President Bush recently threatened to use his veto power to stop a stem-cell research bill passed by the senate. If Bush does indeed veto the bill, it would be the first time that he has ever used this power. How appropriate that the most religious president in recent memory might go down in history as vetoing only one bill, and having it be a pro-science bill.
Bush said "I made very clear to the Congress that the use of federal money, taxpayers' money, to promote science which destroys life in order to save life -- I'm against that."
Now we come to the point of this blog entry: Will Bush's veto of this bill "save" human lives (in the form of embryos)? I believe the answer to this question is artistically provided in this cartoon by Ruben Bolling: President Bush’s Photo-op at a Fertility Clinic. It is hosted by pharyngula.com. I didn’t want to post the image directly on my blog due to copyright concerns. So please take a moment to view this link.
Bush is obviously coming from the position that all these embryos have human souls or spirits, and therefore should not be "destroyed" in order to "save" the lives of other humans. For the sake of argument, let's entertain this position of Bush's. Let's imagine that these unborn embryos have human spirits, and that they deserve all the same protections and rights granted to the already-born variety of humans.
So will the defeat of this bill by Bush's veto save any of these embryo-lives? According to the bills supporters, the embryos in question are unused leftovers from fertility clinics that were destined to be destroyed anyway. So these embryos have two possible paths, depending on whether this bill gets vetoed or not:
1. The bill passes, and the unused embryos are "destroyed" in order to "save" lives through research.
2. The bill is killed by Bush, and the unused embryos are "destroyed" without any life-saving research performed.
The most important part to note here is that, if Bush vetoes the bill, these embryos will still be destroyed. The "destroy" factor in this situation never comes into question. The only thing that comes into question is whether or not these destined-for-destruction embryos will be used to save other people's lives or not.
Bush either does not understand the factors involved in this bill, or he is deliberately making false statements about the bill to serve his religious and/or emotional convictions. Personally, I can't figure out which is scarier: ignorance or willful fraud.
Now let's think for a minute about the spirit/afterlife factor involved here. Bush, being a Christian, believes that the spirits of these embryos are destined for heaven. Does Bush think that the spirits of these embryos still exist here, on Earth, inside the embryos themselves? Or does Bush think that the spirits of these embryos already made passage to God's kingdom? If the spirits are still inside the embryos, then destroying them will, in his mind, send the spirits into heaven and amount to "killing" them. But what I don't understand, is why Bush thinks that the embryos will somehow escape destruction if the researchers don't get their hands on them. Is the destruction of excess, unused embryos somehow more humane when they are not allowed to be used for research, but instead disposed of in a biological waste container?
And another factor comes into mind here: the legal factor. If these embryos are to be considered full human citizens with all the rights afforded to other American citizens (as Bush's worldview implies), then these embryos are obviously minors and their parents have full legal custody of them. And if a minor dies or is destined to die, born or unborn, the parents are the ones who are allowed to make the decisions in the minor's life/death journey.
If an already-born child is mortally wounded in a car accident and destined to die, the parents can choose to donate the child's organs to research. So if there are excess unused embryos from a fertility treatment, and they are destined to be destroyed, then the parents of these embryos should be allowed to donate them to research if they so choose. Consider it the ultimate organ donation. If it's noble for a parent to donate the heart or liver of a doomed child, then isn't it even nobler for a parent to donate a doomed embryo in it's entirety?
Clearly, Bush's Christian beliefs are muddling up his "compassionate conservative" side. I am betting that he simply doesn't understand the specifics involved in this situation, and that is why his argument is so obviously flawed. I am betting that he doesn't even realize that these embryos are doomed to destruction regardless of the passage of this bill. I am betting that he doesn't understand that if we are to treat these embryos as full humans and citizens, as he implies we should, then the matter of donating these excess embryos to research should be left up to the parents or legal guardians of said embryos.
Bush wants to save these embryos from destruction, but clearly, his veto wouldn't save them from a Goddamn thing.
Why Bush would want to keep these embryo-citizens from entering a blissful eternal afterlife in heaven is beyond me, but one thing is clear: the only thing his veto would "save" these embryos from, is helping their fellow man learn to survive longer in this life. I find it rather ironic, considering that keeping humans in this existence is exactly what Bush claims to be trying to do.