Skip to comments.Latest Assault on the Preborn
Posted on 09/07/2003 9:59:09 PM PDT by Coleus
Latest Assault on the Preborn
by William F. Jasper
Embryonic stem cell research is neither an acceptable nor an ethical means of scientific discovery but is instead the purely utilitarian, cold-blooded murder of preborn children.
Which one of my children would you kill? Which one would you take?" John Borden pointedly asked the committee members in the packed congressional hearing on July17th. He was holding his twin 9-month-old sons, Mark and Luke, while his wife, Lucinda Borden, held up a photo of the two infants, along with an embryonic sibling who did not survive, as they had appeared on January 31, 2000 three tiny embryos in a petri dish, three tiny human beings.
Mr. Bordens piercing questions cut to the heart of the raging debate over human embryonic stem cell experimentation, putting a much-needed human face on the defenseless embryos that are increasingly treated as dehumanized commodities, to be "harvested" for the benefit of others. Almost completely unheard of by most Americans a few weeks earlier, the stem cell controversy rocketed into the the news in June and dominated headlines in July. The avalanche of print and broadcast stories was overwhelmingly weighted to persuade the American public, Congress, and President Bush of the supposed benefits of experimentation on human embryos and the necessity of providing federal funds for this research.
Day after day, celebrities, scientists, and victims of various incurable diseases appealed to the nations compassion and spoke of the unique and near-miraculous promise to be found in embryonic stem cells for the cure of a plethora of debilitating afflictions. Hollywood celebrities among them Mary Tyler Moore, who is a diabetic; Christopher Reeve, who was left paralyzed by an equestrian accident; and Michael J. Fox, who suffers from Parkinsons disease guaranteed high-profile media coverage of the lobbying effort directed at the White House and Congress. The Coalition for the Advancement of Medical Research, backed by the biotech industries, scientists, and medical schools with a financial stake in the stem cell debate, brought hundreds of children suffering from diabetes, leukemia, and other diseases to Capitol Hill to plead for life-saving help from embryonic stem cells.
This high-powered victim exploitation strategy worked marvelously. Republican politicians who have long postured as pro-life champions jumped ship and joined up with Clinton-Gore Democrats in calling for federal funding of embryonic stem cell experimentation. Former Governor Tommy Thompson of Wisconsin, who now serves as Bushs secretary of health and human services, is an avid proponent. So too is Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah and Senator Bill Frist, a surgeon, from Tennessee. On July 20th a bipartisan group of 61 senators sent letters to President Bush urging him to lift the ban on federal funding. Among the 13 Republican senators signing the letters were John Warner of Virginia, Ted Stevens of Alaska, Ben Nighthorse Campbell of Colorado, Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas, and Robert F. Bennett of Utah. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, who has long been one of the most militantly pro-abortion Republicans in the Senate, said he believes 75 of the 100 members of the Senate would vote for funding the experimentation.
On July 27th the House followed suit, with 202 members (including 40 Republicans) signing a letter to President Bush urging federal funding for embryonic stem cell projects. The effort was spearheaded by Minnesota Republican Rep. Jim Ramstad and Colorado Democrat Rep. Diana DeGette. According to Rep. DeGette, she is confident of "a clear majority in the House if it comes to a vote." The media leapt to cite these prominent GOP voices as proof that this use of human embryos enjoys broad bipartisan support and is consistent with a pro-life ethic. Likewise, opinion polls were quickly assembled to demonstrate that upwards of 70 percent of the American public favored funding of experimentation on stem cells taken from human embryos.
Nevertheless, the Republican defections do not prove the acceptability of embryonic experimentation as a tenable pro-life position and the opinion polls do not prove any broad and informed "consensus" on the stem cell debate. All these things prove is that an intense campaign involving emotional media hype, disinformation, and scientific fraud can create the appearance of consensus and stampede the ignorant, unprincipled, and cowardly into perilous terrain.
Life and Death
Behind all the glowing rhetoric about "saving lives" and the bright new world of hope offered by "research" on embryonic stem cells is this stark fact: Obtaining stem cells from human embryos can only be done by destroying, i.e., killing, those embryos, which are human beings.
Advocates of embryonic stem cell experimentation deny the humanity of embryos, of course. According to Senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), the human embryo is a mere "dot" unworthy of consideration for protection. Actress Mary Tyler Moore says it rates about the same status as a goldfish. Senator Robert Bennett takes a more equivocal, utilitarian approach, declaring, "I have learned that not all embryos are created equal; some are healthy enough to have a chance of survival and some are not." And, to his way of looking at it, those embryos deemed likely to perish should be put to a good use.
But is the human embryo merely tissue to be used for growing and "harvesting" body parts, or is it a human being deserving of the same legal protections that you or I have? This is the essential question demanding an answer in the fractious stem cell debate. Of secondary importance although it has been allowed to eclipse the essential question is the dispute over whether adult stem cells offer the same (or greater) potential for medical breakthroughs as do the embryonic stem cells. Still, the matter of superior efficacy in the adult vs. embryonic stem cell debate is a moot point if the embryo is a human being; abortion notwithstanding, our society still does not legally allow the killing of one human being so that his body may be harvested for the benefit of others.
Before attempting to answer these questions, it may make sense to offer a basic primer on this topic which has burst so suddenly upon us. Daniel McConchie of the Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity provides a succinct overview:
[S]tem cells are "precursor" cells, less-specialized cells which give rise to the more specialized cells of the body such as brain, blood, skin, etc. There are two types of stem cells, typically referred to as "embryonic" and "adult." Embryonic stem cells come from embryos in the first few days after fertilization and are the least specialized stem cells. The cells are extracted from the embryos inner mass, destroying the embryo in the process. Scientists hope to learn how to steer these cells to become the specific specialized cells a particular patient might need.
There are many obstacles which lie in the path of getting these cells to work. Scientists must learn how to steer them properly, keeping them from "overgrowing" and turning into a cancer, and prevent possible immune rejection if the cells come from an embryo with a different genetic makeup....
"In contrast to embryonic stem cells," McConchie notes, "adult stem cells are more specialized and give rise to the cells that do the everyday work of life." And he notes that "adult stem cells are not only found in adults, but in everyone from the youngest child to the eldest senior." Adult stem cells have been derived, so far, from blood, bone marrow, body fat, and certain organs. Early researchers believed that adult stem cells could not change to be different types of cells and tissues. "However," reports McConchie, "adult stem cells have been found to be very malleable. They have been able to change from brain cells to blood cells, and from blood cells to muscle, nerve, or liver cells. In addition, adult stem cells have proven much more effective for medical treatment than embryonic cells."
Proponents of embryonic stem cell experimentation contest McConchies last point, arguing that the embryonic cells are more versatile. On that score they may possibly be proven correct, though the evidence thus far is far from conclusive. What embryonic stem cell advocates cannot deny is this: Obtaining stem cells from an adult donor does not kill the donor; taking stem cells from an embryonic "donor" does.
Is It Murder?
It has been nearly three decades since the U.S. Supreme Courts infamous Roe v. Wade decision made the crime of abortion a common and "legal" procedure throughout the land. Tens of millions of babies from all stages of gestation, right up to birth have been "terminated" in the womb. Organs and tissue from many of these aborted babies have been harvested for the supposed benefit of medical science. Thus, it might seem odd to get worked up over mere embryos blastocysts when fully formed babies are already being destroyed on a massive scale. But runaway technology at the service of licentious science is now taking us from large-scale killing of unborn babies for the sake of convenience to the "creation" of human life specifically for destruction, to obtain desired by-products.
Where will the embryonic stem cells come from for the experiments that we are told will bring new medical miracles? From the "frozen orphanages" that house the tens of thousands of human embryos much the same as the embryos that were Mark and Luke Borden just a few months ago. Over 180,000 of these cryogenic orphans are waiting in cold storage. They are "excess embryos" extras created through in vitro fertilization for couples who could not conceive naturally.
In her July 17th congressional testimony, Lucinda Borden explained that because she was incapable of ovulating, she and her husband explored adopting frozen embryos for implantation in her womb. Mark and Luke and a third embryo were legally adopted from Tim and Donna Zane. The Zanes had conceived 10 embryos through in vitro fertilization in July 1998. They froze six embryos for future use, in the event the initial transfer of four embryos failed. Mark and Lukes genetic parents originally intended to terminate them along with the other stored embryos if the original transfer was successful. In 1999, though, after giving birth to triplets, they realized they could not destroy their six siblings. They decided instead to put them up for adoption through the Snowflakes Program.
During the thawing process, three of the Zanes embryos perished and could not be implanted in Mrs. Borden. (Unfortunately, more than half of frozen embryos dont survive the freezing and thawing.) On January 31, 2000, the three remaining embryos were transferred to her womb. On February 14, 2000, Valentines Day, a blood test revealed she was pregnant. "On February 28, 2000," she recounted, "we had our first ultrasound and heard two heartbeats. We grieved for our third child," but rejoiced in Mark and Luke. On September 27, 2000, Mrs. Borden delivered twins at 361/2 weeks by C-section.
"We understand and share the passion many calling for embryo research have to find rapid medical remedies for serious diseases," Mrs. Borden testified on July 17th of this year. "My adoptive mother died from complications related to lupus and my grandmother died from brain cancer. Johns first wife perished from breast cancer. We have suffered terrible tragedy due to disease. However, we have also experienced unparalleled joy at the birth of Mark and Luke. We are confident that my mother and grandmother would never have sacrificed our children for their therapy."
"Nor do we think any such sacrifice is necessary for medical progress," she continued. "It is clear that the advances possible with adult, placenta, and umbilical stem cells are in their infancy. On the other hand, recent articles suggest embryo stem cell research is deadly not just for the donor embryo, but also the recipient patient. Mark and Luke are living rebuttal to the claim that embryos are not people. They are also testimony to the terrible loss this country will perpetrate if you approve federal funding for embryo stem cell research. Thousands more children could be adopted by the roughly two million mothers desperately longing to conceive. Thousands more could lend their talents and skills to this country. Accordingly, we plead with you not to fund their slaughter."
Also pleading against the slaughter of the innocents was 16-year old Nathan Salley, who suffers from Acute Myeloid Leukemia and has undergone experimental treatment using "adult" stem cells ethically obtained from umbilical cords.
"I am not a doctor, scientist, or theologian," he told the congressional hearing. "And I am no more deserving than any other of the thousands of cancer patients and cancer survivors to have the opportunity to speak here. But, speaking as one cancer survivor who benefited from cord cell treatment, it does not seem right to me to terminate living human embryos based on mere speculation that they could lead to cures when obvious alternatives are not yet exhausted." Nor, Nathan elaborated, does he believe that "killing a life to save a life is right." (For the text of Nathan Salleys testimony, see the facing page.)
Dr. David A. Prentice was among the medical and scientific experts who provided testimony underscoring Nathan Salleys concerns. Dr. Prentice, professor of life sciences at Indiana State University and adjunct professor of medical and molecular genetics at Indiana University School of Medicine, informed the congressional hearing that "use of federal funds to support human embryonic stem cell research is illegal, unethical, and unnecessary."
"Research using stem cells not derived from human embryos," he explained, "has confirmed what prior evidence had long suggested: that adult stem cells have vast biomedical potential to cure diseases such as diabetes, Parkinsons, heart disease, and other degenerative diseases. This biomedical potential is as great as or greater than the potential offered by human embryonic stem cell research. Simply stated, adult stem cell research is a preferable alternative for progress in regenerative medicine and cell-based therapies for disease because it does not pose the medical, legal, and ethical problems associated with destructive human embryonic stem cell research."
Dr. Prentice notes that "where scientists have devoted time and resources to the identification of human adult (and other non embryonic) stem cell types, they have generally found them."
And many types of human adult stem cells including stem cells from fat exhibit the ability to transform from one tissue type into many others. Dr. Prentice reported, for example, that adult stem cells from fat have been transformed into cartilage, muscle, and bone, while readily accessible human adult bone marrow stem cells have been transformed into smooth muscle, cardiac tissues, neural cells, liver, bone, cartilage, and fat. "There can be little doubt at this time," Dr. Prentice noted, "that adult stem cells provide equal, if not greater, potential for biomedical application as compared with embryonic stem cells."
Like Mark and Luke Borden, two and one-half-year old Hannah Strege provided eloquent proof to members of Congress that human embryos are indeed worthy of protection as persons. While Hannah sat on her fathers lap, her mother, Marlene Strege, testified concerning Hannahs embryonic personhood: "No mere dot, [Hannah] contained within her the entire blueprint for human life, including all of her human organs and tissues. She required a place to grow, nutrients and love her same basic needs today but Hannah did the rest."
"Jon and I never intended to disclose Hannahs origin to people other than our immediate family and friends," Mrs. Strege explained in her testimony. "We adopted her long before we knew about any public controversy involving embryo stem cell research. Mary Tyler Moore and Sen. Tom Harkin changed our plans. The most difficult two days that my husband and I have endured involved watching Ms. Moore compare my daughter to a goldfish and Sen. Harkin liken her to a dot on a piece of paper and refer to her as expendable. Obviously, she is none of these."
One would hope that this would be obvious to all, especially to pro-life senators and congressmen who have had the additional benefit of expert testimony from renowned scientists, medical authorities, and ethicists, all confirming what Mark, Luke, and Hannahs physical presence at the hearing so obviously established.
Even a "liberal" like Andrew Sullivan can recognize this obvious fact. "What, after all, makes a human being a human being?" Sullivan asked in an excellent editorial, entitled "Only Human," in the July 30th issue of the liberal-left New Republic. Sullivan answered: "Scientists would say a human being is defined by its DNA the genetic coding that makes our species different from any others. Stem-cell research enthusiasts say we are defined by our DNA and our stage of development. They say a blastocyst is so unformed that it cannot be equated with a fetus, let alone an adult. But it remains a fact indeed one of the marvels of creation that the embryo contains exactly the same amount of genetic information as you or I do. We arent different from it in kind, only different in degree: in age, size, weight, gender, and on and on.... To extinguish it is surely not to extinguish something other than us. It is to extinguish us."
"Federal law makes it a crime to kill or injure a bald eagle," Sullivan continued. "It is also a crime to kill or injure a bald eagles egg. We recognize that to kill one is to kill the other." Likewise, "once a blastocyst is killed, the human being coiled inexorably inside is no more. If that isnt killing, what is? And why are we more coherent when it comes to eagles than when it comes to humans?" And why, we might also ask, are certain liberals more coherent on this matter than ostensibly "conservative, pro-life, Christian" members of Congress?
To allow the use of human embryos for experimentation, wrote The New Republic's Sullivan, "is to treat human life purely instrumentally. I know of no better description of evil. Such evil cannot be morally counterbalanced by any good that medical breakthroughs might bring. This is especially true when it is possible to cultivate stem cells from other sources."
If Andrew Sullivan can see and understand this issue so clearly, whats wrong with the thinking and the moral compasses of the Republican members of Congress who have gone over to the pro-death side, and the Republican president who has been so conflicted and indecisive over the matter especially after having made a firm promise to oppose embryonic experimentation during the presidential campaign?
During Bushs July 23rd meeting with Pope John Paul II at Castel Gandolfo, the Roman Catholic pontiff publicly brought up the contentious stem cell issue. "A free and virtuous society, which America aspires to be, must reject practices that devalue and violate human life at any stage from conception to natural death, the pope said with Bush sitting at his side. Stooped and weakened from Parkinsons disease one of the afflictions embryonic stem cell advocates hold up as a prime candidate for benefits from stem cell research the pope said: "Experience is already showing how a tragic coarsening of consciences accompanies the assault on innocent human life in the world." He pointed to euthanasia, infanticide, and "proposals for the creation for research purposes of human embryos destined to destruction in the process."
President Bush, a Methodist, has also received a similar message from the leadership of his own United Methodist Church. The Southern Baptist Convention and other Christian denominations and organizations whose support he courted only a few months ago have also reminded him of the grave moral consequences of buckling on this issue. These religious and moral leaders are echoing the clear message that eminent scientists, physicians, and biomedical ethicists have also given to President Bush and Congress. The Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity, The Coalition of Americans for Research Ethics, the American Bioethics Advisory Commission, and other professional organizations have provided overwhelming testimony showing that human life is a continuum from conception to natural death that cannot legitimately be divided into stages in which one stage is more "human" than another. As Dr. Daniel Callahan, a leading ethicist at the Hastings Center and an opponent of embryonic stem cell research, has noted, once you accept the argument that human embryonic experimentation is acceptable, "there is no logical place you can draw the line."
Unfortunately, the actions of President Bush and Congress on this vital issue, as on so many others are not likely to be decided so much by moral and scientific arguments as by political pressure. Certain Republican Party strategists have been hard at work convincing President Bush and members of Congress that supporting embryonic stem cell research is the "smart" political move. After all, they reason, with the Democrats threatening to take the House and Senate in 2002 and the horrible prospect of Hillary Clinton taking the White House in 2004, the pro-life faithful wont dare retaliate against us. The pro-life, pro-family forces must let the White House and Capital Hill know in unmistakable terms that this extortion strategy will backfire. President Bush and the GOP strategists will be more likely to receive and believe that message if members of Congress who cave-in on this issue are given their walking papers in the 2002 House and Senate races.
From the 2001 article ...Embryonic stem cells come from embryos in the first few days after fertilization and are the least specialized stem cells. The cells are extracted from the embryos inner mass, destroying the embryo in the process. The inner cell mass is surrounded by the palcental barrier that the newly conceived individual life built for itself (the woman's body builds none of the structures such as the outer layer placental barrier or the inner cell bmass), to retrieve noursihment, make gas exchanges, and protect it from being rejected by the woman's body. That placental barrier formation is an organ of exquisite design, and like all the organs of the gestating child, it is constructed by the newly conceived life.
Now, you might ask, "Why is that relevant?" well, try to think in terms of what cloning techs are intent on doing; cloning for therapies will conceive a new individual human being, life support that individual until it ages to a stage where tissue differentiation may be done to harvest specific organs or tissues, then the rest of the once alive individual will be tossed out like so much waste tissue. Folks, THAT IS CANNIBALISM, cannibalism as surely as if the techs extracted the syem cells and put them on crackers for the patient to eat! That same thing is what the ESCR people will do with the embryos, harvest the inner organs (the stem cells) and toss out the remains, the organ that breathes and feeds and protects the embryo.
If anyone would like a bit more on this issue, I've a related essay posted at my blogpage.
Bookmarked for later reading.
I know. Just caught me at a discouraged moment... :-)