In 1818, Mary W. Shelley authored a famous horror novel which detailed the exploits of a young medical student whose name was Victor Frankenstein. In the story, young Frankenstein created a “monster” from the parts of dead human bodies. It was only fiction. More horrible now is the fact that modern “Frankensteins,” subsidized by our tax dollars, and with the approval of some congressmen, are using parts from human beings, who, in most cases, have been murdered.
Oh, they don’t call it murder. To these mad scientists, it’s just “embryo research.”
Enter the picture: “stem-cell” study. Stem cells are basic biological building blocks. According to a recent Associated Press article, one type of cells, called pluripotent stem cells, have the ability to create any organ or any tissue. Scientists suggest that by guiding the development of these cells, it might be possible eventually to replicate various body parts (including the replacement of damaged hearts), to treat brain disease and injury, and perhaps lead to the cure of diabetes.
Does this sound exciting? There is a catch. These stem cells are derived from human embryos and fetuses taken from fertility clinics and other abortion facilities.
Three years ago the federal government banned research using human embryos, but last week (February 23) Donna Shalala, secretary of Human Health Services—a member of the Clinton team and a graduate of what one writer has called the “U.S. Department of Parsing and Semantics”—stated that she believes federal law permits the study of cultured cells “even though the cells were originally obtained from human embryos” (The Record, February 24, 1999). In other words, the government will not fund actual embryo research, but once the cells are isolated from the sacrificed embryos, the government will support the cell research. Some have suggested that this is about like saying: “We are opposed to killing bears, but we fund the bear-rug industry.”
The basic problem is this: those involved in this experimentation do not believe they are using the cells taken from human persons. They do not believe that the termination of “embryos” and “fetuses” is homicide. Human life per se is not sacred to them. In the infamous Roe v. Wade decision, the Supreme Court suggested that a growing embryo does not become a person until it reaches “viability,” i.e., the potential point at which it is able to live outside the mother’s womb, albeit with artificial aid.
This criterion for “personhood” is both arbitrary and artificial. A one-year-old baby is no more “viable,” i.e., able to survive outside his mother’s body without assistance, than is a one-month-old “embryo” that has been removed from his mother’s body.
How semantically manipulative we have become. “Embryo” is the term used for describing a human in the earliest phases of development; the word “fetus” is employed to depict the child in the later stages of development—usually after the second month. These technical terms allow scientists to avoid using the emotional B-word. But a baby, by any other name, is still a baby. Is a “boy” any less human than a “man,” simply because different words are used to reflect different stages of maturity?
The fact of the matter is, from the moment of conception a new human being has begun life’s journey. Note the following quotation from the TIME-Rand McNally publication, Atlas of the Human Body.
In human beings, a male gamete, or spermatozoon, unites with a female gamete, or ovum, at the moment of conception, following the sexual act. From the zygote develops an embryo, from the embryo a fetus, and after some nine months a baby is born, helpless at first, but soon to develop all the physical and mental facilities of an independent, new member of the species. . . The mother . . . must protect and nourish the child within her through the long months of pregnancy (1980, 139; emphasis added).
Once conception occurs, all of the genetic information constituting the human person is present. Nothing will be added subsequently save nourishment and oxygen. The organism is a human person! Several years ago The Reader’s Digest Association published a book titled, ABC’s of the Human Body. Therein it is stated:
Whether you will have brown eyes or blue, be short or tall, be male or female—all these attributes and more are determined in the momentous instant of conception."
Then note this:
At about eight weeks of age, a baby graduates from embryo to fetus. This name change signifies a change in the baby’s development (1987, 288; emphasis added).
To destroy a child that is growing within his mother’s body is a crime against a fellow human being. It is also a sin against the God in whose image that child is made (cf. Genesis 9:6). To then use the parts of those tiny corpses for medical research is analogous to killing a man, removing his heart, and passing it along to someone else for a transplant! During World War II, after the Nazis had executed millions of Jews, they made lamp shades from their skins. Were those involved in making those hideous shades somehow less culpable?
What has become of our nation’s conscience?