Pharos-Tribune columnist

INDIANAPOLIS — Rep. Mike Pence took to the House floor the other day to urge President Bush to veto a bill allowing for federal funding a stem cell research.

“President Ronald Reagan famously said, ‘we cannot diminish the value of one category of human life — the unborn — without diminishing the value of all human life.’” Pence, R-Columbus, said. “Yesterday the United States Senate passed a bill that authorizes the use of federal tax dollars to fund the destruction of human embryos for scientific research. And while supporters of the bill argue that this debate is a battle between science and ideology, that really misses the point..”

Pence went on to say, “If the Castle-DeGette bill returns to the Congress tonight, we will simply decide whether Congress should take the taxpayer dollars of millions of pro-life Americans and use them to fund the destruction of human embryos for research. You see, I believe that life begins at conception and that a human embryo is human life. I believe it is morally wrong to create human life to destroy it for research. And I believe it is morally wrong to take the tax dollars of millions of pro-life Americans, who believe that life is sacred, and use it to fund the destruction of human embryos for research.

“This debate then tonight is not really about what an embryo is. This debate is about who we are as a nation and whether we respect fully half of our country.”

And President Bush did veto the bill, the first veto of his presidency.

The vetoed bill "would support the taking of innocent human life in the hope of finding medical benefits for others,” said Bush as he was surrounded by “snowflake babies” that came from embryos. “It crosses a moral boundary that our decent society needs to respect.” Of the children surrounding him, Bush said, “began his or her life as a frozen embryo that was created for in vitro fertilization but remained unused after the fertility treatments were complete. These boys and girls are not spare parts.”

Barry Welsh is a pastor at the Laurel United Methodist Church near Rushville and is also the Democrat running against Rep. Pence.Rev. Welsh explained, “Tens of thousands of un-needed embryos are discarded as hospital waste each year. Hospital waste. President Bush surrounded himself with children who were produced outside of a woman’s body by science, and God Bless each of them, but they would have been created in the petri dish regardless. That was shameful of President Bush to try to deceive us with that staged announcement.”

Welsh continued, “The question is actually, should these embryos be used to find solutions to ailments, or be hospital waste, as they are now. President Bush chose hospital waste. Doctor, and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist voted for research because he knew it would lead to cures, he is a smart man, and I would have voted the same way. President Bush, not a doctor, makes a medical decision with this veto that once again shows why he and his supporters have a disapproval rating of over 60 percent. As someone that has experienced family members with Alzheimer’s, which also struck Ronald Reagan down, and other cruel diseases that could be cured from this research, I find it disturbing that President Bush chose this time to use the first veto of his presidency.”

Welsh added, “Anyone that has a family member or knows someone that is effected by one of the many diseases, such as Parkinson’s which struck Michael J. Fox, or spinal cord injuries, has been sent a clear message that their quality of life simply does not matter to this Republican administration and those that support it with their votes in Congress.”

Here’s what Sen. Frist, R-Tenn., said of the matter: “I am pro-life, but I disagree with the president's decision. Given the potential of this research and the limitations of the existing [human embryonic stem cell] lines eligible for federally funded research, I think additional lines should be made available.”

Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., observed, “Those families who wake up every morning to face another day with a deadly disease or a disability will not forget this decision by the president to stand in the way of sound science and medical research.”

I have always felt that the pro-life industry emerged on this issue too late. If there is a moral objection to the “destruction” of embryos, many of which do become medical waste, then they shouldn’t have been created in the first place.

Secondly, the pro-life movement is cherry picking its willingness to save life while not playing God. I have always found it thoroughly inconsistent to take a pro-life position on conception, but then support the death penalty.

Brian Howey, a Peru native, is publisher of The Howey Political Report, the weekly briefing on Indiana politics. More of his work is available at

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