Below I provide an overview of the Editorials printed at the national and major regional newspapers. Without exception, the newspapers denounce Bush’s decision. Most go with the “moral inconsistency” angle: why prevent research that could save lives when the left over embryos at IVF clinics would be destroyed anyway? Only a few papers emphasize PUBLIC ACCOUNTABILITY, linking Bush’s decision to a general “hostility to science” and a perceived tendency to decide public policy based on his religious beliefs and the preferences of Christian conservative groups. A few reference the difference in personal character between having principles and being stubborn.
The New York Times goes beyond other editorial boards in asserting that the Senate ESC funding bill should have allowed money for therapeutic cloning. The Seattle Times argues that stem cell research alone is worth voting for Democrats in the fall elections, spotlighting the votes of the Washington state Congressional delegation.
The Seattle Times goes beyond any other paper arguing that SC research iis the one issue “worth voting in Democrats.” Calls Bush the “Luddite” President, and pegs Bush’s veto to his preference for religion in deciding public policy:
President Bush’s veto of an effort to expand federally funded embryonic stem-cell research shows once again how far he is willing to go to appease religious conservatives and set our country backward. Once again, private religious beliefs drive public policy. The rest of the world is proceeding with embryonic stem-cell research because the possibilities for helping millions of people suffering from diseases ranging from Alzheimer’s to diabetes to Parkinson’s are too promising to sit still….This one issue alone is worth voting in Democrats — or at least senators and representatives unwilling to follow this 21st-century Luddite. In our state, representatives voted along party lines — Democratic Congressmen Jay Inslee, Rick Larsen, Brian Baird, Norm Dicks and Jim McDermott voted to extend research while Republicans Cathy McMorris and Doc Hastings voted not to. The notable exception was U.S. Rep. Dave Reichert, the Auburn Republican who has shown a willingness to buck his party. Good for him. It would be more courageous, however, to take such a stand if the House vote had been close, which it wasn’t. Most likely, he got a pass from leadership because of his looming tough re-election fight.
Argues that Bush’s position is morally inconsistent. If embryos are human life, why allow them to be discarded in the first place? Urges President to compromise, weighing the moral good of research over the inconsistent nature of his current position:
The question before Mr. Bush is whether some of those days-old clusters of cells, rather than being discarded, could be used for research that has the potential to save untold numbers of lives and improve the quality of untold more. He offered in his first term what seemed like a reasonable compromise, but in practice his compromise has not worked. We hope he will consider compromise again.
Focuses on the moral inconsistency of Bush’s current compromise policy, and ends with a focus on the president’s character, distinguishing between principles and stubbornness:
The bill Congress sent to Bush wouldn’t create embryos solely to destroy them. Rather, it simply would allow federal research on embryos from fertility clinics that would otherwise be discarded. The families that donated the embryos have given their consent to use them for research. Steadfastness can be an attractive quality in a president. Stubbornness in the face of new information is not. The price of Bush’s threatened veto might well be paid in the suffering of millions of people. It’s hard to believe that he, and those in Congress who support his stance, consider this to be the “pro-life” position.
NEW YORK TIMES
The Times goes beyond other editorial boards, and argues that while the current Senate legislation overturning Bush’s 2001 decision is welcome, it remains too limited since it does not extend funding to therapeutic cloning research. The Editorial also emphasizes holding not only Bush accountable for his expected veto, but also Congress for not having the political will to override the president’s action:
Our concern with the bill is how limited its reach would be. It would not allow federal financing of the most promising field of research, known as therapeutic or research cloning. Therapeutic cloning involves the creation of embryos genetically matched to patients with specific diseases so that scientists can extract their stem cells and then study how the diseases develop and how best to treat them….Ends with focus on accountability, not just for President, but for Congress in overriding his veto: “If they fail to push through this very limited change in federal policy, voters will need to hold all recalcitrant legislators accountable for slowing research that holds great medical potential.
The paper applies the familiar moral inconsistency argument against Bush’s current policy, but also predicts that as with IVF, opposition to embryonic stem cell research will quickly melt away once treatments and therapies are available to the public:
…It is noteworthy that, outside of the Catholic Church, few opponents of embryonic stem cell research also seek to ban in-vitro fertilization, which also results in the discarding and destruction of embryos. This practice is so widely accepted because it has allowed previously infertile couples to have children. Once stem cell research provides the medical breakthroughs that scientists believe are possible, opposition to it will also melt.
That day will come sooner if Congress lifts the Bush restriction on stem cells. Patients who could benefit from this research should not have to wait until there is a new president for the federal government to marshal its resources in this promising approach to treating disease.
LOS ANGELES TIMES
The LA Times is the lone editorial board to link Bush’s veto to a prevailing “hostility to science” that derives from his alliance with religious conservatives. Argues against Bush’s current policy based on the moral inconsistency angle, but also emphasizes the red tape and problems for labs that have to manage Federal, state, and privately funded projects:
…If, as threatened, President Bush uses his very first veto to block the bill, the rap on the GOP as the party hostile to science will continue to be deserved. The government’s current split-the-baby approach to embryonic stem cell research makes no sense….It made no difference to him [Bush] that the research uses only embryos that would have been destroyed anyway, having been left over from fertility treatments….The existing restrictions have created some absurdities. Because many laboratories receive private research funding not subject to the same regulations, some of them are forced to use color-coded tabs to separate identical but separately funded equipment. Others reportedly use police tape to divide the parts of their labs funded by public versus private dollars….Even if this worthy bill fails to become law, the debate about it may succeed in showing Americans that the advancement of science is more important than the advancement of politics.
In advocating Senate passage and Bush approval of the legislation, the president’s leading home state newspaper also takes up the familiar “moral inconsistency angle”:
PRESIDENT Bush and other Americans who oppose embryonic stem cell research say they believe that the destruction of a human embryo, even in the process of research to reduce human suffering, is immoral. It is immoral, they say, because human life begins at conception, therefore destruction of a human embryo equals the taking of life. Curiously, opponents of embryonic stem cell research raise no serious objection to fertility clinics, the source of the embryos used in embryonic stem cell research. At fertility clinics, many human eggs are routinely removed from women and fertilized in the hope that one of the resulting embryos can be implanted in the uterus and produce a baby. Some of the unused embryos are frozen for possible use later, but most are discarded….President Bush, who cannot explain why it’s OK for popular fertility clinics to destroy unused human embryos but immoral to use those unneeded cells to reduce the pain and prolong the lives of millions of sufferers, should resist his temptation to veto the bill and, instead, sign it into law.
–In advance of the anticipated Senate vote, the Washington Post stakes out the moral inconsistency angle:
We respect those who believe that destroying an embryo is taking a human life and that the government should not pay for it. But the stark fact is that the embryos that would be made available for use under this legislation would be destroyed in any event. They were created for purposes of in vitro fertilization with the full expectation that not all would be used; there are currently some 400,000 such excess embryos. The measure requires a determination that the embryos used for stem cell research “would never be implanted in a woman and would otherwise be discarded.” Those seeking the fertility treatment must have “donated the embryos with written informed consent and without receiving any financial or other inducements to make the donation.” Thus, no embryo would be destroyed that would not have been destroyed anyway. And research can proceed that holds out hope for saving actual, not potential, human life.