Category archives: Life & Bioethics

The Ongoing Struggle vs. The End Game

by Rachel del Guidice

July 31, 2014

Several years ago I read this letter on the Priests for Life website. It was 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.

Adult Stem Cells Help Conquer Lupus

by David Prentice

March 20, 2014

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Jackie Stollfus is a very caring and happy person.  But systemic lupus threatened her health, happiness, and even her life.  Lupus is an autoimmune disease affecting more than 5 million people worldwide.  “Lupus is my body attacking my body,” explains Jackie.  “If you have a cold, your body attacks the cold.  My body attacks my kidneys.  It doesn’t know the difference between a cold or my kidneys or my skin or my blood, it’s attacking it.”  There is no known cure, only treatment of symptoms with medication.  And none of the medications worked for Jackie.

When all seemed lost, Jackie’s doctor suggested she look into the work being done by Dr. Richard Burt at the Northwestern University School of Medicine in Chicago.  Jackie’s treatment involved using her own adult stem cells, which as Jackie puts it gave her “a brand new immune system.”  Five years later, she’s better than ever, enjoying the outdoors with her husband Brian while looking ahead to a long, happy life—and a family.

Adult stem cells have given Lupus survivor Jackie Stollfus a better life, better health, and a chance to be a mom.

Watch Jackie’s story at Stemcellresearchfacts.org!

Protecting the State of the Unborn

by Krystle Gabele

January 30, 2014

H.R. 7 was passed in the House of Representatives on Tuesday night, as six Democrats and a 39 vote victory ensured that taxpayers will not be funding abortions.  While the House passed the measure, we would ask the Senate to take up the conversation and debate.

Below are remarks by Members of Congress in support of H.R. 7.

Let’s Restore Government Neutrality When it Comes to “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion”

by Arina Grossu

January 29, 2014

Yesterday, the House debated, voted, and passed HR7 227-188-1. HR7 is a bill that will restore government neutrality when it comes to “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion”. Since the Hyde Amendment’s passage in 1976, it has been status quo that no federal monies may be used to pay for abortions. Obamacare created a loophole that bypasses the Hyde Amendment. HR7 seeks to make the Hyde Amendment permanent so that there is no government funding for abortion or funding for health care coverage that includes abortion. Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC) said, “The American people do not want their hard-earned money to destroy human life… Our government should not be in the business of subsidizing abortion.” She is right. Americans should not be forced to pay for the destruction of children.

In a frenzied attempt Planned Parenthood sent out an action alert asking Members to vote against HR7. Pro-abortion supporters called HR7 a “radical Republican assault on women’s rights”. This is just typical emotional rhetoric about “women’s rights”. However, by law women will continue to be able to get abortions. HR7 simply continues to ensure that my money and yours will not be used to pay for other people’s abortions, a provision that has been upheld for the last 38 years.

Save a Baby’s Life and Save a Second Life with Baby’s Umbilical Cord Blood Stem Cells

by David Prentice

January 22, 2014

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(a similar version of this item was first published online by National Right to Life News;
for more stories you can access the January issue of National Right to Life News and Family Research Council’s Life issues pages)

This year we mark the 41st anniversary of the onset of tragedy; a tragedy because of the horrific loss of life, and many more lives than we realize.  The legalization of abortion in the U.S. by the Roe v. Wade decision has cost over 56 million preborn babies their young lives since that fateful day in 1973. 

The numbers are staggering, difficult to grasp; the U.S. has lost more lives than the population of many entire countries such as South Africa or South Korea, almost as many deaths as the entire population of Italy or the United Kingdom.  But those aren’t the only lives lost or scarred as a result of abortion in the U.S.  There is no accurate number of the women who lost their own lives, as well as those who have been physically and psychically scarred by abortion.  The victims are often silent and unknown, but seriously harmed.

And yet the number of lives lost as a result of abortion is even more than that.  Because many lives could have been saved from the delivery of those babies, by the collection and use of adult stem cells from the umbilical cords of those born babies.  We could have doubled the lifesaving, by letting babies live and be born, and using their umbilical cords to save life from that life saved. 

Umbilical cord blood stem cells have become an extremely valuable alternative to bone marrow adult stem cell transplants, ever since cord blood stem cells were first used for patients over 25 years ago.  The first umbilical cord blood stem cell transplant was performed in October 1988, for a 5-year-old child with Fanconi anemia, a serious condition where the bone marrow fails to make blood cells.  That patient is currently alive and healthy, 25 years after the cord blood stem cell transplant. 

Since that time, over 30,000 cord blood stem cell transplants have been done around the world, and transplants have increased for various blood and bone marrow diseases and leukemias, as well as for genetic enzymatic diseases in children.  Cord blood stem cell transplants have also become more common for adults with leukemia.  Cord blood transplants have been especially helpful for racial and ethnic minorities. 

Bone marrow adult stem cell transplants require an exact match between donor and recipient, and it can sometimes be difficult to find a donor match for a patient, especially for minorities.  But umbilical cord blood stem cells can be used with some mismatch and still provide successful treatments.

The Wall Street Journal recently noted the increased interest in umbilical cord blood by scientists and doctors seeking stem cell cures.  Besides current treatments, cord blood stem cells are now being studied for their potential to treat many more diseases, including Type 1 diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis, as well as congenital heart disease and cerebral palsy.  The story quotes Dr. William Shearer, professor of pediatrics and immunology at Baylor College of Medicine:

It’s a disposable item that Mother Nature provides us with… It’s a renewable source.  It’s free and why not use it?”

Since the first umbilical cord blood stem cell transplant over 25 years ago, over 600,000 cord blood units have been stored away around the globe for future lifesaving transplants.  Just two examples of public programs to collect and store umbilical cord blood stem cells are the National Marrow Donor Program (motto: “You could cure someone’s blood cancer by giving birth”) and the National Cord Blood Program, and additionally there are commercial cord blood storage companies, involved in collection, storage, and research.  The data so far show that cord blood stem cells can be stored frozen for over 20 years without loss of potency.

And it’s not controversial.  As a recent news story in the Washington Times showed, many more states are turning to ethical, successful adult stem cells, providing real hope and real treatments for thousands of people.  Kansas last year initiated a unique Midwest Stem Cell Therapy Center that will treat patients, do research on new therapies, educate the public and professionals on the advantages of adult stem cells such as those from cord blood and the solid umbilical cord, serve as a resource to process patient cells for treatment, and train physicians to deliver those treatments.  Paul Wagle was appointed by Governor Brownback to represent the patient community on the new Advisory Board for the Kansas Center.  Paul received an umbilical cord blood stem cell transplant for his leukemia in 2005.  Partly as a result of the successful treatment, Paul developed an interest in science and earned a triple major from Benedictine College in Kansas in 2013, and is now in seminary.  The Kansas Center has already treated its first patient and held its inaugural scientific conference.

Here are just a few other examples from FRC’s “Adult Stem Cells Saved My Life project” of the double lifesaving from a born baby and the saved cord blood.

Mary Lou Rusco also received umbilical cord blood stem cells for her leukemia.  She received the treatment from doctors at the Kansas University Medical Center, and is now free from leukemia.

Joe Davis, Jr. was diagnosed with sickle cell anemia, at only a few months old.  His parents were told that he wouldn’t survive to be a teenager, and they couldn’t find a bone marrow match for him.  But along came younger brother Isaac, whose umbilical cord blood stem cells saved Joe Junior’s life.

Chloe Levine received an innovative cord blood stem cell transplant at Duke University to treat her cerebral palsy.  She’s now a happy healthy little girl.

As our good friend Tom McClusky of the March for Life has noted, this lifesaving stem cell research strikes the right cord for life!

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