I have long thought that Newt Gingrich would never survive front-runner scrutiny were he ever to lead the pack. He has a checkered political past, and the media and his critics are not going to have any difficulty reminding everyone about it.
Ramesh Ponnuru has a brief report about Gingrich’s record on embryonic stem cell research, and it is not good. On July 10, 2001, Gingrich called for President Bush to allow federal funding for this research. In Gingrich’s own words:
My hope is that [President Bush] will draw a sharp distinction between research on fetuses, which I think would be abhorrent and anti-human, and research on cells that are in fertility clinics that have never been in anyone’s body, in terms of being — becoming a person, and which, frankly, are currently unregulated and will disappear. And I think that’s a different kind of question. These are not prehuman cells in the sense they’re going to be implanted. . . . I have a 100 percent pro-life voting record, but I’ve always drawn a distinction at implantation. And I think there’s a real difference in the two kinds of cells. I notice that former senator Connie Mack, who is himself is a Catholic, takes the same position. And I think people who’ve looked at this issue can honorably disagree. But for many of us, there’s a very, very real distinction between doing something with an unborn child, a fetus that is implanted, and doing something with cells in a fertility clinic that are otherwise going to be destroyed.
There is much to criticize here, but the thing that jumps out to me is Gingrich’s definition of “prehuman.” Gingrich revealed that he does not believe that life begins at conception but at “implantation.” That is not a pro-life view of the matter. The pro-life position is that human life should be protected in law from conception to natural death. By denying personhood before implantation, Gingrich has removed any ethical basis for treating pre-implanted life as human life worthy of protection in law.
So here’s the question: Is this still Gingrich’s view? If it is, then how can he be trusted to advance pro-life policies when he is not consistent in his “pro-life” views? If it is not his view anymore, then when and why did his views change? These are questions that I want to know the answer to, and I bet I’m not the only one.