Category: Prolife Issues

Abortion

“I was trained by a professional marketing director in how to sell abortions over the telephone. He took every one of our receptionists, nurses, and anyone else who would deal with people over the phone through an extensive training period. The object was, when the girl called, to hook the sale so that she wouldn’t get an abortion somewhere else, or adopt out her baby, or change her mind. We were doing it for the money.”
~Nina Whitten, chief secretary at a Dallas abortion clinic under Dr. Curtis Boyd


Abortion is any act or procedure performed with the willful intent to cause the death of an unborn child from conception to birth. As such, abortion is a grave act of injustice toward the child and a clear violation of the child’s natural, unalienable right to life and his/her legal right not to be deprived of life without due cause. Right to Life of Michigan, therefore, is unalterably opposed to abortion.

This position does not oppose medical treatment to save the life of the mother. Treatments which may, in rare circumstances, result in the unintended death of her child. The unintended death of the child is not to be construed as abortion. When the life of the mother is judged by competent medical personnel to be in danger, a doctor can and should treat both the mother and her unborn child, striving to save the lives of both. Because of medical advances, it is rare that the child’s life cannot also be saved. Before the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decisions legalizing all abortions, the Michigan statutes governing abortion provided an exception for the life of the mother. Right to Life of Michigan accepts the intent of those statutes.

Right to Life of Michigan is opposed to aborting unborn human individuals conceived through acts of rape and incest. Right to Life of Michigan abhors the violence and violation of rape and incest. Our organization encourages public and private support for the victims of sexual assault as well as prosecution of the perpetrators of the crime. No matter how a child is conceived, abortion remains an act of injustice toward that child, a human being truly present and living within the womb. The injustice done to the woman cannot be undone and is compounded by an injustice toward her innocent child who is conceived from the assault. The advocates of abortion in cases of sexual assault imply that pregnancies resulting from such acts are common. In fact, conception from rape is known to be very rare.

Right to Life of Michigan’s primary opposition to abortion is grounded in reasoned reflection on the scientific facts about the being who is present in the womb or the petri dish: that being is, from the moment of conception, an indisputably living, human individual. There is no point during the continuum of fetal development, from conception to birth, where one could, without arbitrariness, identify a break in that continuum, a point before which that living human individual could be said to be nonliving, nonhuman, not an individual being. We further observe that any criterion that could be applied to question or deny the full humanity of the unborn child could also be applied, with equal arbitrariness, to many other living human individuals who all people understand to be fully human; i.e., the comatose, the physically disabled, the mentally impaired, the infant.

What advocates of abortion seem unable to grasp or unwilling to concede are the obvious: that the unborn, particularly in the early states of development, look like what living human individuals look like at that point in their lives.

Right to Life of Michigan rejects as specious and arbitrary the assertion that, while the unborn child may be a living human individual, it is not a person and, therefore, need not be accorded legal rights, such as the right not to be killed without due process. Before it is a legal right, the right not to be killed without justification is a natural, unalienable human right possessed by all living human individuals. To say that it is unalienable means that it is not a right that is granted or bestowed by society or by the state. It is a right possessed by nature, by what a human being is. The right to life became a legal right because it was recognized to be a basic natural right that the state was obligated to protect. That right to life may be acknowledged by the state. It may be ignored by the state. But it is not dependent for its existence on the state.

For that reason, Right to Life of Michigan rejects the assertion that the unborn child may be aborted because it is unwanted. Being wanted tells us about the attitude of the outsider toward the unborn child; it does not tell us anything about the nature of the child. The natural right to life of any living human individual is not dependent upon and, therefore, cannot be negated by the desires or attitudes of others. No living human individual can be someone else’s property or an object of property rights or claims of disposition, as the “unwantedness” argument implies. Moreover, we know from the long lists of people waiting to adopt that, in fact, there is no unborn child who is not wanted by someone.

(April 10, 1996)

Adoption

“Adoption is when a child grew in its mommy’s heart instead of her tummy.”
~Author Unknown


In the interest of protecting human life and offering women in crisis pregnancy situations viable alternatives to abortion, Right to Life of Michigan fully supports the option of adoption. In supporting this, we realize that adoption will not be the choice of every woman facing a crisis pregnancy, but it is a choice that should be available in her decision making.

While there is a surplus of families waiting several years to adopt a child into their home, there are women today being convinced that abortion or child rearing are their only choices. It is important that women in this crisis situation be presented with the life giving choice of adoption and to be informed of the resources available to them.

In every adoption situation there are three primary parties involved: the child, birth parents and adoptive parents. We recognize and wish to emphasize that the needs and special interests of each of these parties should be given utmost consideration. We also wish to reaffirm and support the secondary parties to adoption: adoption agencies, government institutions, abortion alternative centers, and other supportive organizations.

Our efforts to promote adoption will be directed in three major areas: education, procedural and legal improvements, and enhancing maternal and adoption support services.

Education

Protection of adoption as a positive alternative through the mass media, social institutions, and grassroots organizations.

Improvements

Enhance the efficiency of the adoption process by:

  1. researching and identifying the best adoption methods,
  2. developing uniformity in procedural requirements,
  3. placing more emphasis on special-needs adoptions,
  4. increasing coordination of adoption efforts.

Support Services

Draw attention to the additional resources, both human and financial, needed by organizations which provide pregnancy counseling, material support, residential placement, and alternative educational opportunities.

(February 13, 1991)

Child Abuse

“There is no such thing as an unwanted child, just unwanting parents.”
~Casey v. Planned Parenthood


Through the ages, the history of adult treatment of children is far from inspiring. In order to trim the Jewish population, Pharaoh ordered that Moses, along with his Hebrew brothers, be killed at birth. Herod sought the life of the newborn Christ Child and killed uncounted boy babies in his quest. The nineteenth century Industrial Revolution saw masses of young children bound over to factories for labor by their parents who needed the wages to survive.

The late twentieth century maltreatment of children is a different phenomenon. We are told by Philip New, M.D., (Head, Dept. of Psychiatry, Royal Jubilee Hospital of British Colombia, 1980) that “the most common cause of death in American children between six and twelve months of age is being killed by their own parents.” This ugly picture is unrelated to the motivations described above. Child labor laws have removed the young from factories; monarchies, along with Pharaoh and Herod, have almost disappeared. Another syndrome is emerging. It encompasses physical abuse, steady and extreme neglect, emotional abuse in which the child is consistently made to feel unworthy, and sexual abuse, and is increasingly referred to as “family violence.”

The experts differ on its causes; some see battering parents as economically deprived, while others insist that educated, upper-middle class parents are the offenders. In her book, Sins of the Father (St. Martin’s Press, New York, 1978) Ruth Ingalis says, however, that child abuse is not traced to a single origin but rather is a complex problem related to mental and emotional ills.

In recent years it has been argued, especially by Planned Parenthood, that unwanted children were the abused ones. “Every child a wanted child,” their slogan reads. Yet, Edward Lenoski, M.D. of the University of California, in his article, “Plight of the Children” reports that in his studies which have extended over many years, 91% of abused children were very much wanted. Lenoski’s findings are reinforced by social service experts in Michigan who also agree that child abusers are found in every stratum of society, regardless of economics or education. The interesting fact is that no matter how experts differ on the subject, there is general agreement that loneliness and isolation from family, friends, and society are the common denominators for child abusers.

It is heartening to see intelligent efforts made in our own state by local councils on child abuse which encourage “Parents Anonymous” to heal themselves through group therapy, which also offer Parent Education Classes, and in a pilot project in Lansing, have established a Family Growth Center offering free drop-in child care and limited crisis prevention. We are also encouraged by the recent passage in Michigan of Children’s Trust Fund Legislation which establishes a Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention Board to be funded by a check-off on state income tax forms.

Yet, we sadly fear that the dark specter of cruelty to children will haunt our nation until a true reverence for life is rooted in every community – large and small. Before this can happen, we must rise as one person to refute the spurious logic of “Every child a wanted child” and lay to rest forever the sick notion that human life has value only when it is wanted and useful.

Right to Life finds it highly relevant that child abuse has risen dramatically since permissive abortion became legal and it has done so not only in America but in Canada and England as well. We continue to insist that abortion is the ultimate child abuse that debases all life, and especially the lives of children in the eyes of society. We suggest a worthy goal would be “Every child a protected child,” and we rededicate ourselves to that purpose.

Civil Disobedience

“Whether or not you have children yourself, you are a parent to the next generation. If we can only stop thinking of children as individual property and think of them as the next generation, then we can realize we all have a role to play.”
~Charlotte Davis Kasl, Finding Joy, 1994


The movement to support human life and to oppose abortion involves a great diversity of individuals and organizations with each contributing in different ways toward the goal of protecting the unborn child.

Right to Life of Michigan, a nonprofit corporation, and its affiliates have decided through years of consensus planning to focus their energies and resources on education, legislative lobbying activities and political action to achieve our goals. We have always opposed, and continue to oppose, actions that are contrary to the law. Other individuals and groups believe that civil disobedience is a legitimate approach in waging a campaign against abortion.

Without in any way judging individuals who choose this approach, Right to Life of Michigan and its affiliates reaffirm their dedication to lawful efforts to protect the unborn, and have rejected any RLM participation in civil disobedience.

The board of RLM must be particularly concerned with the potential liability of the organization in the event of lawsuits surrounding civil disobedience activities. For this reason, it is essential that RLM, its affiliates and members, avoid any involvement what-so-ever of the organization in any of the following activities:

  1. Use of the Right to Life of Michigan name or designation of individual participants in civil disobedience activities as members or leaders of Right to Life of Michigan.
  2. Participation in or support for civil disobedience or other unlawful activities as RLM affiliates or as RLM representatives.
  3. Raising money as RLM affiliates or representatives or providing RLM funds or assistance to any group involved in civil disobedience.
  4. Use of RLM membership or mailing lists for any activity involving groups involved in civil disobedience or other unlawful activities.

Of course, these policies do not preclude any individual from acting on the basis of his or her own conscience. They are designed to isolate the RLM corporation and its affiliates from activities where RLM and its affiliates may be inadvertently linked with activities which would subject the corporations and their board members to legal charges and financial claims.

(November 16, 1988)

Cloning

“No civilization can survive if it treats human life as a merely instrumental good and the deaths of innocents as a legitimate objective. Yet, America is dangerously close to forgetting that human life – all human life – is a gift to be treasured. The life of a human being is an intrinsic good, not something whose value is conditional upon its usefulness to others or to the state. The life of every human being is worthy – equally worthy – of care and respect. Human beings need not prove their moral worth by demonstrating sentience, or self-awareness, or a certain level of cognitive ability.”
~From Building A Culture of Life


Until February 1997, the human cloning of Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World was a futuristic, science fiction scenario. On February 27, 1997, the chills of reality went down our spines with the announcement that English scientists had cloned a sheep named Dolly. Promptly following this news, researchers in Oregon on March 1, 1997, announced that a Rhesus monkey had been cloned. The reality of animal cloning stares us in the face and human cloning is around the corner. Science has an unquenchable thirst to do what is possible, sometimes without regard to moral implications.

Proponents of human cloning rush forward with proposals for its use that on the surface appear benevolent. Advocates mention replacing a dead child with a genetic twin or creating a reservoir of genetically-matched material for spare parts for diseased organs such as bone marrow, livers, kidneys, etc. The National Bioethics Advisory Commission (NBAC) has recommended that clones grown outside the womb could provide genetic advances for fighting diseases such as cystic fibrosis, Parkinson’s disease and cancer. Individuals and groups are stepping out to be identified as “pro-clone.” The right to choose philosophy, with which prolife groups are so familiar, will be the ultimate justification for these individuals.

Cloning, also called “somatic cell nuclear transfer (donor cell),” involves a transfer of a nucleus of a somatic cell (any ‘body’ cell other than an egg or sperm) to an egg that has had its nucleus removed. This egg is stimulated by a tiny electrical current to begin to develop. The embryo later is transferred from the lab to the host uterus to complete the development of the new individual. This new individual is not an exact duplicate of the donor since a small genetic contribution is made by the mitochondrial DNA of the host cell.

In response to the introduction of Dolly, President Clinton charged the NBAC with making recommendations on human cloning. On June 9, 1997, based on the NBAC report, the President released his “Cloning Prohibition Act of 1997,” stating, “Banning human cloning reflects our humanity. It is the right thing to do. Creating a child through this new method calls into question our most fundamental beliefs.” This act, however, is only a temporary, five-year ban prohibiting cloned humans from being created and born. It does allow federally funded unrestricted research on cloned embryonic human beings. The ‘moratorium’ announced by the President on federally funded research applies only to research intended to “create [bring to birth] a human being.”

Right to Life of Michigan finds human cloning to be an inherent violation of human dignity. As with abortion and assisted reproductive technologies, such as in vitro fertilization, human cloning research denies the most fundamental of human rights — the right to life. The research process inevitably requires scientists to destroy and discard their ‘failed’ experiments. For example, it took 277 attempts at cell manipulation and 29 embryo implants before the sheep, Dolly, was produced.

Cloning would further violate human dignity by denying the intrinsic value of each human life, thereby viewing human beings as products or commodities. For this same reason we already oppose surrogate parenting contracts, genetic screening of embryos before uterine implanting and sex selection abortion. Cloning could not possibly respect the intrinsic value of the person created, because a cloned person will not be created simply for their value as a person. There will always be an intended and specific utility attached to a cloned person because he or she was created with a particular genetic make-up for some purpose. Any action taken to create or destroy human beings based on their genetic qualities denies their intrinsic value.

Right to Life of Michigan strongly advocates for the passage of tightly written legislation at the national and state level that will permanently ban all human cloning including research on embryos. If human cloning proceeds, our minds can conjure up many scenarios of abuse of human cloning as our narcissistic society creates human beings not in God’s own image but in our own.

(October 8, 1997)

Constitutional Convention

“The care of human life, and not its destruction, is the first and only object of good government.”
~Thomas Jefferson


Article V of the U.S. Constitution provides two ways to amend the Constitution: 1) by initiative of Congress, and approval of both houses, followed by ratification of 3/4 of the state legislatures; and 2) by a call for a constitutional convention by 2/3 of the state legislatures. The amendment adopted by such a convention would then require ratification by 3/4 of the state legislatures.

After consideration of two ways to amend the U.S. Constitution, Right to Life of Michigan encourages all prolife people to work both for the Congressional passage of a Human Life Amendment and through the State Legislatures for passage of a constitutional conventional resolution.

Equal Rights Amendment

Since the Equal Rights Amendment is couched in loose and sweeping language, its interpretation1, and its eventual interpretation in the courts (if adopted), have occasioned the nationwide controversy that has surrounded it for the past ten years.

Right to Life of Michigan is concerned with two central considerations:

  • Only a woman can become pregnant, never a man. Therefore any legislation restricting abortion or its funding could be challenged, using the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) as a cornerstone of the legal proceedings.
  • When an amendment is added to the Constitution and is later tested in court cases, those courts must be guided by the intent of the amendment’s framers and its legislative history.2

The intent of the ERA’s supporters can be demonstrated by litigation under the state Equal Rights Amendment in various state constitutions. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), prominent in pro-abortion and pro-ERA causes, argued during cases in Hawaii, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania that since abortion is a medical procedure performed only for women, withdrawing funding for abortions while paying for other medical procedures sought by both sexes would be tantamount to a denial of equal rights on account of sex. “…such pleadings are the bellwethers of social change and a sure guide to what ERA means for its most powerful advocates.”3

The Honorable Clare Boothe Luce, an ardent feminist for half a century, and an original advocate of ERA, in a letter to the Women’s Lobby, berated those “misguided feminists who tried to make the extraneous issue of unrestricted and federally financed abortions the centerpiece of the equal rights struggle.”4

Those “misguided feminists” are, in fact, the leading supporters of ERA as we see it today. They and their skilled lawyers, especially those of the ACLU, have failed to disguise the distinctly emerging truth that “unrestricted and federally financed abortions” are an integral part of the pro-ERA philosophy.

Right to Life of Michigan is overwhelmingly represented by women who accept the thesis of “equal pay for equal work” and “equality before the law.” But we have seen an evolutionary process at work in these past years and are alarmed at its portents.

Therefore Right to Life of Michigan continues to be opposed to the ERA and any provision that could be construed to grant or secure any right to abortion or the funding thereof.

1 Senator Paul Tsongas (D. Mass.), testifying on behalf of the proposed ERA to the U.S. Senate (5/26/83), was unable to answer questions of Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch as to legislative intent and changes in federal law following passage of the ERA, saying again and again over ninety minutes of questioning, that “the courts would decide.” (Washington Times 5/27/83).

2 “Intent of Amendment’s Framers” was spelled out by Betty Freidan, an important leader of the ERA movement, when she wrote in NOW-ERA fundraising letter, “…I am convinced that if we lose this (ERA) struggle, we will have little hope in our own lifetime of saving our rights to abortion.” Sarah Weddington, ERA proponent and lawyer who successfully argued Roe vs. Wade before the U.S. Supreme Court, told a U.S. Senate Subcommittee (4/11/75) that the proposed Human Life Amendment then under discussion would deny the ERA principle that women have a right to “all choices.”

3 Lincoln Oliphant, “ERA and the Abortion Connection,” Human Life Review, Spring 1981.

4 The Honorable Clare Boothe Luce in a letter to the Women’s Lobby, Feb. 21, 1978.

Euthanasia

“Over 25 years ago the pro-life movement warned all who would listen that if abortions were not stopped, it would eventually lead to the killing of the elderly and infirm at the other end.”


Right to Life of Michigan opposes all attempts to legalize or condone euthanasia. While once commonly understood as “mercy killing,” the term “euthanasia” now encompasses acts from lethal injection, to “assisting” in suicide, to withholding basic levels of care from non-terminal patients. In all cases of euthanasia, the action or omission is expressly intended to cause the death of a person.

By contrast, Right to Life of Michigan supports the tradition which allows persons suffering from a terminal illness to die naturally. Under this centuries-old ethic, patients are not obligated to use extraordinary or heroic medical treatment that would only prolong the dying process. Ordinary care and treatment should be provided to all patients to sustain their daily needs and comfort. When a person has clearly reached their “last understand to be fully human; i.e., the comatose, the physically disabled, the mentally impaired, the infant.

Genetic Engineering

As participants in the rapidly changing scene of this fabulous century, we are ever aware of the giant strides that science has taken into the unknown. The awesome job of splitting the atom has been done, spinning off in its wake both the evil mushroom clouds over Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the bright hope that nuclear energy may yet be harnessed to the world’s needs. In the DNA discoveries, the very core of Life was penetrated proving with finality that a life is indeed begun when a father’s sperm fertilized the mother’s ovum to form a unique individual, whom, if lost, will never be replaced. And in the space experiments, we have all been spectators of the stirring adventure when men walked on the moon.

Scientific activity is, of itself, inherently good since it is an honest search for the truth about every physical thing under the sun. The men and women engaged in it invest their lives in this act of discovery with the hope that their work will benefit the society in which they live. (“Let knowledge grow, that life may be enriched” was the academic motto of the University of Chicago where nuclear fission first took place.)

The fruits of these labors – the hard won facts of science – are morally neutral in themselves, but the applied uses of their knowledge may not be. We must face the fact that scientific research “has gradually assumed increasingly precise direction . . . ” Whereas in the past it was a discipline of discovery, “it is characterized now more by intent than by discovery.”1 We must be prepared for the fact that as the applied sciences continue their inexorable thrust into the unknown, they will occasion moral dilemmas exacting the last drop of wisdom of which society is capable. In fact, this situation has already begun.

It is to be fervently wished that Science would police itself, and failing that, the high offices of government would step in, but we have seen confusion compounded in HEW guidelines, and action by committee is sluggish and indistinct at best. If Right to Life of Michigan deserves to consider itself a defender of human life, it must not shrink from the summons to maturity posed by these dilemmas. It must plan to insert its voice at the councils of decision. Perhaps the center state for these dilemmas is occupied by what is known as Genetic Engineering of which the following are part:

Amniocentesis – In approximately the 16th week of pregnancy, a needle may be inserted into the uterus and fluid extracted from the sac surrounding a developing baby. This fluid reveals information about the baby’s physical condition. The procedure was developed as a life saving technique for RH babies and others, but recently it has been turned into an instrument of death. For it is now being used as a screening process for “defective” babies in utero (or even those of an unwanted sex) who are then aborted. We consider this application to be a tragic misuse of amniocentesis and one that is a significant factor in the pressures for planned eugenic perfection of mankind. (It is also the focal point of our controversy with March of Dimes.)

In Vitro Fertilization (Test Tube Babies) – Despite our continuing sympathy for couples unable to procreate their own children and our personal understanding of the natural yearning to do so that is part of the human personality, we must take a negative view of the efforts of in vitro fertilization as we see them today and as evidenced by the work of the British doctors Steptoe and Edwards. This is because we may not ignore the ethical questions of (a) destroying the fertilized ova which do not measure up for implantation, and (b) abortion of the developing fetus which is discovered through amniocentesis to be “defective.”

Further facets of genetic engineering in the blueprint stage are nuclear transplantation or cloning, monitored mating, and the human-plant and human-animal hybrids. On the subject of monitored mating, we note that no less an authority than Nobel Laureate Linus Pauling has said . . . “I have suggested that there should be tattooed on the forehead of every young person a symbol showing possession of the sickle-cell gene or whatever other similar gene . . . that he has been found to possess in a single dose. If this were done, two young people carrying the same seriously defective gene in a single dose would recognize this situation at first sight and would refrain from falling in love with one another. It is my opinion that legislation along this line, compulsory testing for defective genes before marriage, and some form of public or semi-public display of this possession, should be adopted.”2 (Emphasis ours.)

However “far out” these ideas may sound, they are spoken unsmilingly in high circles. These portents are disturbing, and the subject matter is extremely complex. Yet we must not assume an attitude of helplessness among the ethical confusion of our times. “We are merely required to do what all men and women have always done; to rediscover and apply the truth to our own circumstances . . . “3 The alleged technological imperative of “what we can do we must do” is suggestive of knowledge without an ethic or conscience. Let us instead adopt the more humane imperative of Professor Paul Ramsey of Princeton University who says, “The good things that men do can be made complete only by the things they refuse to do.”4


1 Bryan Griffin, The Human Life Review, Summer, 1977, p. 32, The Human Life Foundation, Inc.; New York, NY.

2 Linus Pauling, “Foreword to reflections on the New Biology,” UCLA Law Review 15:2; Feb. 1968, p. 269 as quoted by Charles Frankel, “The Specter of Eugenics,” Commentary, March 1974, p. 28.

3 Bryan Griffin, op. cit. p. 35.

4 William Smith, “Procreation Is Not For the Laboratory,” Human Life Review, Fall, 1978, p. 35. The Human Life Foundation, Inc.; New York, NY.

The Handicapped

To Protest Negative Treatment

The members of Right to Life of Michigan have been shocked and saddened by the ruling of the Indiana Supreme Court permitting denial of food and medical care to a newborn baby with a physical defect in the so called “Infant Doe” case (April, 1982), Bloomington, Indiana. This opens the way to denying rights to people on the basis of handicap or defect and the possible denial of rights to whole races or economic groups that prejudiced judges may consider “naturally defective.”

We point out that the 1973 Rehabilitation Act forbids any discrimination against the handicapped by persons or organizations, including hospitals, and health care facilities benefiting from Federal Financial Assistance.

We urge the President of the United States to fully enforce all protection in this Act, and we urge all Michigan Congressmen to use their influence to support such enforcement. We are aware that the non-treatment and even starvation of babies born handicapped is occurring with increasing frequency in medical institutions and we urge Congressional hearings to investigate such alleged discrimination to see if the law has been enforced in the past and to determine if new legislation is needed. We also urge our state legislators to study conditions in Michigan to see if legal protections and enforcements are adequate in this state. We declare our support for organizations working for the rights of those with handicaps. We support measures to make a ward of the Court any handicapped minor who appears to be singled out – by parents, hospitals, and/or any other relevant authority – for determined, life threatening neglect.

We call upon fair minded citizens of all races, politics and creeds to protest the inhumane “Infant Doe” ruling of the Indiana Supreme Court. We believe that a nation which has conquered killer diseases and sends men into space will also conquer the killer mentality that sees death as a proper answer to the problems of life.

Positive treatment – On the national scene, there is one bright and encouraging sign of re-awakening respect for life. This is embodied in widespread efforts to bring the physically and mentally challenged into the mainstream of society.

  • The Special Olympics have given the mentally challenged a chance to compete, to excel, to win…and to take a praiseworthy step toward making these people accepted and understood.
  • We applaud the move towards specialized classes tailored to educate the blind, the deaf, the retarded and emotionally disturbed.
  • We strongly second the moves made by interested groups to upgrade the care of the elderly in nursing homes, and send forth a special plea not to let the whirlwind pace of our lives keep us from paying these elderly the attention and affection they deserve.
  • These efforts give us reason to hope that we shall all move with one heart to embrace our physically and mentally challenged brothers and sisters, for these concerns will be the sturdy paving for the road back to a re-awakening Respect for Life.

Human Embryonic Stem Cell Research

Is It Necessary?

Embryonic stem cell research is one of the most controversial issues of the day.  For many people, the reality that stem cells can be obtained from adults, fat and umbilical cord blood, is unknown.

The following information gives examples of arguments for the side advocating the killing of embryos for research and then gives rebuttals to these arguments. For many people, the reality that stem cells can be obtained from adults, fat and umbilical cord blood is unknown. Educating others that stem cell research can be pursued without taking the life of a human embryo is needed. Prolife people also want to see cures for diseases, but not at the expense of members of the human race.


If they say….
Stem cells aren’t alive. If stem cells possess life-saving possibilities, why shouldn’t they be used for research?

You say….
You are right, stem cells aren’t alive. However, a living human embryo must be destroyed in order to obtain embryonic stem cells. Every time embryonic stem cells are extracted from a human embryo, a unique individual is destroyed. The removed stem cells would have developed into the child’s heart, kidneys and all of the 210 different kinds of tissue found in the human body1.

Embryos have the 46 chromosomes that make them human. It is already decided if they will be a boy or a girl. It is already decided what color eyes they will have. From the first day of conception until death, nothing has or will be added to them except food and oxygen.


If they say….
It’s just a frozen fertilized egg. What’s the big deal?

You say….
This statement is false. A fertilized egg is the term used to describe a one-cell human in its first day of development. A fertilized egg does not have any stem cells to extract because it is only one cell. Embryonic stem cells are removed from embryos who are around a week old. These embryos are called blastocysts and they number several hundred cells.

Life begins at conception. We all began life when a sperm joined an ovum. The size of a human body doesn’t give life value. Is a 6’5, 300-pound man more valuable than a newborn child?

It is also important to mention that an embryo is no less valuable if she is frozen than if she is in her mother’s womb. The stage of development, temperature, and size of a child don’t determine its value. The fact that an embryo is a human life is what makes her priceless.


If they say…
It doesn’t even look like a human.

You say….
Actually, it does look human. This is exactly how every human looks during this stage of development. Every human looked the same shortly after conception. Just because people aren’t as familiar with this stage of development doesn’t mean that an embryo isn’t human and doesn’t look like a human.

Many people have different deformities or peculiarities that take away from their ability to look like the “ideal human.” That doesn’t mean that they’re not human and that they don’t have the same rights as other humans. The way something looks doesn’t make it human.

Some believe stem cells from human embryos are human enough for research, but not human enough to join the human family. This logic defies the reality that life begins at conception, a truth some researchers and politicians would like to ignore.


If they say….
All of these embryos will just be destroyed anyway, so why not use them for helpful research?

You say….
Embryonic research advocates act like all of the embryos in fertility clinics that aren’t used will be thrown away. This, however, is simply not the case. The parents generally have at least two other options. First, preserve the embryos for possible future use (chosen by about 90%). Two, donate the embryos to another couple so they can have a child.

Even if the embryos are going to be destroyed that doesn’t mean that we have the right to experiment with their bodies. Was it right for Nazi doctors to experiment with concentration camp prisoners that were going to be killed? Is it right for us to experiment with convicts on death row? The obvious answer is no. As a civilized society, we recognize the importance of human life. In order to stay a civilized society we can’t abandon our respect for every individual human being.

It is theorized that embryos from fertilization clinics will be used for the initial experiments. However, if these experiments are successful, some in the biotechnology community have anticipated that the supply of embryos from clinics wouldn’t be enough. This is where human cloning enters the picture. During a Congressional Committee, Biotechnology Industry Organization said that the cloning of embryos “are a critical and necessary step in the production of sufficient quantities of vigorous replacement cells for the clinical treatment of patients.”


If they say….
Embryos are the only place to find stem cells.

You say….
There are many life-affirming alternatives to stem cells taken from destroyed embryos. Initially, alternative stem cell research was not extensive because alternative stem cells were thought to be less available and versatile. However, there have been many recent breakthroughs in the use of stem cells that are derived from alternatives to embryos. The most promising of these alternative methods is the use of adult stem cells. All people have stem cells located in blood, bone marrow, and brains. In rats and mice, it has been found that scientists can use key cells from adult bone marrow and can rebuild a damaged heart—actually creating new heart muscle and blood vessels2. The British Medical Journal has stated that research on embryonic stem cells “may soon be eclipsed by the more readily available and less controversial adult stem cells3.” Adult bone marrow stem cells have been shown to form tissues including bone, muscle, fat, liver, and neural cells4. There is also the case of an 18 year-old women whose spinal cord was severed in automobile accident. Thanks to white blood cells from her own skin and bone marrow that have been injected into the damaged area, she now has regained bladder control and recovered significant motor function in her legs.

Researchers have also found stem cells in human fat. Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh and UCLA got fat from liposuction patients and then collected stem cells from this fat which grew into muscle, bone, and cartilage cells5.

Another important note is that stem cells derived from the bodies of patients don’t face the possibility of rejection, unlike embryonic stem cells. This rejection can lead to death since the cells can’t be extracted once the are injected.

Yet another promising alternative to embryonic stem cell research that doesn’t have ethical implications is research on stem cells found in the blood of umbilical cords. The small amount of blood found in umbilical cords after birth is rich in stem cells. Researchers have said “Umbilical cords discarded after birth may offer a vast new source of repair material for fixing brains damaged by strokes and other ills, free of the ethical concerns surrounding the use of fetal tissue6.”

These preceding examples are only a few of the many alternatives to human embryo stem cells. For a long list of alternative research and findings to go to and look at the current clinical and potential applications of adult stem cells.


If they say….
Without embryonic stem cell research, the great potential of stem cells is wasted.

You say….
As mentioned above there are many life-affirming alternatives to embryonic stem cell research. Continued research is needed for these kinds of research but if the federal government begins to fund embryonic stem research that means that there will be less federal funds for research on adult stem cells. On March 8, 2001, a group of plaintiffs, including the Christian Medical Association filed suit against the NIH to prevent federal funding of embryonic stem cell research. The lawsuit argued that federal funding of embryonic stem cell research would cut the funding available for adult stem cell research7.


If they say….
Scientists should be allowed to do the research. Who is the government to stop them?

You say….
The Bush administration isn’t deciding if embryonic stem cell research should be illegal. It is deciding if federal funds should go towards supporting this kind of research. There is a law, called the “Dickey Amendment,” which states that federal funds can’t be used for “research in which a human embryo or embryos are destroyed, discarded, or knowingly subjected to risk of injury or death.” The Clinton administration got around this law by accepting the NIH (National Institutes of Health) Guidelines that separated the research on the embryonic stem cells from the act of obtaining those stem cells. So researchers would have to privately fund the obtaining of stem cells through the destruction of human embryos but could get public funds for research on those cells. Our government shouldn’t be involved in promoting research that involves and requires the destruction of innocent human lives.


If they say….
Embryonic stem cells have already helped people. Isn’t that evidence enough?

You say….
Actually, embryonic stem cells have probably done more damage than help to humans. The whole argument behind research on embryonic stem cells is based on potential cures not current cures. There are a few problems with using embryonic stem cells in actual surgeries.

One problem is that these cells are completely undifferentiated so they don’t always become what researchers want them to become. There was an experiment in China, where a man with Parkinson’s was injected with fetal and embryo cells. He died unexpectedly after improving briefly. His autopsy revealed that his death was caused by the “unexpected growth of bone, skin, and hair in his brain, material the authors theorized resulted from the transformation of undifferentiated stem cells into non-neural, and therefore deadly, tissues8.”

Another problem is that the undifferentiated stem cells could become cancer cells. In an interview with Technology Review, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology publication, University of Pennsylvania bioethicist Glenn McGee said, “The emerging truth in the lab is that pluripotent (embryonic) stem cells are hard to rein in. The potential that they would explode into a cancerous mass after a stem cell transplant might turn out to be the Pandora’s box of stem cell research.”


If they say….
This kind of research could save lives and we should explore all areas of research that could find ways to cure such a wide array of diseases.

You say….
Even though this research could be helpful, it is still never ethically correct to sacrifice the life of one human to save another without their consent. This kind of utilitarian thinking was the same kind of rationale used by Nazi scientists and during syphilis experiments on African Americans in Tuskegee, Alabama.

Medical advancement should continue but not through the taking of human life. No human being should be forced to be made the subject of research without their permission, especially if that research leads directly to their destruction.


References:
1 Prentice, D., No Fountain of Youth, Regeneration Online.
2 Bazell, R. “Approach may repair heart damage,” NBC Nightly News, 3/30/01.
3 Jofeson, D., Adult Stem Cells May be Redefinable, British Medical Journal, January 30, 1999; 318, p. 282.
4 Prentice, D., No Fountain of Youth, Regeneration Online.
5 Lemonick, M., Who Will Live Longest?, Time, April 23, 2001, p. 64
6 “Umbilical cords could repair brains,” Associated Press, 2/20/01.
7 Boston Globe, 3/14/2001.
8 Smith, W. “The Politics of Stem Cells: The good news you never hear.”, The Weekly Standard, March 26, 2001/Vol 6, Number 27

Special thanks to Right to Life of Michigan for providing this article.