I was under the impression…

…that Senator Frist was pro-life…and here he supports funding medical research that takes the lives of preborn humans.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist on Friday threw his support behind House-passed legislation to expand federal financing for human embryonic stem cell research, breaking with President Bush and religious conservatives in a move that could impact his prospects for seeking the White House in 2008.


“Therefore, I believe the president’s policy should be modified. We should expand federal funding … and current guidelines governing stem cell research, carefully and thoughtfully, staying within ethical bounds,” he said.

How is depriving humans of their life without so much as a fair trial even remotely within ethical bounds?

Frist argued that his positions on stem cell research and abortion were not inconsistent.

I’m not sure how this can be.

This will pretty much lose him the support of any seriously pro-life voter.

Here is a post by Dan at Necessary Roughness written back in May on this issue.

17 Responses to “I was under the impression…”

  1. Erica Olson Says:

    “How is depriving humans of their life without so much as a fair trial even remotely within ethical bounds?”

    I absolutely agree with you, Elle. It’s not within ethical bounds. Life should never be denied if it can be spared. A life is a life, whether it’s able to live outside the womb or not.

  2. Simon Says:

    If I may chime in … I would just like to point out what I think is an incredible lack of integrity on the part of Frist. This must be merely some political move.

    If someone’s views on stem cells and abortion diverge from the intuitive “no stem cells AND no abortion” pair, it really can only diverge in one direction, and that is not in the direction Frist is going. Meaning, this. Frist is saying “yes stem cells” but “no abortion”. How could this be if an embryo is a person? correct me if I’m wrong, but someone who believes abortion is immoral believes that as soon as there is conception, there is a full-fledged person who deserves the same respect as you, me, any kid, etc. Now, it is possible — emphasis on “possible” — for someone to diverge in the other way — that is, maintain “no stem cells” but “ok to some limited right to choose abortion.” Someone could do this by believing that even if an embryo is a person, that doesn’t imply that a woman has an absolute duty to provide the life-sustaining support. I’m not saying at all that this is a convincing position …. but at least it is one way to be *consistent* while having a pro-life position on stem cells and a pro-choice position on abortion.

    But the combination of Frist’s positions is ridiculous. Totally ridiculous. So it is ok to create an embryo, and then, even though it is not posing any burden whatsoever on anyone’s body, it is ok to kill it ….. but embryos that do represent some kind of burden (arguably) on a woman’s body have an absolute right to life? Very bizarre.

    I have a lot of respect for people who hold thoroughly pro-life views, even if i disagree to a significant extent. But you can’t have any respect for Frist’s position — he has no integrity.

  3. Jack Kilcrease Says:

    Well said Elle. What I suspect is that Dr. Frist is getting ready for the 2008 election. He realizes that the majority of Americans in fact support stem cell research. This is mainly due to the fact that the liberal media has convinced everyone that this sort of research will certainly be able to cure or reverse some of the most horrible disorders. Nevertheless, this is not certain deal. Some scientist are actually rather uncertain concerning the outcomes. Even if they were certain, what indeed would be the price? I suppose we might have cancer cured by now if we had allowed the Nazis to continue there medical expriements on twins.

  4. Simon Says:

    ow, come on, Jack. The “liberal” media is behind eveyrone thinking that stem cells offer some promise to health? Do you read medical and scientific journals and know that there is no promising research being reported? The “liberal” media has an agenda to have as many embryos created and destroyed for absolutely no reason because that’s a liberal cause — to have embryos created and destroyed? Liberals just think that kind of thing is fun? humorous?

    By the way: check out the most recent issue of Journal of Neuroscience. Yes, it’s a scientific journal — not a liberal magazine. It reports that mice with spinal cord injuries showed significant improvement after a stem cell therapy. Mice aren’t humans … but all therapy starts out with this kind of promise.

    You accuse the liberal media of making up something that is false … and yet you’ve let your own moral views cloud your opinion as to whether or not there really is medical promise to human health.

    Certainly, the promise of stem cells doesn’t imply that it’s ethical to create and destroy them for such purposes … but that’s a separate issue from whether they have promise. No one can rationally deny that the scientific evidence so far says that they do.

    And as for your Nazi analogy … well, I won’t even comment. I’ve recently discovered the internet’s “Godwin’s law” and its accompanying internet tradition. i think it’s a good tradition. see


  5. Jack Kilcrease Says:

    You invoke a scientific journal as if science and those who work in its various fields were neutral observers. In fact a rather significant number of scientists have chained themselves to the political left. Furthermore, it should be noted that scientific journals will typically do not shy away from promoting research that will gain funding for those who work in their particular field. It has often not been a major concern whether the line of inquiry shows any promise.

    Concerning your second comment, I consider Godwin’s law to invalid due to the fact that the Nazis are a perfectly valid example of how far fallen humans can go when not restrained by God’s law. Would it help if I used the example of Soviet experiments on American solidiers captured in the Korea war? Americans typically think of themselves as immuned from gross acts of barbarism, but we are just as fallen as the rest of humanity. We are simply given fewer opportunities to demonstrate how far we have fallen from the image of God. Brazen disregard for human life is always a possibility which must be guarded against.

  6. Simon Says:


    The major problem with your view is that you are implying that scientists are saying that stem cells have medical promise because they are leftist. What is it about being politically to the left that would make scientists say there is something medically promising about stem cells? Again, I ask you: do you think people on the left think it’s just fun to create and destroy embryos? Do you think people on the left find it humorous to do so? Why would a scientist be biased towards thinking that stem cells have promise?

    If you’ve ever met scientists, you know the passion they have for discovery. And those working in a medicine-related field have a passion for finding cures and treatments. On your view, they are deluded about stem cells because … they just want to find a reason to create and destroy embryos? That’s an incredibly unfair picture of scientists.

    Why can’t you just have this view: stem cells have great potential for medical benefits, but that potential is irrelevant because we cannot murder some human beings to save others. That seems to be the essence of the objection to stem cell research. Your addition that stem cells have no promise, and are only thought to have promise because of some weird leftist fetish with creating and destroying, just makes opposition to stem cell research look bad.

  7. Jack Kilcrease Says:

    I believe that the media (who are in bed with the left) believe that stem cell research is valid. They are angry with the president and the republicans because as good modernists (I mean in contrast to pre or post-modernists) they believe that secularity has an inherent right to narrate all reality and that any religious worldview is a particular subjective interpretation imposed on an otherwise objective public, secular reality. From such a standpoint, the president and the republicans are imposing their subjective interpretation of the world on the rest of us. You could see this especially at the democratic convention where it seemed that the democrats argument was something “well, we could get this stem cell research thing done, but the dumb religious right insists on slaming their dumb, subjective, pre-modern values on the rest of us.” That is why I think the media and the left want stem cell research. My observation that many scientist are not even certain about its value was based on an NPR interview. I think that none of them have really investigated the issue, but they resent the fact that the Judeo-Christian meta-narrative would dare to challenge their right to narrate all reality. That’s my view. I suppose I am sorry about not speaking to your other observation earlier, I was pressed for time.

  8. Simon Says:

    Well, I’ll respond even though it takes us way off the original topic of Elle’s post … so I’ll just thank her for the forum.

    The view that I think you’re describing is not that secularism has a “right” to define anything. People have rights, not descriptions or theories. The idea is that the United States is a pluralistic society in the sense that we have 290 million people and we do NOT believe that the state’s purpose is to reflect or impose ONE national conception of the good life on all people. The very essence of our society, as opposed to others based on theocracy or nationalism, is that people with different conceptions of how to live can live together in peace and freedom. The government exists for a number of purposes, but it’s most important purpose is to protect individual freedom. Regardless of any particular person’s point of view, each person is assumed to have an interest in freedom — freedom from others to live according to his/her own conception of the good life.

    As for your claims, you argue that scientists don’t really think or know that stem cells have medical promise, but rather advocate their use because they just want to resist the “Judeo-Christian” narrative, which you claim they resent.

    First, I’d question whether there is a unified Judeo-Christian “narrative,” whatever that means. Much of the discussion on this blog reflects the fact of wide disagreement with the Lutheran community, let alone the Protestant community, let alone the Christian community, let alone the Judeo-Christian community.

    Second, and more importantly, do you think scientists just made up the stem cell idea in order to provoke a confrontation between the religious right and the rest of society? That’s what I find so strange about your view -you’re depicting scientists as being reactionary to the religious right on this issue. Remember … *scientists* were the first to bring up the issue of stem cells — not to provoke confrontation, but because they see scientific reason for medical promise. It wasn’t the religious right who first came out and said, “Hey … there are these things called stem cells … we can never let embryos be created and destroyed for them!” That doesn’t make sense. And, like I said, stem cell research is being published in peer-reviewed scientific journals. I mean, you’ve made up on your mind regarding these publications *without reading them*!!! You just dismiss them with ad hominem attacks: “oh, scientists are just leftist.” To me, not only is that an unfair argumentative tactic, it’s just disingenuine and you’re doing yourself a disservice by letting your religious views stop you from truly evaluating claims *unrelated* to those religious views. (The moral issue is, of course, inseparable from religious views. But whether stem cell research could lead to medical cures IS unrelated to religious views).

    Finally, to say that “none of them (scientists) have really investigated the issue” … to be frank … simply reflects not being informed. There is research going on all over the world on stem cells.

  9. Simon Says:

    that was supposed to be “disagreement WITHIN” those communities.

  10. Jack Kilcrease Says:

    Not to prolong the debate, but I did not claim that scientists had not investigated the issue. Rather, I claimed that the media had not. That was my claim. Furthermore, my attacks were primarily aimed at the media, I was NOT per se making much of any ad hominien aeguement againt the scientists. Thirdly, the claim there is no unified Judeo-Christian meta-narrative based on inner-religious debates between between Missouri-Synodites and non-confessional forces does not mean that there is not at least something of a broad consesus within the monotheistic religions of the west. Otherwise the very American project would be bust. It would undoubtedly be very difficult to establish a liberal democracy on the basis of Hinduism. The only reason that it works in India is that an elite class has unconsciously adapted the Judeo-Christian narrative via Locke and Gandhi.

  11. Simon Says:

    Wow … Locke’s political philosophy is based on the bible … on a Judeo-Christian narrative? That’s a new one. I never quite did see reliance on ideas of salvation, Jesus, the New Testament, etc., in his 2nd treatise … but whatever.

    Anyway, you attacked the media, but your still saying that scientists can’t be trusted for saying that stem cells have promise. Your view of the scientific and medical promise of stem cells is indefensible.

    Anyone reading this should see that the proper pro-life view here is just to say that stem cells may lead to cures, but that is irrelevant since we can’t kill thousands of people (ie, embryos) to find cures for some others.

  12. M. Joseph Says:

    Hey Elle, this new article on Frist and his lack of understand of the idea of “pro-life” is now online at ChristianityToday.com

    Frist’s Folly
    Killing human embryos for research is not pro-life.

  13. Jeremy Pierce Says:

    John Locke had some clearly Christian ideas in his political philosophy. For instance, he believed that we don’t have rights in ourselves but are God’s property, and it’s only because it would violate God’s rights to mistreat people that we have to treat people as having rights. You wouldn’t see a secularist saying that sort of thing.

    As for the main topic of the post, it’s not clear that Frist is contradicting the pro-life stance. What he’s proposing is that it’s no more wrong for someone to kill these embryos by extracting stem cells than it is simply to throw them away. They will be destroyed. There’s no way to prevent that given the current law that these embryos are the property of parents. He’s suggesting that in destroying them the stem cells should be retained so that at least this immoral action can have some good consequences.

    The Nazi experiments are a good analogy, actually, but in a different way. The experiments were clearly wrong. What was also wrong was when the idiot Allied leaders insisted on throwing out the results of that research, as if the mere existence of the knowledge gained by immoral means has some immoral element. If we learned that we can cure cancer via a method that wouldn’t have to be immoral, and the way we did it was by finding the research of a scientist who did terrible things to people to find this information, we have a moral responsibility to preserve that knowledge, not to throw it out.

    Similarly, with stem cells, it may be immoral for these parents to kill their embryonic children, but the law gives them the right to do it. All Frist is proposing is that we extract the stem cells before we do it. Maybe there are moral considerations against that (e.g., having to do with honoring corpses unless they consent to have their bodies used for medical research), but it can’t be merely because of the pro-life issue, because these embryos are going to be destroyed either way. Wanting to prevent that from being as much of a tragedy by using their stem cells to help people is not a clear contradiction with the pro-life view. You can mount an argument in defense of the Bush position, but I don’t think it’s going to involve premises that every pro-life person would share, and apparently Frist is one of those people who doesn’t share those premises.

  14. Parableman Says:

    Bill Frist Isn’t Inconsistent
    I’ve seen quite a few claims that Bill Frist has abandoned his pro-life principles by proposing federal funding for using stem cells from embryos that will be discarded anyway. See IntolerantElle’s post and the links from there for examples. This…

  15. Simon Says:

    Jeremy … feel free to e-mail me to carry on a discussion about Locke. But in short … Non-secularism doesn’t imply Christianity (Thomas Jefferson invoked the Creator in his writings and yet his writings were not Christian). For Locke, the basis for moral knowledge was reason — rationality — not faith, not interpretation of scripture. Hardly Christian. He never invoked Jesus Christ or ideas about salvation. He argued that it was clear by the light of reason that all men are born as equals and free, and that they could be bound only by what they could rationally consent to … where being “bound” by such laws, recommended by reason, enhanced freedom. Where such ideas find support in the New Testament is beyond me.

    But regarding the topic of the post: it seems to me that you’re letting Frist off way too easy. If he were truly committed to pro-life principles, why wouldn’t he advocate for a law that prohibited the kinds of in vitro fertilization techniques that create embryos which will never be implanted into a womb? Instead of Frist arguing, “well, these embryos are going to die anyway,” shouldn’t he argue, “we shouldn’t allow people to create embyros for any reason — for research or as ‘extras’ in trying to procreate — only to destroy them later”? Why doesn’t integrity demand THAT position?

  16. Jeremy Pierce Says:

    Have you read Locke’s defense of the Christian faith?

    Integrity doesn’t demand making every law that would save lives. Integrity demands seeking to do what you think might be possible to make these tragedies less bad rather than trying to do more radical things that have no chance of passing. Opposing in vitro is just not going to get anywhere in the current climate. Now I don’t know if Frist has said anything on the matter at all. I’m not a Frist scholar. I’m a philosophy, and people were claiming that supporting this research conflicts with pro-life convictions. It simply doesn’t. It conflicts with pro-life convictions if you also add in some other theses that someone who is pro-life doesn’t necessarily have to believe. They happen to be theses I don’t myself believe, so this isn’t just about Frist.

  17. Simon Says:

    I haven’t, but Locke came up in the context of political philosophy — i don’t see the relevance of any of his arguments except those in his political theory. But I will read it.

    And i still think you’re going to easy on Frist. You’re right that laws against in vitro fertilization aren’t going anywhere, but if he really wanted to advance some so-called “culture of life,” he could say exactly what his view would be on in vitro, and then articulate the view you just attributed to him.

Leave a Reply


This is a captcha-picture. It is used to prevent mass-access by robots. (see: www.captcha.net)

You must read and type the 5 chars within 0..9 and A..F, and submit the form.


Oh no, I cannot read this. Please, generate a