The Observer—Official Newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Rockford
Publication date: August 4, 2006
By Patricia Pitkus Bainbridge
Director, Respect Life Office
“Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing had happened.” Attributed to Winston Churchill, these words seem relevant in the ongoing debate on embryonic stem cell research (ESCR).
During the war of words, a number of individuals became living examples of the citation above. However, the award for the best example of “stumbling over the truth and hurrying off” goes to Sen. Bill Frist (R-Tenn). In an opinion piece in the San Francisco Chronicle on July 13, 2006 Frist writes, “Although I am anti-abortion and believe the human embryo has moral significance from the moment of conception, I will back this embryonic stem-cell research package on the Senate floor.”
Five days later, writing in The Washington Post, Frist begins, “I am pro-life. I recognize that human life begins at conception; before coming to the Senate, I spent my life practicing medicine in order to save lives.” He continues by claiming he has a “deep-seated belief that human life has value at all stages of development” and that “each human embryo represents a nascent, genetically distinct human life and thus has tremendous moral significance.”
Senator Frist acknowledges the scientific fact that the human embryo is a “genetically distinct human life;” he acknowledges that embryos have “tremendous moral significance;” and yet he wants to bestow governmental sanction on their destruction. He admits that he has “deep moral concerns” about ESCR and yet, he ignores those concerns.
Most politicians pushing for ESCR dance around the facts with semantic gymnastics. Unlike Frist, they don’t stumble over the truth—they don’t even come near it. Instead, they attempt to dehumanize the embryo by talking about him or her being “potential life” and nothing more than “a collection of cells.” They do not concede the definitive scientific fact that human life begins at fertilization/conception and that the embryo is not “a collection of cells,” but a self-contained organism that contains cells.
Instead of debating the facts, ESCR apologists resort to emotionalism interspersed with false choices and grand illusions with a glaring absence of scientific fact. Instead of logically debating whether or not it is permissible for society to condone destroying one human life—no matter the stage of development—for the benefit another, they tug on emotions by focusing on individuals who “might” be helped from ESCR.
ESCR advocates reduce the discussion to a false choice between ESCR or the “death of millions” who suffer from disease. They give false hope that cures are “just around the corner” and that ESCR offers the best chance for those cures.
Much of the discussion centers on the fact that only “left over” or “spare” embryos from in vitro fertilization procedures would be “used” [killed] for research—as if this made the destruction of tiny humans acceptable. William Kristol, of the Weekly Standard, writes: “Yes, such embryos might be left over in fertility clinics, but the fact that they are unwanted does not change what they are or give us a license to destroy them.”
There are some scientific “advancements” that simply must be rejected and destroying human embryos for their stem cells is one of those. Even if the purpose is to discover successful treatments for those suffering, we may never do evil that good may result. The end does not justify the means.
Our hearts go out to those who are suffering, but we must not kill even one human being—no matter how small—in an attempt to benefit another. There are moral ways to reach the same end and those are the ones science must pursue.
To date, there have been at least 72 diseases/conditions that have been successfully treated in humans using non-embryonic stem cells. Not one human has been successfully treated with embryonic stem cells.
Let’s not stumble over the truth and hurry off as if nothing happened. Let’s acknowledge the truth and spread it widely.