July 21, 2001
NO TO EMBRYONIC STEM CELL RESEARCH
President Bush is under increasing
pressure to permit embryonic stem cell research. He should flatly reject the
pressure, and instead support additional federal funding of ADULT stem cell
research, which has already been proven miraculously effective in healing
There is no scientific or moral
reason to destroy embryos, that could be implanted in infertile women so
that they could give birth.
Unfortunately, even pro-life
advocates' knees are buckling under the pressure. Sen. Orrin Hatch now says,
''A frozen embryo in a refrigerator is a clinic,'' isn't the same as ''a
fetus developing in a mother's womb.''
Why not? Since the first ''test
tube baby'' was born 20 years ago, 80,000 women have given birth to babies
which were fertilized ''in vitro,'' frozen and later implanted in the
mother. The only difference between the frozen embryo and the developing
baby in a womb - is location.
Newsweek published a 13 page cover
story showing stem cells ''harvested from human embryos,'' which it said
''may hold the key to curing Alzheimer's diabetes and many other
diseases...The voices of biotechnology are Promethean, proactive and
impatient with ethical restraints.''
But are the voices scientific,
necessary, legal or ethical? The answer, in each case, is NO.
1. Not scientific: ''Embryonic stem cells have not been
used in one single patient,'' says Dr. David Prentice, Professor of Life
Sciences at Indiana State Un., who testified to Congress this week.
''When put into animals, they are not very successful. In trying to
convert an embryonic stem cell into a heart cell, you get 50 percent
conversion. The rest keep growing into a tumor!''
However, he notes that stem cells taken from adults ARE
used to cure human disease. Muscle stem cells are repairing hearts after
a heart attack. Patients who were blind and could not take a normal
transplant, have regrown corneas. The patient's own stem cells from bone
marrow are curing them of leukemia and of other forms of cancer - of the
2. Not necessary. The claims about embryonic stem cells
are based on their potential. ''But that potential has not been
demonstrated in a culture dish, let alone animals,'' says Dr. Prentice.
Why aren't they as effective as adult stem cells? The body
tends to reject transplants, such as those from frozen embryos of
someone else. However, if stem cells are taken from one's own body, it
will not reject them.
''Stem cells from one tissue, like bone marrow, can
actually be reprogrammed into cells that can repopulate muscle or
brain,'' says Dr. Jeffrey Leiden who left Harvard to be chief scientific
officer for Abbot Laboratories. ''That was completely unexpected and it
really opened up the number of diseases that can be treated by using
adult stem cells,'' Newsweek reported.
Thus, embryonic stem cells are unnecessary, while adult
stem cells are irreplaceable.
3. Not legal. Congress passed a law prohibiting federal
funding of ''research in which a human embryo or embryos are destroyed,
discarded or knowingly subjected to risk of injury.'' Yet the
Clinton-Gore Administration drafted regulations of that very law which
permit the research if someone other than the federally funded
researcher kills the embryo to get the stem cells!
Bush should reject that regulation as a subversion of the
clear intent of the law.
4. Not ethical. The only way embryonic stem cells can be
obtained is by killing the embryo, a human life, although a very small
one, no bigger than the period at the end of this sentence. That is
unethical, especially since stem cells can be obtained from adults or
placentas left over from live births that do no harm to the donor.
The New York Times called the embryos ''just clumps of
microscopic cells'' of no intrinsic moral worth. The American people
disagree by nearly 3-1. A new poll found the U.S. opposes federal
funding of stem cell research that requires destroying the embryo by 70
percent to 24.
The most powerful evidence of the
immorality of killing members of the human family was on Capitol Hill this
week - two squirming 11-month-old twins, Luke and Mark Borden. Two years
ago, they were frozen embryos, left over after Tim and Donna Zane underwent
successful in vitro fertilization. The Zanes gave the embryos up for
adoption to John and Lucinda Borden through the Snowflakes Embryo Adoption
Program (www.snowflakes.org). The twins were implanted in Lucinda, who is
both their adopted mother and birth mother.
''Mark and Luke are living rebuttal
to the claim embryos are not people,'' she asserted.
There are 188,000 frozen human
embryos currently stored, which could result in 35,000 adopted babies, given
average transplantation success.
Each embryo is a snowflake that is
frozen, unique and cannot be recreated.
Copyright 2001 Michael J. McManus.