The Battle Is Far from Over
By Mary J. McClusky
September 3, 2010
Pro-life Americans can applaud a federal judge’s recent decision to block guidelines for taxpayer funding of human embryonic stem cell (ESC) research; yet we should remain vigilant in the fight to protect the lives of our tiniest brothers and sisters. It is morally wrong to destroy week-old human embryos for research using their stem cells – and funding such experimentation diverts funds from research and treatments that are providing real therapies today using adult stem cell sources.
Critics of the recent ruling argue that millions of dollars will now be wasted -- ignoring the millions of dollars already spent on ESC research without clinical benefit, as well as the many lives already destroyed in this research. Because the human embryos must be obtained from fertility clinics, turning them into sources of research material perpetuates the destructive practices of the infertility industry. Procedures such as in vitro fertilization (IVF) typically involve the production of many embryos at one time, requiring hyperstimulation of the mother’s ovaries that poses risks to the mother’s health and even life; “excess” embryos inevitably result and are then frozen or discarded. Children should be seen as God’s beautiful gift to a married couple who remain open to His divine plan of love and life, and not as a commodity which we produce, manipulate, and destroy at will.
Opposing the funding of destructive embryo research can seem like an uphill battle. But polling indicates that efforts to do so are having an impact. A recent poll by Rasmussen Reports found that 57% of U.S. voters oppose using taxpayer funds for embryonic stem cell research. Unfortunately, the same polling showed only 24% of voters and 52% of “pro-life” voters seeing embryonic stem cell research as morally wrong. Support for ESC research may be fueled by public confusion over embryonic versus adult stem cell research, and by ignorance of the fact that the embryonic variety always involves killing the “donor.” Advocacy for the moral status and rights of embryonic human beings must continue, and most urgently within pro-life circles.
Despite the mixed polling results and the Administration’s unfortunate decision to appeal this court ruling, hope can be found in decades of successful treatments and promising advances in adult stem cell research. Recent examples include reversing leukemia, restoring the speech of stroke victims, and improving heart function in heart attack victims. Find out more by visiting www.stemcellresearch.org.
Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, chair of the USCCB Committee on Pro-Life Activities, recently called for the government “to renew and expand its commitment to ethically sound avenues of stem cell research . . . These avenues are showing far more promise than destructive human embryo research in serving the needs of suffering patients.” Catholics everywhere can answer this call by educating those nearest to them on how human embryonic stem cell experimentation has been “hyped” and morally sound alternatives are given less attention. Spread the good news about continuing advances with adult stem cells. Visit www.nchla.org to stay alert for legislative developments on research that requires the destruction of human embryos.The promise of ethical adult stem cell research is real, and the battle to prevent federal funding of experimentation on the smallest of our brothers and sisters is far from over. Each of us is obligated to share the Gospel of Life and to declare that the life of each and every human being, regardless of his or her stage of development or condition of dependency, is a priceless gift and worthy of our protection.
Mary McClusky is Special Projects Coordinator at the Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. To learn more about the bishops’ pro-life activities, go to www.usccb.org/prolife.