Keep your hands off my Science
The two main opponents that the field of embryonic stem (ES) cell research faces are political and moral in nature. The political view of the situation states that there should not be research conducted if it results in human tissues being destroyed. And the moral dilemma is that the embryo utilized is/could have been a human itself. These two opinions stem from the same basic principle which is that a human embryo can be viewed, in very specific circumstances, as a human or part of a human. These two views are very closely linked by this opinion, and therefore can be dealt with simultaneously.
As stated before much of the aversion to the use of ES cells in regenerative medicine has been derived from the Dwickey-Wicker amendment in 1996 which prohibited the funding for research that destroyed any human tissue. While the concern for causing or incentivizing the destruction of a potential human life is obvious, the basis of this amendment is flawed. At first glance this amendment seems irrefutable, but upon closer inspection the fallacy of the document is perceptible. The fallacy lies within the notion that a nearly single celled tissue is human solely because of the fact that it was human derived. Other pseudo-moral laws that strive to define a human life differ in what is human and what is not.
While separation of church and state has been pushed for almost since the inhabitation of the United States, being first cited in Thomas Jefferson’s 1802 letter to the Dansbury Baptist Association, there seems to still be a mixing of Christian ideals within the current laws. While the Conference of Catholic Bishops has been open with their opinion that the destruction of any human embryo is grossly immoral, either by research or by abortion, the vast majority of states in America have late term abortion laws which allow second and even third trimester abortions. The discrepancy is immediately apparent in these two views. Now, certainly most would agree that a discrepancy between political and religious parties is acceptable. However, nearly all of the arguments for the current abortion laws were derived from a moral standpoint which is what makes this discrepancy interesting. The famous Roe v Wade Supreme Court case ruled that in order to be a human then the infant (for lack of a better term) must be “viable” or able to live outside of the mother’s womb without life support. This is certainly different that the definition of life when it comes to embryonic stem cell research.
These discrepancies themselves do not point to a completely flawed system, but when abortion laws viewed in tandem with the current laws concerning research conducted with human embryos there is an undeniable misstep in logic. It seems that crucial terminology like defining what a life is should be the same across the board. Although it is true that certain words can take on different meanings when viewed under different light, as is the main argument for such laws as medicinal narcotics, illegal in some settings and legal and necessary in others, something as critical as defining human life should not change regardless of the scenario. The question of why aborting an embryo is legal but using it in a lab to save lives is not is prevalent in this topic. Both scenarios, at the same stage of development are viewed entirely differently. In the eyes of many scientists, who know the true power of these types of cells, they should be viewed as one in the same.
Another major concern of the opponents of this field of research is that using embryos for research may lead to incentivizing abortion for the purpose of research. It has been proposed that the donation of usable tissues would merit a payment of some source, which may lead to an increase in abortions for the exclusive purpose of a payment especially in poor areas of the country. This, while a valid claim, has an all too simple solution being: do not offer payment. If a woman has already chosen to have an abortion and the donation of tissue could be used for research then a reduction or free of charge termination could be performed which would give no incentive to have abortions for financial gain.
Many anti-abortion and religious groups also view the usage of previously aborted and cryogenically frozen embryos for research as wrong. Often times it is due to the fact that they view these practices themselves wrong and do not want these tissues used for any other purpose, even though they will be destroyed anyways. This view is flawed because knowing that these tissues hold the potential to save lives or greatly increase the quality of life of a person afflicted with an illness it seems morally wrong to allow to be destroyed without any benefit. If the tissues are going to be destroyed anyway they might as well be used to help someone else.
It is important to remember that this type of research deals with the utilization of human tissue often not much bigger than the period at the end of this sentence. To classify this conglomeration of cells as human is to say that soil should be considered a tree because it may one day give rise to one. There is no argument that it must be a daunting task to define when a fertilize egg becomes a human but it seems that in some instances it is apparent that it is not one. Just as there is no doubt when stating that a toddler is a human, there should be no doubt that an embryo of just a few cells is not a human.
Stem Cell Research and the Church “Stem-cell Research and the Catholic Church.” American Catholic: Web. 02 Apr. 2012.
Jefferson’s Letter “Jefferson’s Letter to the Danbury BaptistsThe Final Letter, as Sent.” Jefferson’s Letter to the Danbury Baptists (June 1998). Web. 02 Apr. 2012.
Abortion Wars PBS. PBS. Web. 02 Apr. 2012.
What Will Become of Embryonic Stem Cells Zacharias, David G. et al. Mayo Clinic Proceedings (Jul 2011) pgs. 634-638 Web. 7 Mar. 2012.
Reece, Jane B., and Neil A. Campbell. Biology. Eighth ed. Boston: Benjamin Cummings, 2011. Pgs (1015-1034) Print.