RWR on Stem Cell Research  

Monday, August 01, 2005

Look, everyone who comes here knows I'm one thing above all - HONEST.

Beyond that, I'm a Federalist (today we call that a Constitutionalist).

I felt that President Bush's embryonic stem cell research compromise in 2001 was a sincere and well-thought-out way of bridging the gap between the two sides of the issue, though it would clearly have been better had he simply handed the issue off to the states, where it rightly belongs.

I generally do not believe that stem cell research has the potential a lot of people say it does. There are just as many doctors and scientists saying it's a waste of time as there are saying it's got all this potential. I also don't think it's right to kill a baby just to do research on it, but in the case of a line of stem cells that already exists, well, maybe that's a fair compromise.

Of late, there has been talk of using stem cells from embryos (babies) that have been donated by couples involved in fertility clinics. This is a difficult situation to judge, since these embryos are often left over from couples' successful attempts at bringing children into the world through the processes of various fertility treatments that result in extra embryos being created. Many of these extra embryos are frozen for use in future attempts to bring children into the world. Often, these frozen embryos die off in the process of trying to bring them to term. I'm just not sure I'm ready to condemn these parents if they decide to donate any remaining embryos to science. After all, I am pro-choice, at least to the extent that choices are made in whether or not to engage in activity that could result in human reproduction.

By choosing to engage in sexual activity, I believe that a woman has chosen any consequential pregnancy that results. Choices do have consequences, and I do not believe that anyone should be immune to the consequences of the choices that they make. Surely, a man should have to bear the brunt of the burden of raising the child, in keeping with the traditions of this country, but the woman has an important responsibility as well; and if you are going to require the father to finance a child's upbringing, it is clearly fair to require that a mother bring a healthy child to term. I have often been asked by "pro-choice" people if I believe it is right to force a woman to carry a baby. My response is always the same: If she wasn't forced to have sex, then yes, she should have to carry the baby. After all, if she chooses not to abort the pregnancy, the father has no choices with regard to whether or not to pay for the child's needs for the next eighteen years. Again, the emphasis is on the choice BOTH partners made when they made the choice to engage in that behavior.

But stem cell research on embryos donated by parents who have been unable to find suitable surrogate parents may be another fair compromise. I haven't read deeply enough into the current Bill Frist controversy to understand what exactly the issue is, but if he is promoting this sort of thing, I don't fault him for it. Of course, if the voters in his state disagree and they vote him out, well, I can't disagree with them, either. They certainly have the right.

Do I look at these embryos as human children? Of course i do. But I am also very familiar with the process (due to friends and family actually having used it) that takes place. Many eggs are harvested from the mother and placed in a dish filled with fluid. They are bombarded with sperm in the same fashion ordinarily experienced by only one egg (or sometimes two). This is necessary for a couple of reasons - 1. Despite the large number of eggs in the dish, there is still no guarantee any of them will actually fertilize, 2. Even though many eggs may accept fertilization and begin to multiply, there is still a high probablility that any given embryo will miscarry. Ordinarily, two embryos are placed in the uterus in the hopes that one of them will survive. This process is repeated until an embryo successfully implants itself in the uterus. Any remaining embryos are then frozen and saved for future use should the couple wish to give their child a brother or sister. From there, the pregnancy continues as any other, albeit with a higher risk factor.

This is not a situation where the parents have chosen to end a life for their convenience, but rather to create life in an effort to give someone the gift of life, experience the joys and pains of parenthood, and fulfill their responsiblity to procreate. Because the process is so random as to whether any given pregnancy will "take", these families must produce extra embryos for future attempts, as explained above. One relative successfully brought a child into the world in this fashion, and used up all the remaining embryos in an attempt to repeat the process. A friend, also having successfully brought a child into the world in this fashion, has frozen embryos waiting for future attempts and intends to use them soon.

But what if there just happens to be an embryo or two left over after all is said and done? Would I oppose them being donated to science? To be honest, I just don't know. This is not a clear-cut issue like abortion, which people use as a means of escaping the consequences for their actions. These people are working to create life, not to end it or avoid it. They are acting out of love, not fear or defiance. They are facing their responsibility, not trying to escape it. They are simply working to fulfill their marriage vow to accept children and raise them with love and discipline.

So, there you have it, folks. An issue on which the opinionated (and very proudly so, I might add) RightWingRocker simply cannot take a side. In my heart and mind, I go back and forth on this one. However, I can and will take these positions: The States and the people of those states should make this decision locally, since the Constitution does not provide for federal funding of this type of research. Further, any politician (Bill Frist included) who has taken a position on this issue, regardless of which position it is, and has done a turnabout without a reasonable explanation to his voters, deserves whatever fate he/she receives at the ballot box on Election Day.