Bill Frist, Christian, physician, pro-lifer, esteemed Majority Leader of the Senate, and (we are told) presidential hopeful, has stepped out of the greatest of our debating chambers to make a second fateful speech on embryo stem cell research—this time, courtesy of Franklin Graham, at the Cove. Far from repenting of his sudden decision to break with President Bush and support the federally funded killing of "spare" embryos, Frist has chosen to use this august occasion to re-state it. He does so in measured terms, full of conscience and a desire to do the right thing. And while he still gets the stem-cell policy wrong, he underlines other issues that we neglect at our peril.

Of course, if Frist is conflicted on stem-cell policy, he is not alone. It would be much simpler if this nation were divided down the middle between women and men of conscience, who value the dignity of every human life from its very beginnings, and heartless killers, for whom profit jostles with carelessness every time they make a moral choice. Life is more complex.

Conscientious people are torn, they are divided, they may think one thing one day and another thing the next. Many wish they could have it both ways. They believe that we have to protect the embryo. And they want so much to fight disease that they are prepared to believe the hyped hope of Nancy Reagan and Ron Reagan, Jr., with their siren calls for "cures" that trump the claims of tiny embryos.

Bill Frist is also conflicted, and he speaks on both sides of the same debate. He is pro-life. He believes you should never "create a life … take a life, to save a life." Yet he has fallen under the spell of the "cures" argument. He is willing to make an exception: You should never take a life ...

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Life Matters
Nigel M. de S. Cameron is now president and CEO of the Center for Policy on Emerging Technologies. His "Life Matters" column, a commentary on bioethics issues, ran from 2005 to 2006.
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