The Boston Globe ran an article today misleadingly entitled "Romney finds middle ground on stem cells." (Romney, you will recall, opposes therapeutic cloning or somatic cell nuclear transfer, but supports research on "surplus" embryos from fertility clinics.) Buried in the article is the truth: very conservative, very pro-life Republicans like Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Gov. Matt Blunt of Missouri reject Romney’s position; they, instead, believe that "human life begins in the womb, not in a petri dish." Hatch and Blunt also believe that human life does not derive from an unfertilized egg such as would be used in somatic cell nuclear transfer. (Hatch, incidentally, is a devout Mormon, so Romney cannot claim that his faith unambiguously commands his position.)
The truth is that Romney’s position – against even "therapeutic cloning" or somatic cell nuclear transfer – is not the "middle ground," but rather the province of the extreme right wing of the Republican party. (It is also the official position of the Catholic Church, of which Romney is of course not a member.) Far into the Globe article, one learns the startling truth: Romney has endorsed a measure by Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.), one of the wingnuttiest of the wingnuts in Congress, that would outlaw even therapeutic cloning. This, by the way, is the same Sam Brownback who has co-sponsored a bill (along with fellow wacko Senators Shelby (R-Ala.), Lott (R-Miss.), Burr (R-NC), and Craig (R-Id.)) that would strip the federal courts of jurisdiction to hear any case challenging a government agency’s or official’s "acknowledgement of God as the sovereign source of law, liberty, or government," and declaring that a judge who disregards that limitation may be impeached. Good grief. If a person is indeed known by the company he keeps, Romney is telling us a lot about himself these days.
Senator Hatch puts it nicely: "It is ‘pro-life’ to help people who already are alive." Romney’s position is not the "religious" or the "pro-life" view – as noted above, many deeply religious and deeply "pro-life" people disagree with Romney’s view. (This testimony, delivered by a born-again Christian who supports therapeutic cloning, lays out the case at length.) Romney’s position, rather, is the politically expedient view, the view that seeks to have it both ways. Apparently he thinks it will help him win over a couple of Republican primary voters. Let us hope that they are clever enough to see through him.