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5/26/2005

WSJ doesn't get it

A Wall Street Journal editorial plays down the significance of Bush's opposition to federal funding for stem-cell research:
The debate over stem-cell research is once again being portrayed as a kind of moral Armageddon: a choice between federal funding and none, between scientific progress and religious zealotry. We hate to spoil the political drama, but maybe the system has stumbled toward a compromise that is more sensible than the debate makes it appear ...

Recall what the President's August 2001 decision actually did. It allowed federal funding for research on existing stem-cell lines where, he said, "the life and death decision has already been made." But it forbade funding for research into new lines, which entailed both the creation and destruction of human embryos.

Critically, Mr. Bush's decision applied only to federal funding; it did not impinge on the rights of individual researchers, universities, hospitals, private labs, public corporations or states to conduct embryonic research. In other words, the President did not "ban" anything. He simply refused to allow taxpayer money to be spent on a practice millions of Americans consider morally offensive.

I can think of another practice that 'millions of Americans consider morally offensive' that Bush doesn't mind spending tax money on ... but that's a discussion for another time.

This editorial is incorrect in stating that Bush 'did not ban anything'--he banned federal funding for stem-cell research involving 'new lines' of cells. He didn't ban stem-cell research itself, of course, but we already knew that. The point is this: the only reason he did ban federal funding is because of the silly, superstitious belief of a few fringe religious fanatics that an 8-celled embryo is somehow sacred.

Is Bush's ban crippling for stem-cell research? No, probably not. But that doesn't make it right. We should be doing all we can to further such research, and progressives, liberals, and libertarians are justifiably upset when this is not being done because the religious dogma of a minority of people is allowed to dictate public policy.

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