In the case of embryonic stem cell research, it would be the responsibility of legislators to identify the specific types of potential harms that would justify limitations on research or on research funding available through public funds. Given the uncontested fact that embryonic stem cell research applications have the potential to eliminate the need for organ transplantation, to regenerate limbs lost in traumatic amputations, to restore movement in cases of spinal paralysis, and to eliminate many of the most debilitating human diseases, there must be very legitimate specific concerns of potential harm to balance out those tremendously important benefits to society.
In fact, the primary basis for the moral objection to embryonic stem cell research is almost exclusively a function of the religious belief that human life is (1) created in “Gods” image, and that (2) human life begins at conception. As is the case with other religious definitions and beliefs, that view is perfectly appropriate as a reason that individuals or private institutions subscribing to those values would not support embryonic stem cell research.
However, those two religious beliefs cannot be the source of secular law in the U.S. Government leaders have the duty to address any potential harm posed by scientific research; sometimes, that may include banning certain types of medical research for ethical reasons. In the case of embryonic stem cell research, there is no objective basis for opposition outside of those that rely directly on religious beliefs. Accordingly, government leaders may not ethically use their positions to impose religious standards on society at the cost of all of the crucial medical progress that embryonic stem cells represent.
Dershowitz a. (2002). Shouting Fire: Civil Liberties in a Turbulent Age. New York:
Little Brown & Co.
Hursthouse R. (1999). On Virtue Ethics. Oxford: Oxford.