I don't want to nitpick the President's speech at Notre Dame, but in it he made a statement that perpetuates a misunderstanding. He said this:
Those who speak out against stem cell research may be rooted in an admirable conviction about the sacredness of life, but so are the parents of a child with juvenile diabetes who are convinced that their son's or daughter's hardships can be relieved.
The President in these lines refers to a class of people which doesn't exist. No one that I know of speaks out against stem cell research. Not even President Bush spoke out against stem cell research. What many people oppose is embryonic stem cell research because it kills a living embryo. There are other ways of creating stem cells and everyone is hopeful that these will bear fruit.
Personally, I wonder about the consistency of those who oppose embryonic stem cell work. I agree that we should not be creating embryos simply to harvest their cells, but I'm not sure how people can object to using surplus embryos produced in a fertility clinic for research purposes but not object to the production of the surplus embryos in the first place.
In other words, fertility clinics produce more embryos for a couple than what they eventually implant in the mother's womb. The surplus is ultimately destroyed. Yet at most there is muted criticism of this practice from the pro-life community. If there are not objections to the way fertility clinics help mothers have children then why make an issue of using the doomed embryos to help others have a better life?
The embryos will ultimately die. To harvest their cells is almost like harvesting organs from an organ donor. If this is morally problematic then surely producing extraneous embryos is also problematic, but if producing extraneous embryos is acceptable then so, too, should harvesting their cells be acceptable.
Having said this, I thought President Bush's ban on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research was wise. He didn't oppose stem cell research nor did he end embryonic stem cell research. He merely decided that, given the moral concerns of many Americans, it's best to leave such research to the private sector and not use taxpayers' dollars to fund the destruction of those embryos.RLC