Bill Frist’s Incoherent Position on Embryonic Stem Cell Research

Senator Bill FristSenator Bill Frist is a political conservative. He is a Republican. He claims to be pro-life. And he is dead wrong on embryonic stem cell research.Senator Frist contributed an opinion editorial to the Washington Post on Tuesday titled “Meeting Stem Cells’ Promise — Ethically.” In this piece he makes an absolutely morally incoherent argument in favor of federal funding for embryonic stem cell research. Why is his argument incoherent? Because he claims to hold the pro-life convction that from conception all life has value, yet at the same time he claims that some of those valuable lives can and should be killed.

In the first paragraph, he asserts his pro-life bona fides: “I am pro-life. I recognize that human life begins at conception . . . human life has value at all stages of development.” But then without any serious argument or moral justification, he says the following:

Embryonic stem cells could eventually help treat spinal cord injuries, mitigate diabetes, repair damaged organs, relieve pain and preserve lives. Even though cures may take years to develop, I believe that we cannot ignore the promise these cells hold . . .

Thus I’m supporting legislation that’s gotten enormous attention: a bill that will let scientists use federal funds for research with embryonic stem cells derived from embryos that families created for in vitro fertilization but that are now ready to be discarded and destroyed. I hope that we can redeem this loss of life in part by using these embryos to seed research that will save lives in the future. Under this policy, so long as they follow ethical guidelines, researchers will have as many stem cell lines as they can produce (source).

As best I can tell, Senator Frist’s position amounts to this: “I believe that because some humans will be unceremoniously discarded and killed anyway, the U.S. government should fund experiments that will kill them first.”

There can only be one of two explanations for this kind of moral nonsense: (1) Senator Frist does not understand what the pro-life position really is, that human life deserves protection under law from conception to natural death, or (2) he understands that these little embryos are humans but thinks they should be killed because medical advances are more important than human life.

There is absolutely no rational reason for a person who says that they believe that life begins at conception to be in favor of research that would destroy human embryos. This is an indefensible position, and maybe that’s why Senator Frist doesn’t defend it in his op-ed.

I’ve heard worse things come out of the mouths of U. S. Senators, but this is not the kind of thing one would expect to hear from someone who is supposed to be a conservative statesman.

I’ll be looking forward to President Bush’s veto of the bill.

(See also: “Senate Passes Stem Cell Bill; Bush Vows Veto” – Washington Post)

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