In explaining why the federal government will allow embryonic stem cell research, Health Minister Anne McLellan said “These are surplus embryos. You know what happens to them? They go in the garbage.”

That is hardly true and certainly should never be true. But examine the logic of the health minister’s words and you see a callous disregard for human life.

The choice for the so-called surplus, spare or leftover embryos created for fertility treatments is death in the garbage bin or death in the petri dish at the hands of scientists eager to use them as fodder for experiments.

Well, here’s a novel idea: work to protect the newly conceived human embryo. The federal government could create incentives for couples to adopt the embryos and set up regulations that limit the number of embryos created for fertility treatments.

It is a ruthlessly utilitarian mindset that ignores these noble public policy options in favour of sacrificing human lives in the name of science. As Bruce Clemenger, director of the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada’s Centre for Faith and Public Life, said, “If, as the minister said, the goal of the legislation is to help infertile couples, then we should be adopting these orphaned embryos to other couples in need, not destroying them.”

But it is likely that the federal government did not even consider the embryo a human being worthy of respect and protection, or the health minister wouldn’t refer to human embryos as “surplus” and “leftovers”, terminology usually reserved for commodities. Except that the government admits that the embryo is a human being because the legislation governing embryonic stem cell research is called The Act Respecting Assisted Human Reproduction and such research will be regulated by the newly created Assisted Human Reproduction Agency of Canada.

All of these word games lead us to one of two conclusions. Either the government is unfathomably stupid for failing to recognize the embryo as a human being (which biology dictates it must be) or it is remarkably barbaric for allowing a class of human beings (embryos of up to 14 days, unused in fertility treatments) to be destroyed in order to be experimented upon.