Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (search) is a good man. The stories of his work in Africa doing free heart transplants and performing other charitable services are legion. For years he did this work without calling attention to himself. It was only after he rose to a position of prominence that more people began to take notice.
But Frist's life saving efforts ended this past week when he made a speech on the Senate floor endorsing federal funding for stem cell research (search) when the stem cells are taken from blastocysts headed for the trash bin. He crossed an important moral line, as well as a political one.
In his speech, Senator Frist used the word "parent" to characterize those who supplied the sperm and egg that created the subject that is being discarded. But, according to the dictionary, someone can only be a parent if he or she is the father or mother of a child.
Since the unborn have been stripped of humanity by the Supreme Court, calling the producers of the smallest element of human life "parents" at once states and attempts to obscure the obvious.
Senator Frist also mentioned 10 principles he would not violate, including his opposition to human cloning. But having ceded an important principle, he places himself in a position of negotiating the value of human life according to whatever seems pragmatic and doable at this, or any other, cultural moment.
He has lost the ability to persuade people to the rightness of his position because he has compromised the central argument endowing every human life, no matter what its status or age.
This is already costing Senator Frist politically. He's not being invited to address a major evangelical televised rally in his home state of Tennessee. But it will also cost him philosophically when he tries to argue for his 10 principles, which are now seen as up for grabs and negotiable depending on the times in which we live… or die.
And that's Column One for this week.
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