Category archives: Life & Bioethics

Public Confidence in CDC Drops

by Robert Morrison

October 22, 2014

Now public esteem for the long-respected Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has plummeted with the arrival of Ebola on American shores. A new CBS News poll found that only 37 percent of Americans thought the centers were doing a good job, down from 60 percent last year. In fact, of nine agencies tested, seven that were judged highly by a majority of Americans last year have now fallen below 50 percent.

I have had my own concerns for decades about CDC. When I was a young appointee in the federal education department under President Reagan, I was assigned to the mournful task of researching suicide among youth. Among other troubling things I learned was that, following the quiet repeal of laws against suicide by all the states, the suicide rate among young Americans tripled.

In the course of my research, I had a briefing book sent to me by CDC. It had the demographic tables for suicide among every group in America—from Ashkenazi Jews (very low) to Zuni Indians (tragically high).One statistic had me scratching my head. I called CDC in Atlanta to ask if numbers for the suicide rate among Black women could possibly be correct. They were near zero! “Well, yes, we’ve noticed that stat, too,” said the CDC staffer on the other end of the phone line, “We call it the BFPF—Black Female Protection Factor.” What is that, I asked. “They’re very religious,” came the reply.

CDC knows this, but they don’tadvertise this? I remembered the Public Service Announcement from TV from the 1950s—”The family that prays together stays together.”

Family Research Council’s respected MARRI—Marriage and Religion Research Institute—is now the best source to show (with incontrovertible evidence) the importance of marriage and faith in our families’ well-being.

Of course, the scales had already fallen from my eyes about CDC. I knew that they had employed Willard Cates there. In 1980, Cates was doing “abortion surveillance” for this federally-funded agency. He advised abortionists to charge fees based on the size of the foot of the unborn child whom they had killed. Even now, thirty-fouryearslater, that reality still send chills down my spine.

Article from The New York Times

Adult Stem Cells Help Bryan Hinkle Make a Lifesaving Comeback

by David Prentice

September 4, 2014

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Bryan Hinkle was living the American dream.  But a disease called CIDP got in the way.  CIDP (Chronic Inflammatory Demyelinating Polyneuropathy) is an autoimmune disease that attacks the peripheral nerves.  Bryan was diagnosed with CIDP as a teenager, but the disease was masked and controlled with medication and life went on.  Then his disease came back with a vengeance, robbing him of virtually all feeling in his legs and feet.  He ended up in a wheelchair, depressed and afraid.  “My biggest fear was that I was going to die,” says Bryan of those darkest of days.  “This disease was winning and it was going to overtake me.  I was just living my days, waiting for the end to come.”

But then Hope made a comeback.  Bryan came across news of a doctor in Chicago who had developed a ground-breaking adult stem cell therapy for CIDP.  Bryan was accepted into the treatment program, and received a transplant of his own adult stem cells as part of the therapy.  Within two days he noticed a difference, and his recovery continued from there.

Today Bryan has his American dream back.  He leads a happy, healthy life thanks to adult stem cells, a discovery that’s changing the face of regenerative medicine and giving people real hope in their fight against dozens of diseases and conditions.  Bryan says, “I’ve regained my independence.  I’m helping take care of my children, I’m being the husband and the father that I dreamt about not too long ago.  And for that, I’m just thankful—thankful and amazed.”

See the video of Bryan Hinkle’s amazing comeback!


Send Your Ice Bucket Challenge Donation to Ethical, Successful Adult Stem Cell Research

by David Prentice

August 21, 2014

You’ve probably heard of it by now, the Ice Bucket Challenge.  Those challenged are supposed either to dump an ice bucket of cold water over their head, or donate to ALS research.  Most people do both, posting a video of their icy bath.  It’s a stunt, but has successfully raised awareness of ALS as well as donations for research.  But people should consider where their donations go and how the money is used.

ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, a.k.a. “Lou Gehrig’s Disease”) is a fatal, progressive neurological disease.  It attacks the nerves that control voluntary muscles, so it is sometimes termed “motor neuron disease”.  As the nerves die, muscles weaken and atrophy, including the muscles for breathing; most people suffering from ALS die of respiratory failure.  The cause is unknown and at this point there is no cure, and very little that can even slow disease progression.

So, raising awareness about ALS and increasing support for ALS research is a good thing.  But whether you participate in a challenge or just donate to important research, where should your donation go?

So far, most of the attention and millions of dollars in donation have gone to the ALS Association.  However, the ALSA has admitted that it gives some of its money to embryonic stem cell research and has no qualms about doing so in the future.  (Note the ALSA page linked in the above has just recently been changed, and now notes that embryonic stem cell research “has raised ethical concerns.”)

As Rebecca Taylor has pointed out, ALSA also has given money to an affiliate, NEALS, that has given money to a trial that uses stem cells derived from the spinal cord of an aborted fetus.

That trial is being run by the University of Michigan and Emory University, and sponsored by a company called Neuralstem which uses aborted fetus cells for research (“from the donated spinal cord tissue of an 8-week-old aborted fetus.”)  All of the Neuralstem trials use cells derived from abortion.

Project ALS, another charity for ALS research, also funds embryonic stem cell research.

 

But there are alternatives for donations that use only ethical stem cell sources!

Here are a few of my favorites.

The Midwest Stem Cell Therapy Center (MSCTC) at the University of Kansas Medical Center is only a year old, but is starting an increasing number of clinical trials and educational efforts.

One potential future trial would be using adult stem cells for ALS.  Dr. Rick Barohn, an internationally recognized expert on ALS, recently joined the Advisory Board for the Center.

The MSCTC does not do any embryonic or aborted fetal stem cell research, ONLY ADULT and NON-EMBRYONIC STEM CELL RESEARCH and CLINICAL TRIALS.

HOW DO I DONATE?  click the “Make a Gift” link in the left column of their web page, it specifies donation for the MSCTC.

(Disclosure:  I am a member of the MSCTC advisory board)

 

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Researchers at the Mayo Clinic are currently doing clinical trials for patients with ALS, using ADULT STEM CELLS.

Dr. Anthony Windebank and his team have one ongoing clinical trial for ALS patients and are ready to initiate a second clinical trial for ALS patients.

HOW DO I DONATE?  there is a “Give Now” link near the top of web page from Dr. Windebank’s link above; people can specify that their donation go to his ALS research team.

NOTE that the second trial is in association with an Israeli company, Brainstorm Cell Therapeutics, that is developing the adult stem cell treatment for ALS and other neural conditions.  While this is still an experimental trial, the early results using adult stem cells for ALS treatment have been positive.

 

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The John Paul II Medical Research Institute in Iowa City is doing research in several areas including ALS, and does not support embryonic stem cell research.

HOW DO I DONATE?  use the button for “Donate Now” on their main web page

 

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(the following listing was updated Aug 22, 2014 to clarify the profile of this company)

The Adult Stem Cell Technology Center, LLC is a for-profit company developing new methods for growth and application of adult stem cells, and does not support embryonic stem cell research.

Click “Contact Information” in the right column of their web page and e-mail the Director to learn more about the company’s adult stem cell technology development plans.

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Donate to ethical adult stem cell research!  Adult stem cells are helping patients now!

I loved that boy. I hated that deed:” Della Reese

by Robert Morrison

August 13, 2014

She was on a late night talk show in 1977. Actress Della Reese was being interviewed by Johnny Carson on NBC’s Tonight Show. I thought I was seeing a re-run because the host and Miss Reese were talking about the hit TV series, Chico and the Man.

This was shortly after the suicide of Freddie Prinze, the talented comedian who starred in the series. But, no, they came around to the subject. And Johnny, predictably, went on and on about the comic genius and the great tragic loss of Freddie Prinze. Della Reese spoke authoritatively and with finality. “I loved that boy, I hated that deed.” She would go on to become a familiar fixture in millions of American homes as “Tess,” the motherly figure in the popular series, Touched by an Angel.

I identified strongly with what this sensible woman said at the time. A few years later, I was tasked at the U.S. Department of Education with working on suicide among youth. As a project officer during the Reagan administration, it was my responsibility to study this troubling issue in American society. As part of my duties, I had a briefing book given to us by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta.

That large binder included suicide rates for many ethnic and demographic groups in American society. At that time, I was familiar with the rates for various sub-groups, from Ashkenazi Jews to Zuni Indians.

When I thumbed through the binder, I noted that the suicide rate for Black women was exceedingly low. Almost zero. Could this be a misprint? I called CDC to check on the figures.

We’ve noticed that too,” said the desk officer in Atlanta, “we call it the BFPF.”

What’s that?” I pressed.

The Black Female Protective Factor — they’re very religious.”

Suicide experts going back to Emile Durkheim in the Nineteenth Century have noted the correlation between religiosity and suicide. Those who regularly worship have far lower suicide rates than the unchurched.

Those who join clubs and activities, too, are far less liable to take their own lives. So Volunteer Fire Departments, Rotary, scouting, 4-H, Anglers’ Clubs, etc., can be lifesavers as well.

In the Nineteenth Century, French political scientist Alexis de Tocqueville studied American society and institutions. In his classic Democracy in America, Tocqueville wrote about Americans’ “genius for association.” We love to join clubs, it seems.

We cannot read of tragic suicides — like that of Robin Williams this week — without wondering why. One reason may just be the active efforts to suppress religion in America. How can it hurt to get rid of public prayer and open acknowledgment of God? Increased suicide rates is one way it hurts.

Let’s pray that Americans gain a greater understanding of the value to all of society of religious freedom. It used to be said: “The family that prays together stays together. “That was true in the 1950s. It’s true now. It might also be said: Blessed is the Nation whose God is the Lord.

The Ongoing Struggle vs. The End Game

by Family Research Council

July 31, 2014

Several years ago I read this letter on the Priests for Life website. It gives readers a chilling look at what the future might hold, Frighteningly, the contents of this letter are becoming reality more and more each day.

The letter is from a young woman to her mother, wanting to share some difficult news in a tactful manner. While trying to soften the blow of her news, she mentions her busy life and her husband’s much-needed job promotion before sharing her true reason for writing: telling her mom that she will be euthanatizing her son. It’s not that he’s a bad kid. It’s just that his life is an unfair burden. When reading this warning, I hoped that that was a future scenario never to come.  It is eerie to see how this letter foreshadowed exactly what is happening today in Europe.

In February, Belgium voted to legalize child euthanasia for children of all ages. It doesn’t matter if little Jenny is 5 or 15. Parents now have the right to kill their own children. While the law does state that minors must “be in a hopeless medical situation of constant and unbearable suffering that cannot be eased and which will cause death in the short term,” if we are honest with ourselves, we know that this “stipulation” is elastic to the point that it willbe bent and stretched over time

It’s not only little ones who continue to be targeted by the Culture of Death. Rimante Šalaševiciute, the new prime minister of Lithuania, feels that euthanasia should be a viable option for the poor. Recently, she told local media that “euthanasia might be an option for people who did not want to torment relatives with the spectacle of their suffering.” This new attack on life, as ludicrous as it sounds, should not take us by surprise. First we were told that life within the womb really isn’t life at all. Then we are told that young life, be it sick or troubled, is worthy of death. Now we are told that caring for loved ones less privileged than ourselves is “torment.”

I think we have learned by now that the battling the Culture of Death is an ongoing struggle. It is a Culture led by “a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8).  However, unlike most battles in life, we know the end of the story. The Author of Life is on our side, and because of that, Death will never win.


When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”

1 Corinthians 15:54

You Were a One-Celled Wonder Once

by Arina Grossu

July 17, 2014

Today my colleague Dr. Prentice who is Senior Fellow for Life Sciences at Family Research Council and Dr. Andy Harris (R-MD) whohas sponsored the Human Cloning Prohibition Act of 2012 and has been an active voice in bioethics discussions on Capitol Hill presented a lecture on human cloning.

In the FRC lecture, Dr. Prentice discussed the scientific process of cloning and its prevalence, the current studies and results available, timeline of human cloning, its ethics (or lack thereof), and legislative proposals to ban human cloning.

In the question and answer session with Dr. Harris, what struck me the most was his description of the genetically complete human being at all stages of development and why cloning is wrong:

[People make a] distinction between reproductive cloning and non-reproductive [cloning]…Taking the same technique and doing exactly the same way— the only difference is whether you kill the embryo at a certain number of days or not, [as if it] somehow makes it legitimate to have created the embryo. How’s that again? We have to challenge people [who] say, “Well, it’s not for reproduction.” Well what part of cloning is wrong: is it just if you give birth to a clone or you create the clone? … I hope all of you are aware- one cell, you’re exactly the same as you are now, except you’re a lot bigger. Your genetics is exactly the same; you just have a whole lot more cells. But you have a whole lot more cells than when you were a one year old too, and that doesn’t mean [as] a one year old you were not a human being or you were not entitled to protection.”

What a wonder, that when we were one cell, our genetics were exactly the same as today! Were we any less human at one year old than now? No. Were we any less human as a one-celled human than we are now? No. It is mysterious and miraculous that we are the same genetically complete human beings at one cell development as we are as full-fledged adults.

We must do what we can to pass the Human Cloning Prohibition Act and similar measures to defend the littlest of humans, even one-celled humans, from the destructive and careless forces of scientists and laboratories that do not revere and protect the sanctity of all human life

Blumenthal Pro-Abortion Bill: Going Backward at Full Steam

by Rob Schwarzwalder

July 15, 2014

Various Supreme Court rulings have said that limitations can be placed on access to abortion in the states.

Over the past few years, especially, states have taken the Court up on their offers. According to the Guttmacher Institute, so far in 2014 13 “states have adopted 21 new restrictions designed to limit access to abortion.” Since the beginning of 2011, no less than 226 measures hemming-in elective abortion have been enacted at the state level.

Most of the new laws relate to things the majority of Americans agree are necessary: Sanitary and other health regulations for abortion clinics; requiring that abortion doctors have access to hospitals within 30 miles of their clinics in case of a medical emergency during an abortion; parental notification (note: that’s notification, not consent); requiring that women be shown ultra-sound images of their unborn children prior to having an abortion; bills that prevent abortion once a heartbeat is detected or once we know an unborn child can feel pain.

There is nothing radical about these measures. They better ensure safety for women and provide them with solid medical information concerning what an abortion really is. And they affirm the dignity of the unborn child, among other things recognizing that dismemberment without anesthesia is barbarity.

Now, U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) wants to stop the progress, turning the clock back on common-sense protections for women and their unborn children. His “Women’s Health Protection Act of 2013” (S.1696) — an Orwellian title if ever there was one — would in a single scythe-like sweep eliminate hundreds of protections for women and their unborn babies. As Thomas Messner, legal policy fellow at the Charlotte Lozier Institute, says, the Blumenthal measure “would make it harder when not impossible for states to enforce measures that protect women as well as unborn children. In provision after provision S. 1696 puts not a thumb but a fist on the scales in favor of abortion providers and against both unborn children and mothers who face the fear and uncertainty of unexpected pregnancy.”

Increasing abortion and destroying humane safeguards for the unborn are retrograde actions. They pull our culture back toward a darker era when human life was considered cheap and the powerful exploited the weak. Sen. Blumenthal’s march backward is also a march into darkness. Those claiming to be children of the Light should fight it.

Blumenthal Bill: Bringing medicine back to the dark ages

by Travis Weber

July 15, 2014

S. 1696, the “Women’s Health Protection Act of 2013,” is anything but. Indeed, such a title perhaps would have been more apt (though still laughable) many years ago, before technological advancements made it possible to view, and impossible to deny, that little baby struggling for life in the womb. Now, such a title is a complete sideline, a distraction of advocates of death who grasp at straws and try to block all images from sight and mind of a helpless baby growing and grasping at life as she is about to be delivered onto its stage. No, S. 1696 is not about “health.” It is but the latest ploy in an attempt to deny what is increasingly becoming more undeniable — the life of the baby in the womb.

How does S. 1696 attempt this ploy? By trying to interfere in the regulation of the health and safety of citizens — areas of general authority constitutionally left to the states. The bill doesn’t even attempt to hide this interference, explicitly stating in its findings: “Though described by their proponents as health and safety regulations many of these abortion-specific restrictions do not advance the safety of abortion services and do nothing to protect women’s health.”

The bill would prohibit specific tests or medical procedures in connection with the provision of an abortion. It would also prohibit limits from being placed on an abortion provider’s ability to delegate tasks, ability to prescribe or dispense drugs based on her or his good-faith medical judgment, and ability to provide abortion services via telemedicine. It would also bar states and localities from determining how equipment, staffing, credentialing, privileges, and transfer arrangements would work at facilities providing abortions, and from restricting abortion training. In all these matters, state and local governments may only regulate the health and safety of their citizens regarding abortions if they do so through generally applicable regulations or also regulate medically comparable fields. In addition, S. 1696 would bar state and local governments from requiring women to “make one or more medically unnecessary visits to the provider of abortion services or to any individual or entity that does not provide abortion services” before “obtaining an abortion.” Aside from the overt intrusion into areas of power clearly left to the states, the federal government is now going to tell the states what is and isn’t “medically unnecessary.” The brashness of this power grab is hard to ignore.

As if this wasn’t enough, the bill continues: “[a] measure or action that restricts the provision of abortion services or the facilities that provide abortion services that is similar to any of the prohibited limitations or requirements described [above] shall be unlawful if such measure or action singles out abortion services or make abortions services more difficult to access and does not significantly advance women’s health or the safety of abortion services.” Well that’s nice. How is any of this defined? “[A] plaintiff shall demonstrate that the measure or action involved — (A) singles out the provision of abortion services or facilities in which abortion services are performed; or (B) impedes women’s access to abortion services based on one or more of the factors described in paragraph (3)” (emphasis mine). One such “factor” is “[w]hether the measure or action is reasonably likely to delay some women in accessing abortion services.” So a lawsuit may be brought under this bill by merely showing that it takes longer to get an abortion (please pay no attention to the state’s serious health concerns). Under this theory, one could introduce legislation mandating “immediate medical treatment” of certain conditions because the diagnosis period is “too long.” Another such “factor” is “[w]hether the measure or action requires, or is reasonably likely to have the effect of necessitating, a trip to the offices of the abortion provider that would not otherwise be required.” Who determines what is “required.”

At this point, S.1696 should just stop pretending it is not intruding into areas of state authority. Other “factors” are laid out in the bill. But the last one is a doozy: “[t]he cumulative impact of the measure or action combined with other new or existing requirements or restrictions.” Thus, according to S. 1696, a plaintiff can make out a prima facie case by showing that a law “impedes women’s health” through the “cumulative impact of the measure or action combined with other new or existing requirements or restrictions.” Obfuscate. Muddle. Then go for the power-grab. On top of all this, the bill would require a state to show there is no “less restrictive alternative measure or action” to accomplish regulation of abortion—thus clearly interfering with the rational basis standard typically used to measure state regulation of citizens’ health and welfare. If S. 1696 isn’t an attempt to rip from state control the power to regulate the health and welfare of their citizens, I don’t know what is.

Adding insult to injury, the bill’s authors pretend to care about minorities by claiming that the “harms” they claim to fix “fall especially heavily on low-income women, women of color, and women living in rural and other medically underserved areas.” If they so cared about minorities, this bill’s supporters would look to restrict abortion generally, as abortion providers have been shown time and time again to profit off killing minority babies. Such purported minority rights advocates would have come to the defense of the Arizona law banning race-based abortions, yet they were silent there. Indeed, the NAACP and others actually opposed the law and sued to have it blocked! Yet, abortion must be advanced at all costs. Such is the sentiment of S. 1696.

The World Cup, Human Dignity, and the Unborn

by Rob Schwarzwalder

July 1, 2014

Last week’s World Cup soccer match between Germany and the U.S. was a loss for Old Glory, which nonetheless advances in World Cup competition.

Of note to pro-lifers are the names and backgrounds of some of the German players, names that would have made the late and unlamented Fuhrer rather unhappy:

Shkodran Mustafi, a Muslim man of Albanian descent who was born and raised in Germany.

Jérôme Agyenim Boateng, born in then-West Berlin to a Ghanian father and German mother.

Mesut Özil, a third-generation German Turk and practicing Muslim known to recite the Quran before games.

Sami Khedira, son of a Tunisian man and German woman. Also a Muslim.

Why should people who care about the sanctity of life be interested in these men? Because within living memory, Germany’s Nazi government operated on the basis of severe racial and ethnic bigotry. “(Hitler) loathed Arabs (and) once described them as ‘lacquered half-apes who ought to be whipped.’”

It is therefore quite gratifying to see that the German national soccer team hosts four men Hitler would have considered sub-human. Why? Because as taught in Scripture and affirmed in America’s charter text, the Declaration of Independence, all men are created equal: Arab or Jew, German or Ghanian, every person has been endowed by his Creator with the rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The image and likeness of God exist in all people, whatever their complexion, hair texture, stature, or any external characteristic, racial heritage, or national background. That Germany now seems to have adopted this principle should be welcome news to all of us who care about that most sacred of human rights, the right to life.

Yet like America, abortion is all too available in Deutschland. As one commentator notes, “German abortion laws are not especially restrictive. Abortion is legal during the first trimester of pregnancy and available if medically or psychologically necessary in the later trimesters.”

Two nations with a rich, profound Judeo-Christian heritage affirm the dignity of everyone – except, ironically and tragically, when it comes to the unborn. As Senator Marco Rubio noted in May, “Science is settled, it’s not even a consensus, it is a unanimity, that human life begins at conception.” Don’t the smallest and most vulnerable among us, the unborn, deserve the same protection in law the rest of us enjoy?

Let’s keep working and praying for the day when not only Germany and America but all nations will acknowledge the simple but profound truth articulated by Senator Rubio. When they do, and when they enact laws that ban legalized bigotry not only on the basis of race or ethnicity but on the basis of size or place of residence (in the womb or outside of it), World Cup celebrations will suddenly seem very small.

Ethical Concerns Surrounding Three Parent Embryos Raised on Capitol Hill

by Emily Minick

April 11, 2014

Last month, an FDA Advisory Committee held a hearing examining mitochondrial disease prevention with the creation of three-parent embryos.

Mitochondria are organelles in every cell of the body that are responsible for creating energy. These mitochondria contain their own DNA genes, but mutations in mitochondrial DNA can result in serious diseases and genetic disorders. There have been various proposals to attempt to treat these disorders by mitochondrial replacement therapy, and one proposal that the FDA Advisory Committee recently discussed was the creation of three parent-embryos.

Three-parent embryos are created by various techniques with the intent that the new embryos be healthy and without a genetic disorder. One technique uses an egg from a mother with the genetic disorder and removes the nucleus of that egg, placing the nucleus into the cytoplasm of a healthy egg that has had its own nucleus removed. Then using that recombined new healthy egg it is fertilized with a father’s sperm resulting in the creation of an embryo with genetics from three parents.

There are numerous scientific uncertainties surrounding three parent embryos. There is sparse scientific evidence to support the effectiveness of these techniques. Additionally, there is virtually no evidence to support safety or health results for three-parent children born from these techniques. Plus, one wonders about the impact of this procedure on future offspring, including the unintended side effects of genetic engineering of human beings.

There are also serious ethical questions that need to be answered first, and which were raised to the Advisory Committee during their hearing. These techniques would destroy human embryos for the purpose of science. Additionally, the annual Dickey Wicker Amendment prohibits federal funding for human embryo harm or destruction. Although many presenters who gave oral testimony at the FDA Advisory Committee, including FRC’s Dr. David Prentice, focused on the ethical questions surrounding three parent embryos, the Committee said that they were not focusing on whether the FDA should approve this technique, but rather how they would go about creating three parent embryos.

Senator Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) and Rep. Alan Nunnelee (R-Miss.) both raised concerns recently about three parent embryos to FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg during Congressional hearings.

Commissioner Hamburg admitted that she knows there are ethical concerns regarding this issue, yet the FDA is not the appropriate agency to address those concerns. If the FDA is not the appropriate agency to consider the ethical concerns with this technique, about which they held a public Advisory Committee hearing, who is responsible to address these concerns?

Commissioner Hamburg’s response regarding the ethical controversy surrounding three-parent embryos raises more concerns that the FDA may actually continue to proceed forward with this human experiment, and even produce guidance for scientists who wish to proceed with the creation and gestation of genetically-designed babies.

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