Bill Clinton has shown no respect for the law. Neither do the leaders
of his administration. Clinton's lawyers apologized to members of the
United States Senate for all the legal hair splitting as they made the
case for his defense in the impeachment trial. Meanwhile, Dr. Harold
Varmus, the director of the National Institutes of Health, was splitting
a few hairs of his own.
On Tuesday, Jan. 19, Dr. Varmus announced that the NIH is preparing
to fund research on embryonic "pluripotent stem cells." This research
involves the deliberate killing of living human embryos, and government
funding of this research clearly is against the law. In 1995, Congress
banned the use of federal funds for research "in which a human embryo or
embryos are destroyed, discarded, or knowingly subjected to risk of
injury or death greater than that allowed for research on fetuses in
utero (that is research on babies living in their mother's wombs, which
is considered 'minimal risk')."
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The NIH asserts that research on embryonic stem cells does not
violate the ban "because such cells are not an embryo as defined by the
state" and "do not have the capacity to develop into a human being."
Well, of course not! However, this research does involve killing these
tiny human beings in order to harvest their cells for this research.
There is no law that prevents privately funded research on human
embryos. That's how these stem cells first were isolated last year. The
NIH intends to skirt the law by having someone not using government
grant money do the killing or having the researcher clock out and do the
killing on his own time.
If questioned, no doubt the researcher will say, "No one asked me to
do the killing, nor was I promised money from the government for doing
this killing," and he or she would be technically correct, if you buy
the hair-splitting defense.
If members of the Senate let Mr. Clinton off with this kind of defense we can
expect more of the same from members of his administration, and these
senators will have shown that they have as little regard for the law as