Thursday, July 20, 2006

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Vetoing Science…

By demosthenes on Republicans

Hypocrisy is a fashionable vice, and all fashionable vices pass for virtue

It should come as little surprise that this administration’s first veto is used to stymie science. The administration has had a bone to pick with any science that brushes up against its own notions of morality and sense of manifest destiny from climate change to evolution to biology in the classroom.

What is most disturbing to me about this is the opportunist nature of his posing with the ‘snowflake children.’ This hits pretty close to home for me, being the father of one of those adopted embryos he prattles on about with no understanding. I spoke about this first and at length a year ago here.

What really bugs me here is the conflation—in fact, it is likely that this administration will go down in history as the ‘conflation administration.’ It conflates Al Qaeda with Iraq, conflates Islamic fundamentalists with secular Arab states, conflates science with religion, and today he conflated embryonic adoption with stem cell research.

Today, Bush said: Each of these children was still adopted while still an embryo and has been blessed with a chance to grow, to grow up in a loving family. These boys and girls are not spare parts.”

Indeed they are not as I and every other parent who has gone through the embryonic adoption process can attest. One might think given Bush’s posing—and I use that word very deliberately—that this administration would be a friend to those who wish to adopt to prevent, in his words, the taking of innocent life. The problem is, that’s not the case.

This administration has overseen the passing of new federal state and local regulations that governs the testing of embryos such that those left are virtually stranded. Those participating today at Columbia University and elsewhere are unable to adopt leftover embryos because the new regulations push a tangle upon the system requiring new testing from the donors in ways that doom those embryos—they will be thrown out. They have to be.

Think about that—this tissue won’t be used to save lives, it won’t be used to create families or beautiful children like my son—they will be consigned to oblivion. All because Bush believes that the same unattached four cell blastocysts that routinely flush out during menses on a daily basis without so much as a peep from religious fundamentalists or anyone else are so precious they must be destroyed.

It’s not as if this veto will stop more embryos from being created or save those already in cryogenic stasis—it won’t; the disposition of leftover embryos is decided by the donors who check a box on their forms and opt to save them for another pregnancy, donation for stem cell research (which contrary to popular belief is legal and continuing) or for embryo adoption. Those frozen blastocysts already in fertility clinics are suffering from a terminal condition—lack of womb. Today, Bush in a continuing effort to enforce his own vision of morality condemned childless couples and the ill in one swipe of the pen, vetoing those who would act to save others to throw a bone to his base.

That he uses embryo adoption as a tool to underscore his point is as shameful as it is scientifically wrong. Today, I was speaking at the staff at Columbia about this because as it happens my wife and I would like to have another child. Due to the increased restrictions, embryo adoption is not an option anymore—it must be a donor egg procedure or standard adoption, both of which we will try. The problem is that adoptions are disallowed in many states if one member of the couple is over a specific age (in their 40s) and costs about seven times what an embryo adoption does while a donor procedure costs about four times the amount of an embryo adoption and both carry less chance of success. This means that for a couple that can afford to spend $50,000 with embryo adoption they would almost certainly be able to have a child and attempt it seven times, with standard adoption would have much less chance and would get maybe two chances (we’ve been on the list of adoptive parents for years and had two nibbles, but ultimately the biological mother selects and can always change her mind) or you can try a donor procedure twice (with again less chance of success).

In speaking to the staff today they told me how hard it is to watch people leave, crushed and sobbing, after a failed attempt or miscarriage and how it weighs upon them that there is so little they can now do to address it, and how they are simply watching the embryos that can no longer be donated simply expire until they are discarded, without even at least the consolation of life giving stem cell research as a benefit. It’s appalling.

I realize that reasonable people may disagree about abortion, but nobody ought to pretend that an un-implanted blastocyst is a person—it isn’t, and if we really believed that were the case than we would mourn every fertilized egg that failed to implant in a uterus and washed out during menses or every fertilized egg that attached and never took nourishment or developed a heartbeat and washed out unnoticed, but we don’t–it’s why we don’t baptize tampons and why we don’t have funerals or send mass cards when that occurs, and to pretend that embryos that aren’t in utero (and won’t be) are other than what they are is a lie. The conflation that claims those left over blastocysts are people is both disingenuous and shameful—that’s not the case until (minimally) it can be implanted, a vein is sunk and it can develop.

No destruction of life to save life—just so, but how about letting us save some life that’s in the process of dying? I (for one) and I suspect a great many people who really live these decisions every day would appreciate it if the administration would stop using pat and trite lines that if he really believed would oblige him to mourn the every day common place and natural process of sexual reproduction and to pretend that every failure to implant is akin to murder when it is not—it is merely biology.

As the doctor said today at Columbia: “It’s tissue—if you’re an organ donor, you should consider donating a left over embryo as well. These same objections and fears have always followed biology, from transplants to transfusions.”

But then, when has this administration ever been a friend to science?

It vexes me when they would constrain science by the authority of the Scriptures, and yet do not consider themselves bound to answer reason and experiment.
–Galileo Galilei

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