National Right to Life

Affiliate Alert: Stem Cell Research


Example Op-Ed Pieces

stem cell research


example 1:

Setting the Stem Cell Record Straight

Commentary by David Bunnell,

Education Director

Pennsylvania Pro-Life Federation


It has happened before, and it’ll happen again. Scientific researchers, presented with a new bio-technology that allows them to do amazing things, get so enamored with the fact that they can do those things that they back-burner the issue of whether they should.

That’s happening in the debate over embryonic stem cell research. The Harris-burg Patriot-News, in an editorial Tuesday, suggested that the moral issues should not weigh as heavily in the President’s decision-making on the issue as doing what is “scientifically correct.”

But when issues of life and death, personhood and rights, and the powerful exercising deadly strength over the powerless are on the line, the researchers’ claims deserve scrutiny. Moral issues as weighty as these are worthy of our close consideration.

Many misconceptions are being put forward about embryonic stem cell re-search in an attempt to defend it. These misconceptions are a necessary tactic for the research’s proponents, because, at heart, the American people are a moral people, and if the moral questions surrounding this research are examined, the people will withdraw their support.

The first, and perhaps worst misconception is that the human embryos being destroyed by this research are “excess embryos” who would be destroyed or discarded anyway, so we might as well benefit from them even if they don’t benefit from us.

Congressman Joe Pitts recently told about 2-year-old Hannah, who would beg to differ with that claim. You see, three years ago she was one of those “dispos-able” frozen embryos. Now she is a toddler, and the child of loving adoptive parents. Abundant infertile couples in America stand ready to adopt embryos and raise children like Hannah. Those embryos do not have to be killed in experimentation; they can be allowed to live.

What’s worse is that some scientists in Virginia just published a report in the journal Fertility and Sterility that they are now actually making the human embryos for the sole purpose of destruction and experimentation. This is happening even without taxpayer funding. If that funding begins, it will likely lead to an increase in the practice.

People are quick to shrink away from the assertion that such a practice of depersonalizing helpless human beings, using them for experiments, and killing them is Hitleresque; but the similarities between this kind of research and that done by the Nazis last century are at least as plentiful as the differences between them. Douglas Johnson of National Right to Life was right to call these research methods “ghoulish.”

Misconception two is that embryonic stem cell research is an almost sure cure for many terrible diseases. The same researchers giving America that impression said so about experiments that involved implanting fetal brain tissue into the brains of adults with Parkinson’s disease some time ago. It was with far less fanfare that the results were announced after the experimentation was done.

The Guardian reported that these transplant patients “began to writhe, jerk their heads uncontrollably and throw their arms about involuntarily.” Dr. Paul Greene, a neurologist from Columbia University, told the New York Times the end results were “absolutely devastating.” “(The patients) chew constantly,” Dr. Greene said, “their fingers go up and down, their wrists flex and distend. It was tragic, catastrophic. And we can’t selectively turn it off.”

Misconception three is that there is no reliable source of stem cells that can be obtained for these experiments without the ethical questions involved in embryonic stem cell research. The truth is that stem cells have been obtained, and used successfully, from morally sound sources.

In April, a group of scientists reported that they have grown tissues as diverse as human muscle, bone and cartilage, and fat cells from stem cells taken from fat in liposuction operations. Stem cells can also be taken from adult donors in bone marrow, and from umbilical cord blood and placental tissue after live births. These methods hold forth as much promise as other stem cell research, and no one is harmed.

Scientists should be the last people to take the purely sentimental view that life begins when the human being is developed enough to “look like a baby” to the naked eye. They should be the ones telling everybody else about the wonders of the intricacies of human life from the point of conception. These biological miracles of just-begun life should not be marked for experimentation and destruction. And at the very least, we taxpayers should be protected from paying for it.

The justifications being put forth for killing these young human beings are myths and misconceptions. These embryos should be allowed to live.

David Bunnell, Education Director

Pennsylvania Pro-Life Federation, Harrisburg


[email protected]


This email is to verify permission granted to National Right to Life to print

and distribute the July 12 article I wrote on embryonic stem cell research.

David Bunnell

Pennsylvania Pro-Life Federation

 example 2:


Laura Echevarria

 My husband and I struggled to have a child and, fittingly, our daughter was born on our fifth anniversary. But we still battle infertility. Recently, I joined the ranks of the thousands of women who have had miscarriages so I count myself blessed to have even one child. Tens of thousands of couples struggle with infertility. My husband and I are counted among the lucky— seven years, one child and a miscarriage-carriage is lucky when compared to other couples. For some, such as friends we have, doctors cannot explain why they are childless, only that they are.

Now with the debate over embryonic stem cell research, the media, researchers and members of Congress are talking about using for research purposes “spare” embryos created by infertility clinics. These embryos could be made available for adoption, but instead, the proposal is to experiment on them and then discard them like yesterday’s coffee. This makes me angry. After struggling with infertility, I know what it’s like to wake up every day with your senses attuned to the sounds of babies in the mall or on the bus to work. Diaper commercials make you cry and nosy people everywhere ask, “so, when are you going to have kids?” Every two weeks you are aware that either you could get pregnant or that you may be pregnant– only to find out otherwise. (Why didn’t God create us with built-in pregnancy alerts?) I must have wasted over a hundred dollars in pregnancy tests the first year we tried to get pregnant– once I took a test only to discover that if I had waited two hours I could have saved twelve dollars.

Loving families who have endured the pain and devastation of infertility would be overjoyed to be able to adopt a “spare” embryo; some already have. One such embryo is two-years-old now and Hannah, as she is called, is probably a bundle of energy like my two-year-old. And, like me, her mother probably thanks God every night that even though her house wouldn’t pass a white-glove test, she wouldn’t trade her daughter for all the money in the world.

Eight more “spare” embryos are progressing through their various stages of gestation very nicely, thank you very much. And their mothers, I’m sure, anticipate holding their babies as I did– with some fear of the unknown but with a barely contained happiness that could possibly turn the world on its axis if it burst forth.

Embryos created in infertility clinics are not like spare keys or spare change, they are human beings. We talk about them as if they are negligible, inferior and use-less except for research purposes. I don’t think Hannah’s mother or the eight other adoptive moms feel like their babies are inferior or useless. The embryos they adopted are their children, real and living— regardless of their age or stage of gestation. By adopting out these embryos, we can achieve much good by giving infertile couples a chance to become parents and by allowing these embryos to grow to be adults and therefore contributing members of society. Who knows, Hannah may grow up and become a scientist who finds the cure for a debilitating illness. Or she may become a car wash attendant. It shouldn’t matter; whatever she decides to do, I know her parents will be right there cheering for her.

To Hannah’s parents and the parents of the eight other adopted embryos, I say congratulations, good luck and God bless you. Oh, and engarde, the little tykes are a lot smarter than we give them credit.


example 3:


Laura Echevarria

 When I was in high school, Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World (1934) was required reading. We high school seniors were introduced to a world where science controlled social structure and hierarchy through a 1934 version of genetic engineering.

Here we are nearly seventy years later and oh, Brave New World, you are upon us. It seemed so farfetched at the time that we would be able to engineer and commercialize human life. This week when scientists announced the creation of embryos strictly for the purpose of destroying them to harvest their stem cells, the mental images I had of Huxley’s Brave New World flickered through my mind’s eye like a ghoulish 1930’s horror film.

In ten or fifteen years science will be able to grow and “harvest” body parts for transplant surgeries. That’s the whole point of stem cell research (both adult and embryonic) - to create new tissues or organs. The goal is honorable. The question we face is do we use federal funds for experiments involving stem cells from non-controversial sources such as umbilical cord blood and adult stem cells which do not involve killing anyone or do we use federal funds to destroy members of the human family - embryos.

But what of other “honorable” goals, like helping infertile couples bear children? Consider that some of these human embryos have been made available for adoption. Eight children have already been born that way and there are others in gestation. There are roughly five times as many interested adoptive parents as frozen embryos. However, that good news is quietly pushed aside in favor of deadly rationalizations.

Up until this week’s announcement by scientists in Virginia, the argument for federal funding of embryo destroying stem cell research was that spare embryos created by in vitro fertilization were going to be discarded anyway - so why not use them for the good of mankind?

Because it’s wrong.

We recoil in disgust when we hear that in some countries, the organs of executed prisoners are harvested for transplants. We cluck our tongues and shake our heads when we hear of the experiments the Nazi’s did on Jews destined for the gas chambers. Many of these scientific experiments were done in order to “help” man and they were performed on people who were “going to die any-way.” In fact, some of the most extensive bodies of research available on subjects such as hypothermia were based on Nazi experiments. Medical ethicists faced a serious dilemma: should the rest of us benefit from such macabre and inhuman experiments?

But, the arguments continue, so many people would benefit from this lethal embryo research. Doesn’t the good of many outweigh any moral concerns? Where do you draw the line with this kind of thinking? It’s difficult to claim the moral high ground in other areas such as the creation of human/animal hybrids (chimeras) or cloning for body parts if we are allowing experimentation in other areas for the “good” of the many.

Just because science can do something doesn’t mean that it should.

Science is discovering that adult stem cells offer much hope and work is currently being done using adult stem cells. At present, scientists pursuing embryonic stem cell research are unable to present any concrete benefits because such benefits exist in theory only. Do we pull federal funding from adult stem cell research - which is already helping patients - and pour that money into research some claim “might” yield results but for which there is no evidence? In ten or fifteen years, how would you explain to a 20 year-old woman with diabetes that she had to wait an additional ten years for a cure because money was diverted from promising adult stem cell research into speculative embryonic stem cell research.

Back in the 1980’s we all heard about fetal tissue research and how it was going to cure Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and a host of other diseases. Just this year, Parkinson’s patients were the first to experience the “cure” of fetal tissue transplants. Fetal tissue was injected into the brains of the patients with the hope that the tissue would restore a much needed chemical to the brain. The New York Times reported that the patients suffered side effects that were de-scribed by one doctor as “absolutely devastating” and “tragic, catastrophic.”

Sadly, people with life-threatening and serious diseases are being lead to believe that embryos are the only source for stem cells and that only these cells are the key to cures for their conditions. In reality, segments of the scientific community who see the possibility of future benefits (investors, notoriety, the Nobel prize) to embryonic stem cell research may be selling only a pipe dream and a ghoulish one at that.

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Talking Points

stem cell research


Why it is morally, ethically, and scientifically wrong to approve federal funding of research taken by destroying human embryos.

 A.     It is morally and ethically wrong.

1. The life of each individual human being begins with the union of sperm and egg. An embryo is an unique human being. This is a biological reality. Attempts to classify some humans as unworthy of respect have had terrible consequences. This is a huge step from which there is no turning back.

2. Government funding of research based on the destruction of an individual human being for research purposes would be to reverse more than 2000 years of our heritage which teaches that every individual is entitled to respect and dignity. Both our religious heritage and our democracy are based on this principle. The Declaration of Independence, which is based on individual human rights and freedoms, lists life as the first right.

3. History teaches that societies which begin to allow “limited” experimentation on human

beings for “good” purposes cannot control the inevitable progression to greater and greater

abuses, with grossly disastrous results.

4. Many millions of citizens would vehemently oppose government involvement in research

which involves the deliberate destruction of human embryos. They should not be forced to

participate by having their tax dollars used for this purpose.

5. Great evil always begins with small steps. If the government were to sanction research

involving the willful destruction of human embryos by funding it, there is no logical line

that can be drawn to stop lethal or harmful experimentation on an increasing pool of human

subjects whenever researchers speculate that something beneficial might be gained.

6. Respect for human life is a basic and pro-found element of our morality. The deliberate

destruction of an innocent human life, even in a “good” cause should not be sanctioned

by government. The end does not jus-justify the means.

7. There is an ethical alternative: using adult stem cells, which actually show more promise

of beneficial results.

8. Remember, the issue is not “banning” this research. It can continue with private funds

even if not funded by the government. The is-sue is whether taxpayer funds will be used for

research which so many Americans will find morally abhorrent, or will be concentrated on

adult stem cell research which is supported by all and shows as much or more promise for

human patients.

9. It is wrong to divert taxpayer funds from promising research (adult stem cell research) which

could provide cures for all people, toward re-search (embryo destroying stem cell research)

which many Americans could not use without violating their religious and moral beliefs.

B. It is scientifically wrong.

1. Despite the research that has been done, there is no medical evidence that benefits will be

gained from embryonic stem cell research; At this point all such claims are guesswork.

2. Adult stem cell research shows at least as much and probably more promise of benefit.

No one has yet been helped with embryonic stem cells, but people are already being helped

with adult stem cells, and more uses are constantly being found.

3. The most recent reports indicated that because of the unstable and uncontrollable nature of

stem cells they may not produce the hypothetical benefits that are being hyped by the media

and experimenters seeking federal funds (Washington Post, July 6, 2001, “Clone Study Casts

Doubt on Stem Cells”).

4. This is not the first time hype in favor of ethically flawed research proved to be false.

Despite earlier claims that fetal tissue injected into the brains of Parkinson’s patients would

produce miracles, it has produced disastrous results (New York Times, March 8, 2001

“Parkinson’s Research Is Set Back By Failure of Fetal Cell Implants”).

5. The July 6, Washington Post article also re-ported that a scientific article on stem cells was

changed to delete a reference to problems with embryonic stem cell research and add a

 statement that the research is “promising.”


Example Letters to the Editor

stem cell research

example 1:

 July 9, 2001

Letters to the Editor

Dear Editor:

Because of the media’s obsession of embryo destroying stem cell research, many readers may not be aware of other viable and promising sources of stem cells.

Adult stem cells and umbilical cord blood are both non-controversial sources and researchers are encouraged that these sources may provide cures for many debilitating conditions. In addition, adult stem cells and cells obtained from umbilical cord blood can be retrieved in greater quantity and far more cheaply and easily than cells obtained by destroying embryos.

Companies that stand to make a significant profit from embryo destructive stem cell research are promulgating the myth that embryo destructive stem cell research is the only viable answer for curing diseases. This is wrong. The [name of newspaper] has a obligation to its readers to report the news fairly and accurately. This includes reporting on stem cell research that does not involve the destruction of fellow humans.


Laura Echevarria

Director of Media Relations

National Right to Life Committee

Washington, D. C.


example 2:


July 9, 2001

Letters to the Editor

Dear Editor:

The analogy comparing embryo destroying stem cell research to “pluck[ing] an eyebrow” (Letters to the Editor, Monday, July 9, 2001) is poor and misses the point.

“Harvesting” embryos is much like cannibalizing our young; embryos are members of the human family and “farming” or “harvesting” them for research is morally reprehensible. Given only time and nourishment, embryos grow to be adult human beings just like the rest of us. An eye-brow hair is genetically incapable of doing the same.

Science and technology must be tempered by ethics otherwise the very thing that separates us from other creatures, our humanity, will be irreparably damaged.


Laura Echevarria

Director of Media Relations

National Right to Life Committee

Washington, D. C.