May 12, 2005,
The lights havenít all gone down in Massachusetts in the stem-cell/cloning debate there, but almost. Still, despite a not-too-large cheering section (this is Boston, there are more Bronx cheers for the Republican fighting the Harvard-lead establishment), the governor continues to stand athwart a brave new world yelling, "Stop!"
On Beacon Hill, Mitt Romney can probably hear his echo when he gathers those who are standing with him on this fight, but that's not stopping him from trying. Instead of an outright veto, on Thursday morning Romney sent back to the statehouse his edits on a bill that would legalize embryonic-stem-cell research and cloning in Massaschusetts. That the bill greenlights experimentation on human embryos and allows for their creation for this purpose is devastating enough. But where the legislation gets even worse is in the finer print, where the legislature seeks to change the state's definition of human life.
Since 1974, an "unborn child" in Massachusetts has been "the individual human life in existence and developing from fertilization until birth." Barring a Romney victory on this point, the legislature is poised to change the law to define human life as beginning at the "implantation of the embryo in the uterus." In a letter sent to the legislature this morning, Romney calls this statutory change "completely unnecessary." The governor told the Boston Globe: "It is very conceivable that scientific advances will allow an embryo to be grown for a substantial period of time outside the uterus. To say that it is not life at one month or two months or four months or full term, just because it had never been in a uterus, would be absurd." Scientists on the cutting edge, of course, want the freedom to go there when science leads them. For legislators who reluctantly signed onto the "therapeutic" cloning go-ahead, influenced by the emotional testimony on its behalf calling the legislation a panacea ("It's about saving lives and helping children."), that's an uncomfortable position changing the definition of life, on top of everything else. So Romney, sending the bill back now, is giving them another chance to do a little clean-up.
Romney's protests against the bill in the form of four proposed amendments otherwise represent his consistent opposition to the cloning efforts in Massachusetts. For instance, in a guaranteed no-go amendment, Romney proposes to ban cloning, striking too much at the heart of the bill to have any mileage, unfortunately. But you can't blame the man for trying. His two other amendments would hold back prospects for ďhuman embryo farmingĒ by prohibiting embryos from being fertilized for research purposes, and limit the compensation women would get from "donating" eggs for research in an attempt to avoid exploitation (womenís selling their eggs as a viable income source).
Cynics will dismiss Romney's continued attempt to push back some of the more radical provisions of the Beacon Hill Brave New World effort as posturing to Republican 2008 primary voters. To anyone whose been watching the debate, however, Romney has proven to be one of the more clear-thinking and honest pols on this heated topic: Even if his position hasn't been ideal, he has made a valiant effort and shed some light on the opposition's endgame.
Especially for those concerned with the advancement of a cause protecting the dignity of human life Romney's actions deserve to be looked at outside of the 2008 periscope occasionally. Romney has engaged himself in taking on human cloning. And though the battle's all but lost in the Bay State at this point, legislatively, pro-lifers who also happen to be cynics or are otherwise ticked off at Romney (for legitimate reasons in some cases, such as his position on frozen embryos or his past remarks on abortion), should consider that he is currently fighting an uphill battle while basically carrying their banner. And he is doing so articulately, with a national audience paying attention (which on stem-cells and cloning, are no small things).
Harvard beating its alum Romney on cloning is certain at this point. But the proponents of embryonic-stem-cell research and cloning needn't succeed in changing the very meaning of human life in Massachusetts, too. That's still a fight to fight in the coming days. Supporting him on this isnít a primary endorsement. Itís joining in in an effort to protect human life in its earliest stages and its right to be called human life.