Monday, August 2, 2010

An enduring commitment to the protection of all human life

(Cross-posted at And Sometimes Tea.)

The FDA has approved a company's study of the medical cannibalization of children:

A Menlo Park biotech firm said Friday that federal regulators will let it proceed with the world's first human test of a treatment made from embryonic stem cells, a much-anticipated but controversial study of patients with spinal cord injuries that had been placed on hold for nearly a year because of safety concerns.

If the treatment from Geron works, it "would be revolutionary," said Dr. Richard Fessler, a neurological surgeon at Northwestern University, who will lead the study of a stem-cell treatment designed to be injected into patients with spinal injuries to restore their motor function. "The therapy would provide a viable treatment option for thousands of patients who suffer severe spinal cord injuries each year."

Geron has spent 15 years and more than $150 million to develop the treatment, and "getting it into a clinical trial, just by itself, is a big deal," added Fessler, who has no financial ties to the company.

Many people hope that human embryonic stem cells, which can turn into any type of tissue in the body, could prove useful for everything from generating organs for transplants to helping test drugs on numerous diseases. But because the cells are derived from discarded 3- to-5-day-old embryos, their use by researchers has sparked ethical concerns and a highly contentious national debate.

The Food and Drug Administration had put the study on hold last year after a few animals the company was testing with its treatment developed small cysts. Although similar cysts had appeared in earlier animal studies, they appeared with "a higher frequency" in more recent animal tests, the company said at the time.

So eager is the culture of death to commence turning the surplus of manufactured children into a viable commercial product so they can make even more money off of the buying and selling of human beings that they are ignoring the potential side-effects, as well as the slightly inconvenient reality that adult stem cells, which carry no ethical baggage, are actually working quite well:
For all the emotional debate that began about a decade ago on allowing the use of embryonic stem cells, it's adult stem cells that are in human testing today. An extensive review of stem cell projects and interviews with two dozen experts reveal a wide range of potential treatments.

Adult stem cells are being studied in people who suffer from multiple sclerosis, heart attacks and diabetes. Some early results suggest stem cells can help some patients avoid leg amputation. Recently, researchers reported that they restored vision to patients whose eyes were damaged by chemicals.

Apart from these efforts, transplants of adult stem cells have become a standard lifesaving therapy for perhaps hundreds of thousands of people with leukemia, lymphoma and other blood diseases.

"That's really one of the great success stories of stem cell biology that gives us all hope," says Dr. David Scadden of Harvard, who notes stem cells are also used to grow skin grafts.

"If we can recreate that success in other tissues, what can we possibly imagine for other people?"
Embryonic stem-cell research has yet to produce much of anything, and there are those pesky side-effects to consider. But, of course, researchers are sure that the only reason they've yet to perfect a magic cure for all known ailments of humankind except for reality television and news anchors is the fact that the Christianists out there are kind of squeamish about killing unborn children, mixing their cells with a jigger of gin and a dash of vermouth, and quaffing this new "Fountain of Life Cocktail" (price: dead innocents and the immortal souls of everybody involved in this hellish practice) and so won't allow oodles of free government money to entice women into selling off for cash those unwanted extra embryos they created in a rush of parental dreaming, back when they were still married to the father.

Here's the problem, for pro-life Catholic voters: Republicans are not as vehemently opposed to this barbarism as we'd like. In fact, quite a few of them aren't opposed at all (and apparently lack the awareness to see what is wrong with a phrase like "Find out how you can join the fight for personal freedoms and against Personhood today..." which can be seen on that homepage). In terms of our elected officials, it is sadly the case that in 2006, 17 Republican Senators voted in favor of expanding federally-funded ESCR, and a year later about 40 House Republicans did the same. And even those who oppose an expansion of federally-funded ESCR don't usually oppose the Bush "compromise" on the issue, which allowed such funding on research involving existing cell lines.

I've heard the objection: but compared to the Democrats, with their funding of abortion via the health care bill and their push to require Catholic hospitals to give out abortifacient contraceptives to rape victims and their support of partial birth abortion, etc., Republicans are shining examples of pro-life consistency and virtue, regardless of this little "hiccup" involving research on five-day-old unborn human beings (or on the cell lines already derived from such children, as if it's perfectly moral to participate in and profit from the murder of the unborn so long as one isn't actually doing the killing, or some such thing). There's no denying that when it comes to life issues, most Democrats are measurably worse than most Republicans--but if there are no consequences to Republicans for their support of things like ESCR, if people of faith give them a "pass" on this issue because they're better than the alternative, etc., then we do two things: we weaken our witness to the value of unborn human life, and we make it easier for the Republicans to run weaker and weaker candidates in the arena of life issues, and harder for us to insist that support of the killing of the unborn, whether via abortion or via medical research, is a deal-breaker for us when it comes to our votes.

In some senses, we've already done this. But should we continue? Or should we insist that the phrase "pro-life" means something real and substantial, and means, above all, an enduring commitment to the protection of all human life, born and unborn, regardless of age, health, or condition of dependency?


  1. I really wish there was a way to remove the Pro-Life debate from its current entanglement with American partisanship. I feel like, in a lot of ways, good Pro-Life people have been taken for a ride by the Republican party. The party uses the issue to win over Pro-Life voters, and then does very little when they are in office to do the job.

    In my dream world, we would cultivate a Pro-Life movement that spans both parties but is attached to neither. The goal would be to change the law, not get a certain party or the other into office.

  2. "There's no denying that when it comes to life issues, most Democrats are measurably worse than most Republicans"

    Red says the above, and then she go's on to bash...guess who? Republicans.

    thank you Coalition for Unclarity!