Are Opponents of Embryonic Stem Cell Research Using Octo-Mom as a Poster Girl?

Antiabortion activist Jill Stanek on how conservative Christians see Nadya Suleman


By Dan Gilgoff, God & Country

When I questioned the wisdom of antiembryonic stem cell research activists' using the octo-mom as a poster girl for their cause, it triggered some complaints from conservative Christian quarters. Prominent antiabortion blogger Jill Stanek called my take "ludicrous . . . a typical example of MSM spinning a story to fit the liberal agenda."

I invited Stanek to elaborate on her indictment. I know that Stanek "is not a fan" of in vitro fertilization—which is why she said my claim was "ludicrous"—but I pointed out that the debate over embryonic stem cell research revolves largely around what to do with the hundreds of thousands of embryos already created through IVF, rendering views on IVF itself beside the point on the matter.

In that regard, I argued, it seemed that Stanek backed Nadya Suleman's decision, i.e., that she's a model—what I called a "poster girl"—for what should be done with excess IVF embryos.

Stanek responded to my invitation with a seven-point argument against embryonic stem cell research, saving her octo-mom comments for her last bullet point:

Finally, about Octomom. Pro-lifers differ on the morality of IVF. But most agree children should not purposefully be born into a single parent home. That said, Suleman took two actions upholding the sanctity of human life. She had all six of her embryos (two split into twins) implanted wholly because she did not want them abandoned to an IVF clinic freezer. Her intention was noble, although she did have other recourses. And she refused to allow "selective reduction" when it was discovered she was carrying multiples, or aborting some of the babies under the pretense the rest would stand a greater chance of surviving. Pro-lifers will never condemn her for those actions.

Seems like Stanek here is seconding my original case: that antiembryonic stem cell research activists see the octo-mom as a laudable example of what should be done with excess embryos, as an alternative to using them for stem cell research. Am I missing something?

Here's the rest of Stanek's case against embryonic stem cell research:

1. The overriding question is, "Are embryos human?" If they are not, if they have no more moral value than a fingernail, then I'm fine with experimenting on them. But virtually every science textbook agrees a human being is created when human sperm meets human egg, at the moment of conception. To argue otherwise is to reject science. But say one doesn't trust science and is unsure, such as President Obama, who said such knowledge is above his pay grade. Why in the world would we not err on the side of caution?

2. If human embryos are very young human beings, then those who have been cast off by their parents are not "leftovers." They have been abandoned. And we don't sentence any other human being to death who has been abandoned. The solutions are to place these preborns for adoption, such as the Snowflake program (which would include removing parental rights from embryos who have been abandoned), and to regulate the IVF industry so there are no frozen abandoned embryos.

3. Nevertheless, it is a false premise to say there are so many "leftover embryos" we must allow taxpayer funded esc or they will go to waste. In 2002 Rand researchers found parents had designated only 2.8% of all frozen embryos, or 11,000, for research. That number may have increased, but the percentage likely not, or not by much. In reality, there are not that many "leftover" embryos available for research.

4. This is why in his executive order President Obama left open the possibility for Congress to overturn a law currently banning the use of taxpayer funds to create embryos solely for research, the Dickey-Wicker Amendment, as proponent Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO) told the New York Times March 8 she supports. This debate is not about "leftover embryos."

5. And the debate is actually not about embryos either. It is about cloning. Embryos, being unique human beings, will rarely provide exact matches of tissue or organs from donor to patient. Only clones will. This is why President Obama also left open the door for taxpayer funding of human cloning for research. Note he only said he opposed cloning "for reproduction."

6. Furthermore, since this debate began, embryonic stem cells have been rendered unnecessary, even obsolete. Since 2006, three separate research teams have created induced pluripotent stem cells from adult stem cells, which have the elasticity of embryonic stem cells without the ethical concerns and actual problems, because esc's habitually grow uncontrollably and form tumors. Furthermore, adult stem cells now treat and cure cancer, diabetes, nerve cell damage, blindness, etc., over 70 applications in all. Did you know when President Obama signed his executive order, he also overturned President Bush's executive order funding research for ethical alternatives to escr? Obama didn't have to do that. Bush's executive order had no impact on escr. Why did he? The only answer I can conceive is hostility toward preborn life and.or conservative values.

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