opposition to the death-dealing procedure until it is banned and stopped altogether.