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In The News: Stem Cell Divisions Transcend Abortion Fight

inthenewsPresident George W. Bush may have cited his moral stance in vetoing a bill that would have expanded embryonic stem-cell research on Wednesday but the issue transcends traditional divisions over abortion rights.

Strongly conservative Republicans who oppose abortion such as Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch have backed broader federal funding of embryonic stem-cell research for years, and more conservatives have come on board recently, including Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist of Tennessee.

The embryos at issue come from fertility clinics, where eggs and sperm are united in lab dishes. But many more are made than can ever be implanted in mothers’ wombs, and the leftovers are discarded.

The bill vetoed by Bush would have allowed federal taxpayer money to be used to do research on those embryos donated by the parents. It is not illegal to use private funds to do so, although some conservatives, such as Kansas Republican Sen. Sam Brownback, would also seek to ban this research.

The stem cells are taken from a ball of cells known as a blastocyst, which develops five to seven days after conception. These embryonic stem cells are pluripotent — meaning they can differentiate into all the types of cells that make up an animal, including a human being, but do not form placenta and cannot become a fetus.

Bush, an opponent of abortion, used his first veto as president to block the bill on Wednesday, saying destroying embryos for medical research “crosses a moral boundary that our decent society needs to respect.”

Many people who disapprove of abortion say they do not disapprove of experimenting on these embryos, which would otherwise be discarded.

“It’s very difficult to justify abandoning 7,000 to 20,000 in vitro eggs as medical waste,” Hatch told reporters recently.

REUTERS / Peter Macdiarmid

Analysis:

It is not uncommon for advocates of stem cell research to blur the lines regarding what constitutes life. In reality, man has no right to establish such arbitrary distinctions. From conception, an embryo is an independent, living organism. If it is not human, then what is it?

Understood in this light, the immoral nature of the aforementioned arguments becomes clear. For example, stem cell advocates are arguing that since we are going to throw living humans into the trash anyway, instead we ought to kill them through human experimentation.

Stem cell advocates are actually claiming to have the moral high road in this debate. Note the following quote from later in the article, “It is immoral for our families, neighbors and friends to be held hostage to chronic diseases when their treatments are within our scientific grasp,” June Walker, president of Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist Organization of America, said in a statement. In reality, the call is for the sacrifice of innocent and vulnerable human beings to benefit others in society. The fact that stem cell advocates are unwilling to admit to the humanness of the embryos does not change the fact of their humanity. To sacrifice one segment of society in preference to another is barbaric, and without any moral justification.

“And it happened, when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, that the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit” (Luke 1:41).