Charles Krauthammer, a social conservative who is pro-abortion and pro-embryonic stem cell research, wrote an article today (1-12-07) in National Review titled “Bush’s Historic Veto.” It’s not the kind of article you would expect from someone I just described. I would suggest reading the whole thing, but I wanted to draw your attention to two sections: one bad, one good.

Krauthammer wrote, “I have long supported legal abortion. And I don’t believe that life — meaning the attributes and protections of personhood — begins at conception. Yet many secularly inclined people like me have great trepidation about the inherent dangers of wanton and unrestricted manipulation — to the point of dismemberment — of human embryos.”


I’m confused. How can someone who supports the idea that women have a right to dismember their unborn child through an abortion be morally concerned about doing the same to embryos? On the level of appearance and emotion, it would seem easier to stomach the dismemberment of days-old lab embryos (embryonic stem cell research) than it would weeks-old, or months-old embryos (abortion). The latter look and feel more human (even though both are fully human). So I’m not sure what to make of his logic.


Now for the good quote. Even though he supports embryonic stem cell research, he recognizes the moral implications involved, and admires the drawing of certain lines. He wrote:


You don’t need religion to tremble at the thought of unrestricted embryo research. You simply have to have a healthy respect for the human capacity for doing evil in pursuit of the good. Once we have taken the position of many stem-cell advocates that embryos are discardable tissue with no more intrinsic value than a hangnail or an appendix, then all barriers are down. What is to prevent us from producing not just tissues and organs, but human-like organisms for preservation as a source of future body parts on demand?

The slope is very slippery. Which is why, even though I disagreed with where the president drew the line — I would have permitted the use of fertility-clinic embryos that are discarded and going to die anyway — I applauded his insistence that some line must be drawn, that human embryos are not nothing, and that societal values, not just the scientific imperative, should determine how they are treated.


There’s a lot of truth and wisdom packed in those two paragraphs. Of course I have to wonder, given what Krauthammer just said, why he supports destructive embryonic research. Why does he think his line is better than Bush’s, particularly if he is interested in protecting the “intrinsic value” of human beings. Intrinsic value means that one’s value is not degreed, and it exists the very moment the thing in question exists. If humans have intrinsic value, then embryos—as humans—are just as valuable as Krauthammer himself. So why can they be killed in the lab, but his life should be protected? Again, the logic escapes me.