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Counting Snowflakes

On the substance of the president's stem-cell veto, I have to admit I'm torn. Here's one bit of reporting I found illuminating, though. ABC's Jake Tapper did a little digging into the "Snowflake" adoption program the president touted when he issued his veto. He interviewed Ron Stoddart, the executive director of Nightlight Christian Adoptions, which is responsible for the frozen embryo adoption program.

Here's a clip:

Stoddart says that 110 babies have been born in total, with "20 more on the way." There have been 273 donor families, he says, donating anywhere from one to 10 embryos per couple. They have been matched with 178 adopting parents. My math was correct - that means 143 embryos did not survive the process.

"Typically when we transfer or thaw the embryos, about half of them survive thawing," Stoddart reports. "Of those that survive, about a third result in a birth." Two-thirds of the embryos that survive thawing don't become a baby either because of miscarriage or failure to implant in the adoptive mother's uterus.

Even in the creation of the snowflake children being used as the face of opposition to stem-cell research, other embryos were destroyed. What's more, simply as a byproduct of in vitro fertilization treatment in general, thousands of embryos are discarded/destroyed every year. I just can't get my head around any logic that says it's OK to destroy those embryos, but not to use them for research that might vastly improve the quality of life for thousands (and eventually millions) of living, breathing human beings.

As Andrew Sullivan has said, if we consider embryos full-fledged human lives, then mother nature is the biggest abortionist/murderer of all, between embryos that fail to implant in natural reproduction and miscarriages.

Sullivan, however, is actually supporting the president's decision to veto:

This isn't a ban on such research; it's a decision not to throw the weight of federal financing behind it. I respect the case of those who favor it; but, when push comes to shove, I'm with Bush on this. It took political courage to take this stand. And the morality it reflects - a refusal to treat human life as a means rather than as an end - deserves respect even from its opponents.

I don't buy this, though. If we shouldn't treat human life as a means -- and embryos are human life -- then this research should be banned. Otherwise (assuming the government is going to be in the business of funding basic science, which it is), there's no reason for the federal government not to throw the weight of its financing behind it.

If the research were unpopular, maybe that would be a different story. But the research enjoys solid majority support.

It seems to me you either have to support banning any process that willfully leads to the destruction of embryos -- including IVF -- or you have to accept stem-cell research and fund it like any other type of basic science.