Pro-Life Groups: We Support Ethical Stem Cell Research

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   May 12, 2004   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Pro-Life Groups: We Support Ethical Stem Cell Research

by Steven Ertelt Editor
May 12, 2004

Washington, DC ( — As the national debate over stem cell research plays out, pro-life advocates are concerned that the media is portraying them as opponents of all stem cell research by virtue of their opposition to embryonic stem cell research that involves the destruction of human beings in their earliest stages of life.

"We have no reason to oppose the majority of stem cell research. Some scientists are actively involved in these ethical and very effective approaches," says Brian Johnston of the National Right to Life Committee.

"The media is desperately trying to define the debate on stem-cells," Johnston tells Painting pro-life groups as opposed to all stem cell research "is a very common assertion, especially among electronic media, who tend to regurgitate simplistic analyses."

Johnston points to news reports on Nancy Reagan’s lobbying of President Bush to reverse his policy prohibiting virtually all federal funding of embryonic stem cell research.

An editorial this week in the New York Times calls Bush’s policy "damaging to medicine."

"What has driven even anguished conservatives to back stem cell research is the plight of patients who suffer from Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, cancer, heart disease, spinal cord injuries and other health problems that stem cell research may someday alleviate," the Times writes. "Although many right-to-lifers consider it immoral to destroy a microscopic embryo in a petri dish to extract stem cells, those arguments begin to look abstract when posed against the terrible suffering of real-life patients."

The Times editorial makes it appear that only embryonic stem cell research offers hope for people suffering from such diseases, pro-life advocates say.

While the media’s focus has been on embryonic stem cells, the use of adult stem cells has proven more effective in research and clinical trials.

In fact, the use of embryonic stem cells has failed to cure a single patient.

"Cord blood stem ells, muscle stem cells, bone marrow, pancreatic, corneal, neural — there is widespread success in such transplants," Johnson explained. "This is particularly true amongst auto-donation regiments, where cells from one’s own body have had a marked impact in transforming damaged tissue."

Recent studies have confirmed the amazing success of the use of adult stem cells in restoring dead heart muscle and even the spinal cord damage of quadriplegia.

"We applaud" adult stem cell research, Johnston said.

"We would hope that the media limelight might focus for a moment on these successes, not only for the sake of those who may be cured y them, but because the ethical use of medicine is something that should be recognized and honored."

Some advocates of embryonic stem cell research say there are no ethical concerns because the human embryos destroys for stem cells are often those leftover from in-vitro fertilization and will be destroyed anyway.

However, Gene Rudd, M.D., of the Christian Medical Association, noted that programs such as the National Embryo Donation Center, offer an ethical and lifesaving alternative to destroying so-called unwanted human embryos.

"Instead of shelving or destroying human embryos, why not allow adoptive couples to receive their embryo(s) and to provide a loving home for any child that may result," Rudd said. "These embryos have inestimable value and can have a great future. They deserve the chance to be born and grow up in a loving, caring family."

Related web sites:
National Right to Life –
National Embryo Donation Center –