WASHINGTON (BP)–Recent reports of scientists creating human embryos or attempting to clone embryos solely for research with their stem cells, thereby destroying the early unborn babies, has stirred widespread condemnation from pro-life advocates.
The revelations of such controversial work came on successive days. The Washington Post reported in its July 11 and 12 issues, respectively:
— Researchers at the Jones Institute for Reproductive Medicine in Norfolk, Va., have taken stem cells from embryos created by in vitro fertilization for experimentation. In doing so, the scientists became the first in the world to procure such cells from embryos created exclusively for research purposes, according to The Post.
— Scientists at Advanced Cell Technology, a biotechnology firm in Worcester, Mass., have initiated experiments seeking to clone human embryos for the purpose of deriving stem cells for research.
Pro-life ethicists called the reports evidence of a cultural slide toward barbarism.
“These two announcements demonstrate emphatically that not only is the camel’s nose under the tent, he is inside the tent wreaking havoc,” said Ben Mitchell, biomedical consultant for the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. “Scientists are trying to climb their own Mount Everest on the backs of our tiniest children. We must not permit the destruction of the smallest and most vulnerable of our human community for the sake of the stronger, more powerful.”
Richard Doerflinger of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops told The Post, “In two days, it’s amazing we’ve had two announcements of drops down the slippery slope. We don’t think there’s a stopping point once you start down this road.”
After the announcement of the Jones Institute’s experiments, Sen. Sam Brownback, R.-Kan., strongly condemned the work.
“If we allow an attack on a human being at any point in his or her life, including that of the very young human in the embryonic stage, we attack the dignity of everyone,” Brownback said in a written statement. “It is grossly unethical and immoral to kill one human so that another may live as he wishes.”
The reports of the privately funded work came as President Bush continued to consider whether to permit federal funds to be used for embryonic stem cell research. Though Bush has said he opposes research that involves the destruction of embryos, it appears possible his decision on stem cell research will not adhere to that position. High-ranking officials in the administration are split over whether to allow funding for such research, according to news reports.
While medical researchers and patient advocacy groups are lobbying for federal funds for such research, pro-life organizations, including the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, are calling for the denial of such funding because the embryos are destroyed when the stem cells are procured from them. Pro-life organizations support funds for research on adult stem cells, however, because human life is not destroyed in the process.
Stem cells are primitive cells from which cells and tissues in the human body develop. Their discovery in 1998 has provided hope for treating a variety of conditions, including Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, heart disease and diabetes. Adult stem cells, which can be obtained without destroying human life, also have shown promise in providing such cures.
Mitchell, associate professor of bioethics at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, also took issue with the Massachusetts firm’s discussion of calling the cloned embryos by another term. Some at ACT believe there should be a new name for the embryos they create since they are not produced by fertilization and are not going to be permitted to develop beyond an early stage, The Post reported.
“We’ve been down this road before,” Mitchell said. “The Nazi physicians in World War II invented tidy euphemisms to take the sting out of their grotesque practices. They used words like ‘life unworthy of life,’ ‘mercy killing’ and ‘greatest benefit to the state’ to disguise what the world could not countenance.”
The ACT researchers want to change the name of the embryo “to avoid the obvious and horrific,” Mitchell said. “We cannot allow them to do this. An unborn child is a person from the moment of conception. We may call her by different descriptive terms — like ‘adult,’ ‘teenager,’ ‘newborn,’ ‘fetus’ or ‘zygote.’ All those terms point to the same genetically unique, human individual.”
In the experiments by the Jones Institute, eggs were taken from 12 women, who were paid $1,500 to $2,000 apiece, according to The Post. Of the 162 eggs harvested and fertilized by donor sperm, 50 embryos were created. The scientists destroyed 40 of those to obtain their stem cells, The Post reported.
(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: HUMAN EMBRYONIC STEM CELL COLONIES IN DIFFERENT STAGES OF DEVELOPMENT.