What? How can this be? Am I against embryonic stem cell research? No, hardly! I support it. I'll donate my own money to medical research that uses frozen human embryos with joy. I have no qualms about this, as I cannot believe, and won't believe, that the sacredness of human life begins at such an early stage in human development. In fact, people who think a frozen blastula's have souls and precious human life seem sort of nutty and weird to me. "Irrational" I'll call them.
But then why do I support the President's veto? I support this because in a democracy we must not have a tyranny of the majority. I'm in the majority on this issue, thinking that frozen blastulas (early stage embryos) aren't human and don't deserve protection from medical researchers trying to find treatments for spinal cord injuries and so forth. But there is a sizable minority in my community who vehemently disagree with the majority. They think those frozen embryos are basically frozen children. To throw them out or perform medical experiments with them would be, in their view, a terrible evil. And the bill, as I understood it, would have allowed government money to fund this sort of thing.
When people feel their most basic beliefs about God and ethics and morality are being violated by some Government program, I think the program ought to be either not funded by the government (let private non-profit corporations and free enterprise do it without direct government subsidy) or else a fund ought to be established for people to pay into what they would otherwise pay in tax.
So, for the strict pacifists, they shouldn't have to pay for military spending beyond the costs of medical care for military personnel. People who oppose abortion or stem cell research shouldn't have to pay for government medical research or or Medicaid-funded abortions. And people who "have sworn upon the alter of God eternal hostility against every form of tyranny imposed upon the mind of man" shouldn't have to pay for our military or financial aid to despots and dictators. And strict vegetarians shouldn't need to pay for the agricultural policies that support the beef, pork, or chicken industries. With the exception of military spending and funding abortions for poor women, I'd say in most of these cases the government should just stop supporting these sorts of policies that violate some people's most basic sense of right and wrong. It's just easier to not fund stem cell research with the public purse and let others fund such things with private funds or public funds from more local sources (states, counties, cities, whatever).
But when policies can't be abandoned to protect the minority from the tyranny of the majority another possibility would be these alternative funds. One could fund only medical care for veterans and government workers (including military personnel). Another might fund some utterly non-controversial government project such as environmental clean-ups, maintaining national parks, paying down the national debt, or subsidizing affordable drugs and quality medical care for sick people in poor countries. When people pay their income tax they should have a chance to testify that they have a strong ethical belief that is violated by some form of government spending (such as military or abortion funding), and so rather than having their funds go into the general revenue of the United States government they demand that their money go only into one or more of these funds.
In the case of stem cell research, I'm not convinced that avenue of research really promises as much as some people claim. The government can fund research on umbilical cord tissue or some sort of artificially-generated stem-cell tissue instead of violating the most profound ethical beliefs of the wackos who think frozen blastulas have sacred human life. In a democracy it's just doesn't do for the 75% of us in a majority to entirely alienate and frustrate a sincere and passionate minority, at least when that minority is as large as the 25% or so of us who oppose stem cell research with embryonic tissue.