With President Obama reversing the veto that former President George W. Bush placed on a bill the senate passed in 2006 that would have expanded federal funding of embryonic stem research, the debate between pro-choice and right to life groups reignites.
But what really is the hoopla about?
Stem cell research provides much needed information that could possibly present life-saving treatment options for those who suffer from a variety of different forms of cancer, diabetes, spinal cord injuries, Alzheimers, MS, Huntingtons, and Parkinsons. Stem cells are found in basically all multi-cellular organisms. These cells have the power to renew themselves through mitotic cell division and can transform into a diverse range of specialized cells.
There are two fundamental types of mammalian stem cells that can be speceifically used by humans:
1. Embryonic cells
2. Adult cells.
Embryonic stem cells are found in a developing embryo. These stem cells have the potential to differentiate into all of the specialized embryonic tissues, which means that the stem cells of an embryo can make up major organs in the human body such as kidneys, liver heart, skin , etc. Embryonic stem cell research involves the destruction of blastocystes that are formed from laboratory-fertilized eggs, which is the basis for the controversy.
A Blastocyst is an early stage embryo, about four to five days old and it is made up of 50 – 150 cells. These can develop into more than 200 cell types of the human body. In the U.S. alone, there are more than 600,000 laboratory-fertilized embryos that are abandoned and mark for mandatory destruction due to abandonment. Out of that number, maybe a hundred embryos are adopted each year.
So, the issue evolves into what should become of the embryonic stem cells of the embryos that are to be destroyed anyway? If research can be performed on an item ear-marked for elimination, why the roadblock?
Right to Life groups argue that embryos are living human beings at the beginning stages of development. Pro-Choice groups argue that an embryo is not a human being and is not categorized as such until it develops into a baby and is born. The religious corner of the debate believes that life begins at conception and anything that interferes with this process is a sin against God and humanity.
However, the correlation between science and government is the true culprit. When America was founded, the Constitution expressedly dictated a complete separation between religious beliefs and the government. So, the struggle is birthed and debated as it has been for hundreds of years. President Obama commented on that debate in his press conference Monday by saying that “when it comes to stem cell research, rather than furthering discovery, our government has forced what I believe is a false choice between sound science aand moral values. In this case, I believe the two are not consistent.”
When science first devised a plan to help parents who could not get pregnant the old fashioned way through the now popular and infamous procedure of invitrofertilization, the breakthrough was a heralded triumph for mankind. The act of duplicating one of the greatest mysteries of life, and thereby playing God and eliminating Him from the equation at the same time, caused a stir in the religious world.
But in this year of 2009, some thirty plus years since this scientific marvel, people worldwide have used this procedure of IVF. Some who have benefited from IVF are Bible-carrying members of the religious right in America who were against the procedure from the start. But, did any of the recipients of IVF give it a second thought as to what happens to the embryos that they don’t or can’t use due to finances, marital status, health concerns, death, etc.? You know, the octomom’s primary argument of having her embryos implanted at a time that the public believed to be an irresponsible one, was that she considered these embryos as living human beings, her children, and she didn’t want them destroyed.
Therein lies the problem.
“Many thoughtful and decent people are conflicted about, or strongly oppose, this research. I understand their concerns, and we must respect their point of view,” President Obama continued in his press conference. Therefore, Obama’s reversal of the Bush administrations’ stance on the issue of stem cell research takes a dramatic turn from a formerly moral and religious tone to a scientific one.
“The potential it offers,” President Obama said, “is great.”