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Bargaining for Baby Parts
July 2, 2001

Thanks to the wonders of modern science, old phone books can be reincarnated as the Sunday paper, beer bottles get a second chance as fiberglass, and now, in the pleasant parlance of the Associated Press, there’s a new use for "left over[s] from fertility treatments" -- otherwise known as children. Coming soon to a lab near you, a miracle cure for Parkinson’s, heart disease, diabetes, paralysis, and perhaps even the common cold. Cost: several billion tax dollars, several million babies, and the scruples of a just society. Dr. Mengele call your office.

The term of art is ESCR -- embryonic stem-cell research -- a grisly enterprise that destroys unborn children to benefit ailing adults. Were this confined to the dark recesses of a distant laboratory, we’d blame crazed genius run amok. But the Frankenstein fantasy has leapt from the frontier of biotech research to the mainstream of public debate. Pundits tout its utilitarian and humanitarian value, scientists reason that only "excess" embryos are exploited, and a Republican President now considers federal funding.

His point-man on the issue, Heath and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson, supported stem cell research while governor of Wisconsin and is pushing a national plan. Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch recently concluded, "…cells are not full human beings and can be very, very beneficial as used by science to help with all kinds of maladies." Even Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott says "there is some great potential here" for experimenting with "cells before they become embryos." And the ranks of the GOP Human Sacrifice Caucus continue to swell. Just last week, 38 House Republicans sent a letter to the President calling on him to fund ESCR, and Senators Strom Thurmond, Gordon Smith, and John McCain chimed amen.

Yesterday, House leaders Dick Armey, Tom DeLay and J.C. Watts struck back with a joint statement that read, "It is not pro-life to rely on an industry of death, even if the intention is to find cures for diseases. We can find cures with life-affirming, not life-destroying, methods that are becoming more promising with each passing day." Speaker Dennis Hastert did not sign on.

Early indications from 1600 PA suggest President Bush personally opposes ESCR, but true to pattern, favors a compromise. As Margaret Thatcher counseled to his father, "George, this is no time to go wobbly." Dr. Scott Gottlieb, advisor to the British Medical Journal recently told The American Spectator, "It takes six dead fetuses to treat one Parkinson’s patient…making it difficult to see how there would be enough fetal tissue" to treat the one million Parkinson’s sufferers "anytime soon." The solution to this shortfall? Look no further than congressional testimony from the Biotechnology Industry Organization, which sees cloning as "a critical and necessary step in the production of sufficient quantities of vigorous replacement cells for the clinical treatment of patients."

Today we kill children already created, tomorrow we create children to kill. This is the brave new world we overlook. If the President is unwilling to accept its proposition that certain life is lesser and that brilliant scientists cannot find a better way, he must act -- before the definition of "human resources" acquires an entirely new meaning.

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