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Is an Embryo a Person?

President Bush, contrary to popular impression, is not opposed to the use of stem cells in the treatment of patients. He is opposed to the use of embryonic stem cells. These are stem cells to be found in an embryo.

This is based on a belief that human life begins at conception. The embryo is a person. Obviously it is not a full-grown person, but a human being nevertheless. To use stem cells from an embryo is or should be illegal.

The crime is not a piece of trivia. If life begins at conception, the doctor who performs an abortion is a murderer.

Is the belief that life begins at conception founded in scientific evidence? The answer to that question is not easy to come by. There are doctors who perform abortions but refuse to do so after a given point of development. Obviously, the date varies depending on the doctor and, perhaps, on the condition of the woman. Those who hold that life begins with conception are generally resting on religious tenets.

For a many years, some states outlawed abortions. In the landmark case of Roe v Wade, the U.S. Supreme Court found these laws to be unconstitutional. In the light of all of the above, there is no reason why the use of embryonic stem cells should be illegal.

Individuals who do not wish to be treated with embryonic stem cells should have the unabridged right to refuse such treatment. But to outlaw the use of embryonic stem cells is to tear down the wall of separation between church and state.

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