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Yesterday, on the third anniversary of President George W. Bush’s decision to allow limited funding of embryonic stem-cell research, the issue that many thought was put to rest has risen with a vengeance as a political sword in this election year.
Proponents of creating and killing human embryos for research claim this can be done ethically, just by instituting a few guidelines. Those who respect human life no matter how small, and who worry about the manipulation of our compassion for patients with debilitating conditions, fear that no compromise will satisfy a biotech industry that demands no limits on its activity or funding.
President Bush announced on August 9, 2001, that federal tax dollars could be spent on research using existing embryonic stem-cell lines, that is, stem cells that were obtained by killing embryos.
Embryonic stem-cell advocates have complained since that this is not enough. Their compromise? More federal money, with no strings attached.
Desiring to appear reasonable and moral, the advocates’ political wing promise they’ll institute guidelines, such as limiting the research to blastocysts (which are humans in the earliest stage of life); that donors must consent and their privacy be respected; and that so-called therapeutic cloning (the cloning of humans to obtain tissue and organs) would be allowed, but cloning to let the new human beings live would not.
Yet their moral line in the sand has shifted so often in the last three years, it would be nae to believe the next wave of publicity or pressure won’t wash it away.
First, advocates said they only want to get their hands on embryos in fertility clinics (apparently not troubling themselves on what the parents desire, as it’s been discovered that nearly 90 percent of the 400,000 embryos created by couples desperate for children are surprise actually wanted by their parents).
But, advocates assured, embryos should not be created for the purpose of using them for experiments. This would be immoral. That is, until it was discovered that fertility clinics were in fact creating embryos for research material. So, proponents argued that cloning human embryos for research would be unacceptable. It did not take long for this stand to topple, with the public proclamation coming from a podium at the Democratic National Convention as Ron Reagan Jr. eagerly proclaimed cloning as the quick and easy fix to any disease from which you or your loved one suffers if only those moralists get out of the way and hand over the public wallet.
Why arbitrarily set a kill date at six days old if the “greater good” could be obtained at two months, or newly born? What donor must consent? Certainly not the subject of the experiments, who is donating the tissue and stem cells.
And why should a cloned human being be treated as different, not allowed to survive past a certain age and only viewed as a product for research, than one conceived naturally or through in vitro fertilization?
Embryo stem-cell proponents use diseases and patients as props, but can’t be found answering the hard questions of where their fantasy will lead us as a society.
Even with federal funding, embryonic stem cells have proven too dangerous in animal trials to even begin human trials. Their flexibility to become different kinds of cells also means they can become deadly tumors. But proponents of the research discount truly effective and ethical adult stem cells, which have produced treatments for more than 40 different kinds of diseases and disabilities. This alternative, producing amazing results like repairing hearts and spinal-cord injuries, threatens to pull the curtain from the wizard of Oz.
“It is clear that demands for federal funding for experiments on stem cells taken from human embryos spring from some motivation other than a sincere desire to relieve illness and suffering,” noted Michael Schwartz, vice president for government relations for Concerned Women for America. “As for the biotech industry, their motivation is obvious enough: They can no longer attract investment capital and they have to replace it with tax dollars. Politicians, on the other hand, are being driven by the abortion lobby which favors lethal human experimentation because that provides some sort of corroboration to their fundamental myth, that the embryo is a nonentity.”
“But since neither the abortion lobby nor the biotech industry could move public opinion on this issue by frankly admitting the truth, they and the politicians who seek their favor have engaged in the cruel practice of lying to those who are ill or who have loved ones with illnesses and making promises that every informed person knows to be false about cures just over the next hill.
“If we really want to make progress against degenerative illnesses, we need to stop diverting funds from legitimate research and squandering them on politically fashionable causes such as destroying embryos.”
Just as proponents want no limits, their obsession has known no bounds. Whether it is fudging the truth or manipulating patients and their families, it has become apparent that if one demands that science should trump morality, both will be tossed aside for the lure of power.