Guest Commentary 4

Embryonic Stem Cell Research Is About Ideology, 

Not Cures


©2007  David N. Bass


News earlier this week that researchers at Wake Forest University and Harvard Medical School have uncovered a new non-controversial stem cell treatment did nothing to stem the tide of pro-embryonic stem cell madness that swept Congress on Thursday.


In a vote that still fell well short of the two-thirds majority required to overcome a presidential veto, the U.S. House passed H.R. 3 by a 253 to 174 margin on Jan. 11. The bill would lift restrictions established by President Bush in 2001 that prevent federal dollars from being used for additional research involving the destruction of human embryos.


Completely side-stepping the morality of annihilating human life in the name of curing disease, Congresswoman Diana Degette (D–CO), the bill’s primary sponsor, expressed elation in a prepared statement after the legislation passed.


“This is a victory for ethical science as well as true bipartisanship,” she said. “Most importantly, it is a victory for the 100 million Americans and their families who suffer from diseases like Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and diabetes.”


Such rhetoric is nothing new from Washington politicians. The troubling reality is that even scientists currently experimenting with embryonic stem cells admit that cures are years and perhaps decades away from coming to fruition. Yet that hasn’t halted the rhetorical firestorm from Washington.


As is so often the case, John Edwards eloquently displayed this in 2004 by suggesting that a vote for John Kerry was a vote for helping Christopher Reeve out of his wheelchair.


What’s the next promise – embryonic stem cells will cause humans to walk on water and raise the dead?


For all their talk about cures, though, the nagging question is why Democrats and liberal-minded Republicans in Congress habitually extol the miraculous benefits of embryonic stem cells while downplaying the myriad ethical alternatives. The rhetoric is even more hypocritically in light of the fact that non-embryonic stem cell research is already revealing the kinds of treatments Edwards is looking for, but without the dubious ethical implications.


Yet another example arose earlier this week at Wake Forest’s Institute for Regenerative Medicine (IRM) in Winston-Salem, N.C. Dr. Anthony Atala and his research team were able to extract stem cells from the amniotic fluid that surrounds the developing fetus in pregnant women.


The amniotic-fluid derived stem cells are believed to closely resemble those found in human embryos. In fact, the stem cells have already been used to create “muscle, bone, fat, blood vessel, nerve and liver cells in the laboratory,” according to an IRM press release.


So, with the IRM research, not to mention the other treatments developed from adult stem cells, why does Congress have an apparent obsession with destructive embryonic stem cell research?


I can tell you in one word: abortion.


Those who subscribe to the pro-abortion ideology have very little wiggle-room when it comes to the value of an embryo. After all, what makes medical experimentation on human embryos immoral if life begins at some unspecified date after conception or birth? In that case, embryos are merely “products of conception” wholly lacking any human worth, right?


This is the chief reason embryonic stem cell research is being pushed so feverishly, even in the face of non-controversial alternatives. To admit even the slightest possibility that an embryo might have human worth would be to violate the sacrosanct pro-abortion philosophy. Why else would abortion advocacy organizations like Planned Parenthood and NARAL Pro-Choice America so strongly support embryonic stem cell research? Stem cells seemingly have nothing to do with abortion, birth control, or “sexual liberation,” so why the big fuss?


The answer is simple: for all their rhetoric about choice, abortion advocates have only one option on the stem cell issue. Anything less than no-holds-barred embryo research would violate their ideology – they can’t afford not to support it.


It’s a sad cultural commentary when any nation sanctions abuse and manipulation of the weak in order to improve the livelihood of the strong, especially in the name of political philosophy. Throughout history, evil is almost always tied to a socially desirable idea that gives it a tolerable face, and embryonic stem cell research is no different.


The question for the American people is whether we will settle for evil cloaked around a “good idea” or uphold one of the highest ideals known to man – the sacredness of every human life.


David N. Bass is a freelance writer.