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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


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).

Embryonic Research Survey

inthenewsTwo-thirds of Americans, including half of conservative Christians, approve of stem cell research that destroys human embryos, according to a recent survey. The poll, sponsored by the Genetics and Public Policy Center, also revealed an American public that is concerned about protecting human embryos but even more supportive of research that results in their destruction.

Only those classified as “fundamentalist/evangelical” failed to achieve at least 55% approval for embryonic research-and 50% of fundamentalists/evangelicals supported ESCR, with 9% strongly approving and 41% approving.

The survey results, released Oct. 13, came as debate continues over the federal government’s role in stem cell research. There are efforts in Congress to liberalize funds for destructive embryonic stem cell research. The House of Representatives approved such a measure earlier this year. The Senate appears to have a majority in favor of that bill but has yet to vote on it…

…So far, embryonic stem cells have produced no treatments for human beings, while non-embryonic stem cells have provided therapies for at least 65 ailments, according to Do No Harm, a coalition promoting ethics in research. These include spinal cord injuries, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, multiple sclerosis and sickle cell anemia. Taking stem cells from non-embryonic sources – such as bone marrow and umbilical cord blood – does not harm the donor.

Baptist Press, via Pulpit Helps


First, the fact that a majority of Americans favor embryonic stem cell research does not make it right. Men have through the ages differed in their ethics with the Almighty.

Second, the fact that so many Americans are in favor of embryonic stem cell research indicates just how ungodly is the nation in which we live. The interesting note that while Americans agree with the need of protecting embryos, they more strongly agree with ESCR, indicates a disturbing ability to rationalize away killing. In effect, they are saying that human life (in the form of an embryo) is worth sacrificing if the benefits to humanity is sufficient. Not to be too alarmist in our rhetoric, but that is exactly the rationale used by the Nazi’s for their human experimentation during World War II. Further, if we are willing to sacrifice some humans (embryos) for the “greater good”, what will keep us from later including the handicapped, the very young, the sick or the elderly?

Third, the fact that even 50% of “fundamentalist/evangelicals” are in favor of ESCR is an indication of just how pervasive societal influences can be. And, Christians are not immune to such ungodliness either. Remember the troubles in the Corinthian church due to the ungodliness in the community surrounding them? Remember God’s exhortation to, “Come out from among them and be separate… Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you.” (2 Corinthians 6:17).

Stem Cell Legislation at Risk


Promising but still unproven new approaches to creating human embryonic stem cells have suddenly jeopardized what once seemed to be certain Senate passage of a bill to loosen President Bush’s four-year-old restrictions on human embryo research.

The techniques are enticing to many conservative activists and scientists because they could yield medically valuable human embryonic stem cells without the creation or destruction of embryos.

Embryonic stem cells are coveted because they have the capacity to become virtually every kind of body tissue and perhaps repair ailing organs, but they are controversial because days-old human embryos must be destroyed to retrieve them.

”The new science that may involve embryo research but not require destruction of an embryo is tremendously exciting,” Senate majority leader Bill Frist, Republican of Tennessee, said recently. ”It would get you outside of the boundaries of the ethical constraints.”

Ceci Connolly and Rick Weiss
Washington Post


We have written about the morality of stem cell research in the past. While there is some evidence that the research can benefit and potentially cure some individuals suffering from paralysis and a number of other diseases, the process of extracting stem cells from human embryos results in the destruction of the embryo.

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