Research With Body Parts of Aborted Babies Won’t Cure Diseases

Opinion   |   Luis Zaffirini   |   Dec 7, 2011   |   12:09PM   |   Washington, DC

A while back Don Reed, writing for the Huffington Post, argued against a pro-life bill in the Wisconsin Assembly that would prohibit the sale or use of body parts of aborted unborn babies for research purposes. He argued specifically that Lou Gehrig’s disease will be more difficult to cure if the bill becomes law. He also contended that pro-lifers should find no fault in the use of fetal tissue in experimentation or research which depends on the destruction of human embryos.
He claims that if embryonic stem cell research were illegal, a host of diseases “would be ravaging the country right now.” He lists seven such diseases which just so happen to be taken directly from an opinion article written by the director of a Wisconsin stem cell study program.
Mr. Reed’s claim is entirely false. He suggests that vaccines for these diseases would not exist without fetal tissue to produce cell lines, However with a single exception (chicken pox), there do exist alternatives which do not rely on the remains of an aborted child for all disease.
In his opinion piece Reed also maintains that all these vaccines relied on fetal cell research to be developed. But this is also not true. The rabies vaccine was first developed by Louis Pasteur who grew the disease in rabbits. Today, an inexpensive and purified version of the vaccine is produced using chicken embryos.
With respect to using the bodies of aborted babies for research, Reed’s rhetorical trick is to concede that people may not agree on abortion, “But if there is an abortion, should we criminalize any good coming from it?” Reed analogizes their use to the decision to donate someone’s organs after a fatal car crash.
But the comparison is embarrassingly faulty. A fatal car crash is an accident which ends in a death; an abortion is deliberately planning a death. Making that point even clearer the Wisconsin bill does not prohibit the use of miscarried or stillborn babies who die a natural death.
Reed insists that pro-lifers miss an important point: embryonic stem cells research has no abortion connection.” Embryonic stem cell research, for example, biologically cannot produce an abortion,” he writes, “because there is no pregnancy. No womb, no baby.”
But it is Reed who misses the important point. Pro-lifers know that all abortions end a unique human life. But they also understand that not every destruction of a unique human life—lethally extracting cells from a human embryo– is an abortion.
Perhaps most offensive was Reed’s assertion that we do not honor the memory of Lou Gehrig and will not cure the disease named after him, unless we allow experiments that rely on destroying human embryos or using the bodies of aborted babies.
His arguments are based not on facts, but on mere emotional appeals. His whole argument is made all the more absurd by two recent news items.
The first is that the scientist who cloned Dolly the sheep, Ian Wilmut, has been urging his fellow scientists to move away from embryonic stem cell research and toward adult stem cell research. Second is news that Geron Corp. has closed down its embryonic stem cell research program in the middle of a series of clinical trials.
These are the very trials Mr. Reed mentioned in his Huffington Post article about Lou Gehrig’s disease written in September. He also addressed the Geron’s decision in an article he wrote just last week. He bemoaned the “political harassment” and “hate-filled propaganda” that lead to the end of embryonic stem cell research at Geron Corp. But all that hyperventilating misses what really convinced Geron to move in another direction: there are cheaper, ethical, AND proven adult stem cell therapies already in existence.
At the Maryland Right to Life Convention this past weekend, I had the pleasure of listening to Dr. David Prentice who pointed me to two resources for anyone interested in reading about and seeing the real life applications of adult stem cells. These sites are: and
I was particularly touched by the story of a young lady from San Antonio (a city very near my home town) who had been left quadriplegic after a bad car accident. With the aid of adult stem cells taken from her own nasal passage, she has regained feeling in most of body and believes, with good reason, that she will walk again. Amazing.
Barbara Lyons, executive director of Wisconsin Right to Life, put it well in an opinion piece in support of the Wisconsin bill:
“The lesson has been clear throughout the ages: Devalue the humanity of a member of the human family, and any abuse is possible. Today, the unborn child is the least-protected member of the human family. The war on unborn children has escalated dramatically since the 1973 Roe vs. Wade decision to the point where unborn children are now viewed by researchers as a mere product – not really human to justify what they are doing but valuable nonetheless simply because they are human. They can’t have it both ways.”