Originally appeared in Fort Collins Weekly
29 June 2007
If Ronald Reagan were still alive, he’d wake up from a nap, drop his jellybeans and tell the current President “There you go again!” Once again, our fearless leader has broken out his rusty veto pen to fight the evildoers who want to pursue scientific research on stem cells. In the process, Dubya is painting a false picture of the stem cell question, pandering to his party’s base, and paining millions of Americans desperate for a cure for Parkinson’s, diabetes and other life-threatening diseases, including Reagan’s own widow, Nancy.
I know a little about this topic, since we used to belong to a triplet parent’s group. Most of the triplets, quads and more born these days can thank fertility drugs, in-vitro fertilization and other amazing medical advances. Indeed, modern medicine is flying ahead of our moral compass. Fertility docs used to implant multiple fertilized eggs, knowing most or all wouldn’t make it. But now, most of them do survive, leading to multiple births or the moral quandary of “partial reduction.” The specialists also created many, many fertilized eggs in the lab, in case they were needed after initial failure. The estimated 400,000 fertilized eggs living in suspended animation in liquid nitrogen freezers around the US, then, are a victim of the fertility industry’s own success, unneeded by their prospective parents, headed for the bio-waste bin.
That’s right: destined for the dumpster. When President Bush vetoed the bill the first time, he posed with about 70 darling “snowflake babies,” former fertilized eggs fortunate to have been implanted in a friendly uterus, born into this world and prepped for their photo op. That leaves another 399, 930 fertilized eggs with nowhere to go. The choice is not between stem cell research and a happy life in suburbia. It’s between using them for a positive purpose and throwing them away. You tell me which is the real pro-life position.
We’re not honestly contemplating crossing a moral Rubicon in which the federal government “for the first time” pays for the destruction of human life. (Between war, the death penalty, and other federal activities we pay for that every day!) The bill that passed Congress only lifts the ban on federal funds being used for stem cell research. Currently, any lab already receiving federal funds (most of them) is prohibited from doing stem cell research. The bill would lift that ban, allowing the “parents” to donate the fertilized eggs for research, which a new poll reveals most of them want to, anyway.
I’ve tried to avoid the term “embryonic” stem cells. These cell clusters aren’t embryos, and they’re far from babies. They’ve never been inside a female body, and the only “parents” they’ve known are lab techs. Scientifically speaking, they are blastocysts, clumps of less than 100 undifferentiated cells, smaller than this period. They feel no pain since they have no nerve cells, no organs, no brain. If they did have nerve cells, they’d be scientifically useless. The whole point is they haven’t yet developed, so they can become any type of cell we need. That’s also why they hold so much more promise than other types of stem cells. Personally, I prefer scientific research decisions based on science, rather than religious dogma or political ideology.
Logically, then, we have only two choices. We either need to elect a veto-proof Congress and/or a sane President, or we need to find homes for the remaining 400,000 frozen fetuses. Just as pro-war patriots should volunteer for duty in Iraq to be consistent, “pro-life” ladies need to volunteer their wombs to give little Billy Blastocyst and Emma Embryo a fighting chance. Operation Uterine Rescue, anyone?