On May 24, the U.S. House of Representatives accelerated America’s descent into Huxley’s brave new world by voting to provide Federal funding for embryo-destructive stem cell research. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops had made clear that this issue involved fundamental issues of justice; yet seventy-three Catholics – 57% of the Catholics in the House – voted to spend taxpayer dollars to destroy human life for research purposes.
Here they are, by name and district:
Joe Baca (CA-43); Xavier Becerra (CA-31); Sanford Bishop (GA-2); Sherwood Boehlert (PA-24); Robert Brady (PA-1); Ginny Brown-Waite (FL-5); Michael Capuano (MA-8); Dennis Cardoza (CA-18); Michael Castle (DE-At Large); William Clay (MO-1); Jim Costa (CA-20); Joseph Crowley (NY-7); Henry Cuellar (TX-28); Peter DeFazio (OR-4); William Delahunt (MA-10); Rosa DeLauro (CT-3); John Dingell (MI-15); Michael Doyle (PA-14); Anna Eshoo (CA-14); Lane Evans (IL-17); Mark Foley (FL-16); Vito Fossella (NY-13); Charles Gonzalez (TX-20; Raul Grijalva (AZ-7); Luis Gutierrez (IL-4); Brian Higgins (NY-27); Maurice Hinchey (NY-22); Ruben Hinojosa (TX-15);
Paul Kanjorski (PA-11); Patrick Kennedy (RI-1); Dennis Kucinich (OH-10); James Langevin (RI-2); Rick Larsen (WA-2); Stephen Lynch (MA-9); Connie Mack (FL-14); Edward Markey (MA-7); Carolyn McCarthy (NY-4); Betty McCollum (MN-4); James McGovern (MA-3); Cynthia McKinney (GA-4); Michael McNulty (NY-21); Martin Meehan (MA-5); Charlie Melancon (LA-3); Robert Menendez (NJ-13); Michael Michaud (ME-2); George Miller (CA-7); James Moran (VA-8); John Murtha (PA-12); Grace Napolitano (CA-38); Richard Neal (MA-2); David Obey (WI-7); Frank Pallone (NJ-6); Bill Pascrell (NJ-8); Ed Pastor (AZ-4); Nancy Pelosi (CA-8);
Jon Porter (NV-3); Charles Rangel (NY-15); Silvester Reyes (TX-16); Lucille Roybal-Allard (CA-34); Tim Ryan (Oh-17); John Salazar (CO-3); Linda Sanchez (CA-39); Loretta Sanchez (CA-47); Joe Schwarz (MI-7); Jose Serrano (NY-16); Clay Shaw (FL-22); Hilda Solis (CA-32); John Sweeney (NY-20); Ellen Tauscher (CA-10); Mike Thompson (CA-1); Nydia Velazquez (NY-12); Peter Visclosky (IN-1); Diane Watson (CA-33).
If your representative is on this list, take some time this summer to write him or her a letter; better yet, arrange a meeting in person. In either case, demand answers to these questions:
1) Why did you support legislation that, for the first time in American history, requires the Federal government to promote and support the destruction of innocent human life? (If the solon in question says that it’s impossible to recognize the humanity in these tiny embryos, remind him or her that that’s exactly what he or she looked like at that stage of life.)
2) Why did you vote for a bill that tramples on the moral convictions of the majority of the American people who do not favor embryo-destructive stem cell research?
3) Why did you vote for a bill that deflects scientists’ attention from forms of stem cell research that have already shown great promise, or may show such promise in the future? Were you aware that, to date, not a single therapeutic application has been derived from embryonic stem cell research, while miracles of biblical proportion – the blind recovering their sight, the lame walking – are being performed with therapies using adult stem cells and stem cells from umbilical cords?
4) Why did you vote for H.R. 810 when the President’s Council on Bioethics reports that there may be ways to create the kind of “pluripotent” stem cells sought by scientists without destroying embryos in the process?
5) Why did you vote for embryo-destructive stem cell research while knowing that this practice will strengthen pressures for cloning, against which the United States has no federal legal barrier today? (And if you didn’t know this, why didn’t you?)
Lay responsibility is clear here; so is episcopal responsibility. Raising these questions this summer is one way for the bishops to fulfill their commitment to take the pro-life argument to misguided Catholic legislators. We’ve all got our work cut out for us.
George Weigel is Distinguished Senior Fellow of the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, D.C. and holds EPPC’s William E. Simon Chair in Catholic Studies.