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The Strong Sixteen

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The United States House of Representatives passed H.R. 3, a bill to pour taxpayer dollars into embryonic stem cell research. Sixteen Democrats courageously voted “no” on the measure.

These included my old boss, U.S. Rep. Gene Taylor (D-Miss.), who has kept his promise (to his constitutents and to his conscience) to always vote against the taking of innocent human life. Also casting a pro-life vote were some new Democratic Members of Congress including U.S. Rep. Brad Ellsworth (D-Ind.) who joined me Thursday on the “Albert Mohler Program.” U.S. Rep. Heath Shuler (D-N.C.), a former Fellowship of Christian Athletes leader, also voted pro-life. Democrats for Life of America hails the sixteen consistent pro-lifers in a press release here. And, if the votes hold the way they did in this roll call, the House won’t be able to override the President’s veto of this legislation.

That’s the good news. The bad news is that only sixteen Democrats could be found to vote against this awful measure, and 37 Republicans voted “aye.” There was a day, not long ago, when a much more robust Democratic voice for life could be found in the Congress. This was true not simply of “boll weevil” southern Democrats such as Congressman Taylor, but rust-belt union hall Democrats too. It is still relatively easy, at least in the South and the Midwest, to be elected as a pro-life Democrat. The pressure is on though to “grow in office” toward an abortion-rights position, if one wants any hope for a national presence. Sadly, it could be that the same will one day be true of the Republican Party as well.

The saddest spectacle of the whole embryonic stem-cell circus, however, is not the Planned Parenthood crowd or the Michael J. Fox utopians touting the progress just around the corner. The saddest part is the sound of allegedly anti-abortion legislators, Democrat and Republican, daring to call a bill to fund the cannibalization of the bodies of unborn babies for spare parts a “pro-life vote.”

What we should hope to see is a day when the mining of frozen babies for medical purposes is unthinkable, in both caucuses of both houses of Congress. But it seems that day is a long way off from now.

We live in a fearful and cowardly time. The crisis we face is not a crisis of clarity but a crisis of courage.

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About Russell Moore

Russell Moore is Public Theologian at Christianity Today and Director of Christianity Today’s Public Theology Project.

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