Author archives: Hannah Borchers

The Ethical Imperative of Adult Stem Cell Research

by Hannah Borchers

June 6, 2018

On June 15th of 2017, a bill cited as the “Patients First Act” (H.R.2918) was introduced by Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.) and Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-Ill.). As FRC has stated: “This [bill] not only reinforces our belief that all life is sacred and should be protected, but it will also allow the NIH to prioritize non-embryonic stem cell research that has been proven to have the greatest benefits for treating disease.” The bill seeks to intensify stem cell research and improve the understanding of treatment while protecting the dignity of life. Strictly referencing the National Institutes of Health’s annual budget, the bill would continue to fund and encourage stem cell studies with ethically obtained stems cells.

The stem cell battle has been waging since the 1980’s as research regarding both human embryonic stem cells and adult stem cells has advanced. However, despite the great success of adult stem cell research (ASCR) and its continual increase in funding, the push for human embryonic stem cell research (hESCR) has remained. The success of hESCR is often touted by proponents, but the lack of funding due to its inability to produce successful therapies for patients does not match these statements. In fact, funding for non-human embryonic stem cell research has more than doubled that of hESCR for years.

The largest issue with hESCR is the ethical procedures of obtaining human cells. While many scientists have clearly stated that human embryos are not considered lives, the language used by hESCR proponents seems to contradict this notion. In NIH’s brief overview of hESCR, they specifically state that embryonic stem cells “are not derived from eggs fertilized in a woman’s body.” This statement may seem like a simple explanation of experimental procedure, but the fact that NIH felt the need to address the location of fertilization as an ethical clarification already hints that they know full well of the ethical dilemma at stake. Even in the realm of science, NIH is admitting that there is something wrong with experimenting on an egg fertilized in a woman’s womb. Still, lab fertilization should not be the solution.

The solution is not that we should remove stem cell research from the agenda of scientific advancement, but rather that it be done in a way that respects all ethical boundaries. There are other ethical options within the realm of stem cell research—the growth and success of ASCR being evidence of this. The Charlotte Lozier Institute published a factsheet pointing out that “effective, economical, and ethical alternatives to embryonic stem cell research exist. Adult stem cells are the gold standard for stem cell treatment, having been used to help over one million patients worldwide.” While proponents of hESCR claim that it is more cost effective and accessible, the scientific community and the people need to decide if ease of access is going to be the deciding factor in medical research.

NIH’s mission is to “exemplify and promote the highest level of scientific integrity, public accountability, and social responsibility in the conduct of science,” all with the intention of serving patients and people. However, the core of hESCR ignores this very goal. The Patients First Act not only calls science to pursue excellence, but also calls the research field to protect human embryonic life while at the same time seek to save the lives of patients. It asks science to put “patients first” by pursuing both excellence and integrity.

For more on the Patients First Act, be sure to view FRC’s Speaker Series event with Rep. Jim Banks as he discusses the bipartisan bill he introduced.

Book Review: When Harry Became Sally: Responding to the Transgender Movement

by Hannah Borchers

May 22, 2018

The growth of the transgender movement has left many unanswered questions, but the media never seems to accurately represent both sides. In 2015, Family Research Council’s Peter Sprigg collaborated with Dale O’Leary to produce a comprehensive 42-page policy paper, “Understanding and Responding to the Transgender Movement.” Now, Ryan Anderson of the Heritage Foundation has provided an even more comprehensive treatment of the topic with a 251-page book. When Harry Became Sally is a fair and informed assessment of the transgender ideology written not to convert the activists, but rather to inform the average American that the implications of gender identity, gender fluidity, and transitioning may go beyond what we have been told by the media. In an engaging walkthrough of every aspect of this growing movement, Anderson makes it clear that we have much more to learn.

The stories of psychologists, biologists, and philosophers give the book more depth than any other response to the transgender movement thus far. In a crusade dominated by emotion and skewed statistics, it is refreshing to readdress the core meaning of male and female and the differences between the sexes. Anderson moves beyond statistics and engages with literature of both sides, seeking to give readers the tools to address this movement in an informed and persuasive way.

Even more moving are the testimonies of men and women who found “transitioning” was not the answer. Often squelched and silenced, the voices of these “detransitioners” are shared with no sense of bias, allowing raw experiences to do the talking and the readers to make their own conclusions.

When one looks at the dangers of gender transition and accompanying reckless treatment plans, it becomes clear that transgenderism is turning medicine into a playground with no rules. Anderson draws from the care plans of physicians and psychologists to give us the data our newspapers would never publish. He tells the stories of doctors ambushed for asking questions and children being given more authority than an average adult. Things are changing, medicine is being politicized, and children are becoming the choosers, even though all the research points in the opposite direction as the path to comprehensive health.

This deviates from the typical brash narratives of transgenderism. As Anderson makes clear, he is not seeking to destroy a movement, but to save lives. Never failing to speak with love, the author has given us one of the most systematic and sensitive approaches to gender identity. As we follow the different waves of feminism and philosophy, it is evident that this ideology had been percolating for years, but our society is only now coming to face the ramifications. His brilliant overview of policy shows that everyone is affected by this movement. While legislative bans and surgical operations seem like the simplest solution to our problem, they only put a Band-Aid on a very large wound and drive a wedge deeper into a cracked foundation.

With grace and humility, Anderson acknowledges that our society is not perfect. In fact, he admits that societal stereotypes greatly contribute to many distortions of gender identity. Anderson is not seeking to validate stereotypes, but to illuminate how complex the issue is. We have rushed to medical and political decisions that have radical implications, without truly understanding what we have done. Anderson asks us to think, not simply with our hearts, but with our heads.

Anderson’s main goal is to inform and encourage, reminding us that taking a position is not enough. There is still much to be done, still much to be explained, still much to be researched. In the meantime, we are doing irreparable damage and silencing voices, rather than empowering them. Anderson proves that we must hold on to the reality of humans being embodied as male or female, even while society diminishes the importance of human nature altogether. Our culture believes that breaking foundations is the only form of progress, but this will only destabilize the moral architecture of society.

Hannah Borchers is an intern at Family Research Council.

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