For the first time in his presidency George W. Bush has exercised his right to veto. H.R. 810 would pave the way for more federal funding dollars for human embryonic stem cell research. And this president has said, “Not on my watch”.
I support the president’s veto and see this as a necessary and critical bright line to draw in the sand. Bush was right to say, “Our children are creations not commodities”, and his veto affirms that belief. His position on embryo research provides a principled and ethical framework for scientific research to advance and flourish. Our government should not fund research that treats nascent human life as a harvestable crop. We should not be in the business of creating human life for the sole purpose of destroying it—no matter what the end results may be.
The president is being criticized for his ideological stance on nascent human life but in fact the Dickey Wicker Amendment, a long-term policy since the Clinton administration, prohibits the use of federal funds for harmful or destructive research on human embryos. The Bush administration has relaxed the Dickey climate and last year, under the President’s policies some $40 million federal dollars funded human embryonic stem cell research. And of course states as well as private monies are free to fund any of this research and Bush’s veto has no bearing on this research. This president recognizes the need for ethical research to advance but for human life—even very early human life, to be treated with respect and dignity.
Bush’s veto maintains an important fire wall between women and couples who use in vitro fertilization technologies to make embryos to make babies and the researcher who has a vested interest in these couples donating their spare or leftover embryos for research. Women and couples dealing with infertility issues are already in a vulnerable position. Reports show that many couples will not donate their extra embryos for myriad reasons, primarily for future family building—these are their children. Also, researchers already are clamoring for fresh embryos and even better—cloned disease specific embryos for disease specific research and designer therapies. Spare, leftover, frozen embryos are not what they are after ultimately. And the president is keenly aware that to exercise his right to veto prevents the floodgates from opening which may pave the way to society treating human life as chattel—and how does that affect society’s perception of human life, human dignity and human rights, if we start to see life as extra, or spare, or something to be used for another’s benefit? What kind of Brave New World soma strength drugs would we need to numb us from the reality of treating human life with such disregard? Parents would go to the IVF clinic thinking “pink for girls” “blue for boys” and “spare and leftover for destruction”.
This president is right to use his executive privilege and veto this bill.
- Jennifer Lahl, MA, BSN, RN, is founder and president of The Center for Bioethics and Culture Network. Lahl couples her 25 years of experience as a pediatric critical care nurse, a hospital administrator, and a senior-level nursing manager with a deep passion to speak for those who have no voice. Lahl’s writings have appeared in various publications including Cambridge University Press, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Dallas Morning News, and the American Journal of Bioethics. As a field expert, she is routinely interviewed on radio and television including ABC, CBS, PBS, and NPR. She is also called upon to speak alongside lawmakers and members of the scientific community, even being invited to speak to members of the European Parliament in Brussels to address issues of egg trafficking; she has three times addressed the United Nations during the Commission on the Status of Women on egg and womb trafficking.