Putting a Price on Life

    If you were asked to name the most influential figures in American public policy, who would you choose? The president? Your congressman? A writer or reporter? How about television and film actors? Well, actors like Michael J. Fox, Mary Tyler Moore, and Christopher Reeve -- who respectively suffer from Parkinson's, Diabetes, and spinal-cord injury -- seem to be the most influential figures in shaping one of the most important public policy questions in America today. In making their personal battles public, they're calling on government to fund embryonic stem- cell research to find a cure for their own afflictions. And their advocacy is having an impact. A recent ABC News poll reported that sixty percent of Americans -- including a majority of evangelicals and Catholics -- favor government support of embryonic stem-cell research. We're told that scientists are hoping this research may pave the way for cures to diseases that afflict millions of us -- so the reason for the enthusiasm is understandable. The only problem with using embryos for such research is, of course, that they have to be destroyed -- which is why Christians must emphatically oppose any such proposals. Unfortunately, in recent days we've also heard that some otherwise stalwart pro-life advocates have come out in favor of funding destructive embryo experimentation. They justify support for the research by saying that unused embryos from in-vitro fertilization will just be wasted if they're not used for research. The problem with this logic is that embryos are humans, bearing the image of God. We can't sacrifice them simply because they might be useful. Before he was put in jail, Jack Kervorkian, aka "Dr. Death," proposed a similar bargain. He offered to make his victims' organs available for transplantation, on the grounds that they shouldn't just be "wasted." Well, no one took Kervorkian up on his ghoulish offer. And the universal revulsion at his proposal was rooted in our understanding that human beings are not reducible to commodities. But that's precisely the way that human embryos are being looked at today: as a resource to be tapped. Michael J. Fox and others who suffer from debilitating diseases deserve compassion and the best science can do. Christians have always been the first to offer acts of mercy. But, it's no mercy and no advance in science if innocent life must be destroyed. In recent months, scientists have found that research involving stem cells from other sources may provide the same benefit hoped for from embryonic cells. Before we should even contemplate destroying embryos for their research potential, these alternatives must be explored. It would be irresponsible, indeed grossly immoral, to destroy life for research purposes when there are viable alternatives. During the last presidential campaign, candidate Bush expressed his commitment to defend even the tiniest humans from a publicly-funded assault. He will be soon announcing an administration policy. What a tragic irony it would be if our tax dollars are spent on vivisecting these little human beings under the watch of a pro-life president and encouraged by pro- life senators. And that's why we need to make our position clear and our voices heard. Because no human life is expendable.


Chuck Colson


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