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Stem Cell-Out
August 10, 2001

When President Bush addressed the nation last night, it was heartwarming to hear an American president once again make a powerful pro-life statement. But words are the work of candidates. Action is expected of leaders, and on that front, Mr. Bush fell short.

Rightly he affirmed that all life is a God-breathed gift, worthy of protection from its earliest stages. No matter how noble the ends, any means that destroy human embryos, and use taxpayer dollars to do so, are morally repugnant -- and he did well to draw that line.

But despite his pro-life posture, Mr. Bush made a Solomonic decision that, in its bid for wisdom, ultimately threatens infant life. Allowing research to proceed on the 60 existing stem cell lines suggests that we can sufficiently distance ourselves from past destruction to ethically profit from evil acts. Not so.

While Mr. Bush stopped short of crossing the red line that would commit federal funds to embryonic killing, he kicked the can down a road we choose not to traverse. If the research he is funding proves successful, the President will face enormous pressure to do what he has said he would not do. Moreover, his action creates a market for private companies to do the dirty work of creating and destroying embryos, which can then be passed to government-sanctioned scientists in 'sanitized' form.

Rather than placing a foot on this slippery slope, Mr. Bush should have turned his back and bolted the door behind him by saying no to all federal funding. Full stop. Instead, he broke faith with his best people to satisfy others who will not settle for a compromise.

The Chief Executive has stated for the public record that killing human embryos is immoral and will not receive the federal imprimatur. However, by permitting even limited research - and requiring all Americans to underwrite that concession - he accepts his opponents' utilitarian logic that right can justly benefit from wrong. That mixed message leaves principle wanting and pro-lifers wondering.

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