NEBRASKA RIGHT TO LIFE
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Alert: Stem Cell Research
the Stem Cell Record Straight
by David Bunnell,
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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
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
Pro-Life Federation, Harrisburg
email is to verify permission granted to National Right to Life to print
distribute the July 12 article I wrote on embryonic stem cell research.
Pennsylvania Pro-Life Federation
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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?
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
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.
because science can do something doesn’t mean that it should.
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
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
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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it is morally, ethically, and scientifically wrong to approve federal funding of
research taken by destroying human embryos.
morally and ethically wrong.
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.
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.
that societies which begin to allow “limited” experimentation on human
for “good” purposes cannot control the inevitable progression to greater and
abuses, with grossly disastrous results.
Many millions of
citizens would vehemently oppose government involvement in research
involves the deliberate destruction of human embryos. They should not be forced
participate by having their tax dollars used for this purpose.
Great evil always
begins with small steps. If the government were to sanction research
the willful destruction of human embryos by funding it, there is no logical line
can be drawn to stop lethal or harmful experimentation on an increasing pool of
whenever researchers speculate that something beneficial might be gained.
Respect for human
life is a basic and pro-found element of our morality. The deliberate
of an innocent human life, even in a “good” cause should not be sanctioned
government. The end does not jus-justify the means.
There is an
ethical alternative: using adult stem cells, which actually show more promise
issue is not “banning” this research. It can continue with private funds
if not funded by the government. The is-sue is whether taxpayer funds will be
which so many Americans will find morally abhorrent, or will be concentrated on
stem cell research which is supported by all and shows as much or more promise
It is wrong to
divert taxpayer funds from promising research (adult stem cell research) which
provide cures for all people, toward re-search (embryo destroying stem cell
many Americans could not use without violating their religious and moral
It is scientifically wrong.
research that has been done, there is no medical evidence that benefits will be
from embryonic stem cell research; At this point all such claims are guesswork.
Adult stem cell
research shows at least as much and probably more promise of benefit.
one has yet been helped with embryonic stem cells, but people are already being
adult stem cells, and more uses are constantly being found.
The most recent
reports indicated that because of the unstable and uncontrollable nature of
cells they may not produce the hypothetical benefits that are being hyped by the
experimenters seeking federal funds (Washington Post, July 6, 2001, “Clone
on Stem Cells”).
This is not the
first time hype in favor of ethically flawed research proved to be false.
earlier claims that fetal tissue injected into the brains of Parkinson’s
miracles, it has produced disastrous results (New York Times, March 8, 2001
Research Is Set Back By Failure of Fetal Cell Implants”).
The July 6,
Washington Post article also re-ported that a scientific article on stem cells
changed to delete a reference to problems with embryonic stem cell research and add a
that the research is “promising.”
Letters to the Editor
to the Editor
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.
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
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.
of Media Relations
Right to Life Committee
to the 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.
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.
and technology must be tempered by ethics otherwise the very thing that
separates us from other creatures, our humanity, will be irreparably damaged.
of Media Relations
Right to Life Committee