Regardless whether one views the President’s recent veto of the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act as a display of political opportunism, knee-jerk conservatism, or moral courage, it is difficult to argue with certain sentiments expressed by Mr. Bush at the time:
Each of these human embryos is a unique human life with inherent dignity and matchless value. We see that value in the children who are with us today. Each of these children began his or her life as a frozen embryo that was created for in vitro fertilization, but remained unused after the fertility treatments were complete. Each of these children was adopted while still an embryo, and has been blessed with the chance to grow up in a loving family. (italics added)
Though the President was speaking specifically of the so-called ‘snowflake’ children, some of whom were at the White House to bear witness to the veto announcement, he could easily have been talking of all children. Is not every child ‘a unique human life with inherent dignity and matchless value’? Does not every child deserve ‘the chance to grow up in a loving family’? As Herbert Hoover once opined, ‘children are our most valuable natural resource.’
Tragically, though, far too many children in America lack the good fortune of their ‘snowflake’ fellows. They are victims of abuse, neglect, family violence, parental substance abuse, etc. In many instances, they are wards of the state, their lives in the hands of an overburdened child welfare system that is caught betwixt the competing horns of child protection and family preservation. There are some half a million children in foster care in this country. And, as suggested by Starita Smith in an op-ed piece in The Progressive which was published last year but recently reprinted, they are still waiting for their White House photo op:
The plight of black children in foster homes doesn’t seem to be a priority for the Bush administration.
On May 24, 2005, in his continuing courtship of the Christian conservative constituency, President Bush lauded families who have used a frozen embryo to bring a child into the world.
The event, which took place at the White House East Room, showed that the administration and many of its supporters are more concerned with the potential life of embryos than they are with the children already living. Thousands of black, older and disabled children need homes. We have never as a nation put their lives at the top of our agenda. [full text]
Interestingly, though the Bush administration may be neglecting in some fashion the plight of foster children and their families, the New York Times offers two articles today that shine something of a spotlight on the issue. I particularly recommend the first piece, which is featured in the Sunday Magazine section and offers an in-depth (and very human) exploration of the topic…