It is commonly assumed that persons who hold abortions to be generally impermissible must, for the same reasons, be opposed to embryonic stem cell research [ESR]. Yet a settled position against abortion does not necessarily direct one to reject that research. The difference in potentiality between the embryos used in ESR and embryos discussed in the abortion debate can make ESR acceptable even if one holds that abortion is impermissible. With regard to their potentiality, in vitro embryos are here argued to be more morally similar to clonable somatic cells than they are to in vivo embryos. This creates an important moral distinction between embryos in vivo and in vitro. Attempts to refute this moral distinction, raised in the recent debate in this journal between Alfonso Gómez-Lobo and Mary Mahowald, are also addressed.