There is a very well reasoned, neutral point of view article regarding the stem cell debate in today’s Boston Globe. It is a well reasoned look at both sides of the issue. This is the debate we should be having. For liberals to say that Republicans don’t support stem cell research is false. They don’t support stem cell research that they believe destroys life. But they do support stem cell research.
The main arguments are by now familiar. Proponents argue that embryonic stem cell research holds great promise for understanding and curing diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, spinal cord injury, and other debilitating conditions. Opponents argue that the research is unethical, because deriving the stem cells destroys the blastocyst, an unimplanted human embryo at the sixth to eighth day of development. As Bush declared when he vetoed last year’s stem cell bill, the federal government should not support “the taking of innocent human life.”
It is surprising that, despite the extensive public debate — in Congress, during the 2004 and 2006 election campaigns, and on the Sunday morning talk shows — relatively little attention has been paid to the moral issue at the heart of the controversy: Are the opponents of stem cell research correct in their claim that the unimplanted human embryo is already a human being, morally equivalent to a person?
Perhaps this claim has gone unaddressed because stem cell proponents and many in the media consider it obviously false, a faith-based belief that no rational argument could possibly dislodge. If so, they are making a mistake.
The fact that a moral belief may be rooted in religious conviction neither exempts it from challenge nor puts it beyond the realm of public debate. Ignoring the claim that the blastocyst is a person fails to respect those who oppose embryonic stem cell research on principled moral grounds.
If as this essay claims, stem-cell research in Massachusetts will be limited to “excess embryos” from fertility clinics, which may be destroyed anyway. My opposition to embryonic stem cell research may change. We need a dispassionate debate on the central facts of this issue.