Associated Press Corrects Stem Cell Story With Erroneous Info

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jan 7, 2004   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Associated Press Corrects Stem Cell Story With Erroneous Info

by Steven Ertelt Editor
January 7, 2004

Trenton, NJ ( — The mainstream media is again receiving criticism for not getting the facts straight in its reporting on important bioethics issues. This time the Associated Press is under fire for a key factual error that appears in a correction to a previous article.

AP staff reporter Krista Larson, in a January 4 article about New Jersey Governor Jim McGreevey signing a stem cell research bill, wrote, "Stem cells are produced in the first days of pregnancy and help create the human body."

On Wednesday, the Associated Press issued a "clarification" that offered the following correction: "The story should have explained that embryonic stem cells used for research are grown in a laboratory and do not involve pregnancy."

However, the correction is inaccurate: the stem cell legislation McGreevey signed does involve pregnancy.

According to the National Academy of Sciences, the method used to initiate the reproductive cloning procedure is called either nuclear transplantation or somatic cell nuclear transfer. If the procedure is successful, the cell will divide several times to produce a pre-implantation embryo, or "blastocyst."

That blastocyst, a tiny, unique human being, can either be implanted into a woman’s womb or killed before implantation in order to obtain embryonic stem cells. If implanted, the unborn child can either grow and be born or aborted.

"The new law in New Jersey would, in fact, allow cloned human embryos to be implanted in a human or animal uterus, grown to any stage of pregnancy, and then aborted in order to obtain stem cells or any other desired parts," Douglas Johnson of the National Right to Life Committee told

Marie Tasy of New Jersey Right to Life, agreed that the legislation involves pregnancy and the implantation of human embryos that can be killed for research.

Tasy said combating media bias and misinformation is difficult. She told that the erroneous "clarification" issued by AP "just shows the ignorance or disinterest that is pervasive in the media."

"One reporter prints something that is incorrect, and it just keeps getting repeated," Tasy explained. "Many times, there is no attempt to even try to get it right. I have called reporters many times to complain about the scientific and factual inaccuracies and misinformation surrounding the bill. The best I have been able to accomplish is a correction, but, in the case of A.P., it doesn’t usually do any good because invariably most newspapers have already picked up the story with the incorrect information."

The Associated Press did not respond to a request for comment.

Meanwhile, not only does the New Jersey law allow scientists to engage in the "clone and kill" process, Prof. Gerard Bradley at Notre Dame Law School says that any woman found carrying a cloned human being would be required by law to abort her baby, even if she decided not to do so. This is because the law prohibits the birth of human clones.

Since forcing women to have abortions is unlawful, the birth of human clones is almost certain to result from this legislation, according to Bradley.

Bradley also points out that the bill, in effect, allows the creation of a market in embryonic and fetal body parts by allowing "reasonable payment" for services or purchases related to cloning and harvesting.

Thus, not only can a human embryo be cloned and implanted (involving pregnancy) and subsequently killed for the stem cells, but women could be paid for their participation in the process.