The answers that Senators Barack Obama and John McCain gave to Saddleback Church’s pastor Rick Warren last weekend were very telling. Evidently, pesky pro-lifers have had some impact, though we are not satisfied with either candidate just yet.
When Warren asked, “At what point is a baby entitled to human rights?” Senator Obama hemmed and hawed about science and theology, saying that certainty was “above my pay grade.”
In contrast, McCain answered without missing a beat. He said, “At the moment of conception. I have a 25-year pro-life record in the Congress, in the Senate. I will be a pro-life president and this presidency will have pro-life policies.”
This is the same language used by John McCain 2008 strategists to target the largest bloc of religious voters — Catholics. Since Catholics amount to about 25 percent of the registered voting population, McCain’s campaign established the National Catholics for McCain Committee, co-chaired by Senator Sam Brownback and former Oklahoma Governor Frank Keating.
However, many Catholics are upset by McCain’s pro-life claims because he is no better than Obama on embryonic stem cell research. McCain voted for it both times bills were passed by Congress. The only reason that our federal tax dollars do not currently fund ESCR is because President George W. Bush vetoed those bills.
Obama told Warren that the ESCR legislation vetoed by President Bush was supposed to mandate that “you could only use embryos that were about to be discarded” from IVF labs and “I think that is a legitimate moral approach to take.”
Now if McCain believes that human rights begin at conception, killing embryos for their stem cells should be out of the question, right? So how does he rationalize that?
ONE McCAIN ADVISER told me that, like Obama, McCain and some of his campaign managers think that human embryonic stem cell research is acceptable because the “extra embryos” created in labs “shouldn’t be wasted.”
Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, a possible pick as McCain’s running mate who proclaims himself pro-life, also subscribes to the let’s-use-the-extra-embryos tactic.
But medical doctor and senior stem cell scientist James Sherley of Boston Biomedical Research Institute has rightly said, “No matter how a single-celled human embryo comes into existence, naturally or artificially, it constitutes a person, a nascent person, but a person nonetheless.
“There is no scientific basis for discounting the humanity of a person at any time during her or his development. Yet, this is exactly what our government and society condone in the case of embryonic and prenatal persons.”
McCain’s answer to Warren was more nuanced. He said, “For those of us in the pro-life community, this has been a great struggle and a terrible dilemma. We’re also taught other obligations that we have as well.”
He told Warren that while he had “come down on the side of stem cell research” he was “wildly optimistic that skin cell research which is coming more and more into focus and practicability will make this debate an economic one.”
LIKE MANY AMERICANS, McCain appears confused about stem cell science. In fact, embryos are not the only source of stem cells.
All of us generate our own stem cells and patients have been treated successfully with their own cells, so it is unnecessary to kill humans in the embryonic stage of development. There are also success stories on the use of stem cells from umbilical cords. Both are confusingly classified as “adult stem cells.”
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