“How'd you like to have your own personal biological repair kit standing by at the hospital?” Ron Reagan asked the Democratic National Convention in July 2004. “Sound like magic? Welcome to the future of medicine.”
To those who have studied the aims of embryonic stem cell researchers and hold that human life is sacred, Reagan’s declaration sounds more like a horror. The “magic” he is describing is the Petri-dish culturing of a human clone, implanting it in a uterus, growing a child, then harvesting the child’s organs for transplant to the donor.
According to Dr. David Prentice, professor of Life Sciences and one of the founders of Do No Harm: The Coalition of Americans for Research Ethics, and Carrie Gordon Earll, bioethics analyst in the Public Policy Division of Focus on the Family, there is definite linkage between embryonic stem cell research and the fight to keep “partial birth abortion” legal. And it isn’t magic, but science with no moral limits or regard to human life.
“Unfortunately,” says Prentice, who recently testified before the United Nations on the subject of stem cell research and human cloning, “this is a trend that we are seeing. With therapeutic cloning, you transmit the nucleus of a skin cell into an egg with its chromosomes removed, grow that embryo to seven days, and harvest its stem cells. That hasn’t worked. The theory is to get massed transplant tissue because it should be a genetic identity, but when they tried this in mice, they still rejected the tissue from the clone. As they continue to have trouble with embryonic stem cells, we see the trend to continue to grow these clones later and later and later to harvest already formed organs.
“You can see the trend here. Already, New Jersey law would allow the cloning of a human, implantation in a woman’s womb, and gestation up to the point of birth.”
Earll agrees. “I wish it (the linkage between embryonic stem cell research and partial birth abortion) were a myth. The first is opening the door for the second. Older fetal cells are far more promising that the embryonic. The President’s council on bioethics also believes that (the harvesting of fetal and newborn organs) is a possibility, so in April of this year, they unanimously recommended banning implantation or growth of an embryo for research after 14 days. They are concerned that this is coming down the pike.”
Prentice also cautions, “We run the risk that as we sacrifice humans for the benefit of others, where will we stop? In history, whenever we’ve decided to use another member of the species, we demean them; we lower their value as a human being. Peter Singer, ethicist at Princeton, says don’t name children until they are 6 months to a year old in case you don’t want to keep them. We’re already seeing some people’s opinions (about harvesting organs) swayed way beyond the embryonic stage to much later development.
Prentice further claims, “We don’t need the embryonic stem cell research because we have the adult stem cells. This is what is already treating patients.”
Both Prentice and Earll agree that the best hope for people with chronic maladies such as MS, Parkinson’s Disease, and spinal cord injuries lies with the already successful adult stem cell transplants. More stable than the wildly unpredictable embryonic and fetal stem cells, adult stem cells are already been used to successfully treat hundreds of patients. Prentice predicts that adult stem cell cures for certain diseases will gain FDA approval and be available in the next decade.
Why the Push?
So what motivates some scientists to push forward with the less promising embryonic stem cell research?
Earll believes that it is an irrational hatred of the pro-life movement as well as a mentality among the scientists that they just don’t like to be told “no.”
Prentice recommends that we follow the money trail to find motivation behind the push toward more funding for embryonic stem cell research and it isn’t finding new cures for terrible diseases.
“In terms of (California’s) Proposition 71 that would put $3 billion into primarily human cloning and new embryo stem lines: Biotech companies have invested very heavily in this because they probably see a potential return on their dollar. Certain scientific groups have invested because they see the money flowing back to their laboratories. The federal government has not banned any stem cell research. In fact they funded human embryonic stem cell research to the level of $25 million, more than that type of research is funded anywhere around the world. The only limit is with federal money is that the embryos that had already been destroyed. What people complained about is not that they just want more money; they want more money to work on other embryos.
“Private investors are not investing in embryonic stem cell research. They are investing in adult stem cell research, which gives you some indication where the eventual success is going to happen.
“Researchers and biotech firms have decided that they will try for the state taxpayer funds. However, if the money is put toward embryonic stem cell research, you are going to take it away from what is working and that is adult stem cell research.”
“I have argued that the life of a fetus is of no greater value than the life of a non-human animal at a similar level of rationality, self-consciousness, awareness, capacity to feel, etc, and that since no fetus is a person, no fetus has the same claim to life as a person. Now it must be admitted that these arguments apply to the newborn baby as much as to the fetus.” — Peter Singer, professor of bioethics at Princeton University
Author and speaker Rebekah Montgomery is the editor of "Right to the Heart of Women" ezine and co-publisher of Jubilant Press.