Category archives: Life & Bioethics

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 and replaces it with the nucleus of another egg that is healthy. 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!

If Father Abraham had Ultrasound

by Robert Morrison

January 20, 2014

We approach this week the forty-first anniversary of the infamous Roe v. Wade ruling of the Supreme Court. Some people are inclined to call that ruling “settled law,” but it has been a most unsettling law. What Roe did was to abort justice itself. This homicidal ruling said that human lives could be taken for any reason or no reason. It is a ruling against reason.

Many of the state laws against abortion were passed in the era of the Civil War, either immediately before or shortly afterward. Those laws were based on the advances in science that clearly showed that human life begins at conception, not, as previous centuries had thought, at quickening. The passage of protective laws on abortion was promoted by physicians, not by the Catholic Church, the Protestant churches, or any other religious bodies. Science had discovered the beginnings of human life. It was taken as a given that the law must protect innocent human life.

What changed in the century following the passage of those protective laws on abortion? Science didn’t change. Human life didn’t change. In fact, it was during the decade of the 1960s that LIFE magazine published the amazing photographs of Swedish photographer Lennart Nilsson. In a stunning full-color spread, America’s most popular magazine sent pictures of unborn children into millions of homes, doctors’ offices, libraries, churches, schools, even beauty shops and barber shops. No one looking at those photographs could deny the humanity of the unborn child. At a time when space travel was first opening new vistas to mankind, Nilsson showed the world these beautiful and compelling images from inner space.

What changed was the regard for truth. This was done deliberately and with malice of forethought. California Medicine, the pro-abortion journal of the state’s medical profession, let the cat out of the bag in this 1970 editorial.

…since the old ethic has not been fully displaced it has been necessary to separate the idea of abortion from the idea of killing, which continues to be socially abhorrent. The result has been a curious avoidance of the scientific fact, which everyone really knows, that human life begins at conception and is continuous whether intra- or extra-uterine until death. The very considerable semantic gymnastics which are required to rationalize abortion as anything but taking a human life would be ludicrous if they were not often put forth under socially impeccable auspices. It is suggested that this schizophrenic sort of subterfuge is necessary because while a new ethic is being accepted the old one has not yet been rejected.

Forty-four years have passed since that journal embraced “semantic gymnastics” and “schizophrenic subterfuge.” Today, this candid commitment to lying is the ruling orthodoxy of  liberal elites in the media, academia, politics, and much of science and medicine. It is regarded as the necessary lie.

Abortion is the unjust taking of an innocent human life. It is wrong. No one has ever been able to demonstrate a single scientific advance that suggests that the unborn child is not fully human. In fact, in their importunate demand that we kill embryonic children to get their stem cells, pro-abortion liberals confirm the immutable truth that the child is fully human from the moment of conception.

Some things are forever right, forever wrong. Of course, there has been a tug-of-war to claim the allegiance of the Founding Fathers, Abraham Lincoln, and Martin Luther King for one side or another of our modern day cultural clashes. And former New York Gov. Mario Cuomo can be relied upon to embrace Father Abraham as a proto-liberal Democrat. Others liberals chime in.

I have never found a reference by Lincoln to the question of abortion. We know he favored women’s suffrage; he said as much. But the women’s suffrage leaders of his day were strongly pro-life. And Susan B. Anthony was most eloquently so. So we cannot infer that his support for the just claims of women would have included support for abortion.

Lincoln did speak about eternal verities of right and wrong. He offered a parable of the ant. Even the ant, Lincoln said, knows when he is wronged. Take away from the ant the crust of bread he has earned from his own labor, and he will resist you. Lincoln said this as a way of refuting the spurious arguments of pro-slavery politicians of his day. Slavery they argued, is a positive good, benefiting slaves as well as masters. Lincoln rebutted that lie most powerfully. Clearly referring to the massive attempt at justifying slavery as a “positive good” undertaken by such leaders as John C. Calhoun, Lincoln pointedly punctured their balloon. “Though volumes have been written to justify the good of slavery,” he said, “we never see the man who seeks the good of slavery by becoming a slave himself.”

What if Father Abraham could have seen the unborn child on ultrasound? I have seen Dr. Bernard Nathanson’s video of The Silent Scream. I held his monitor for him as Dr. Nathanson addressed a right to life audience with this powerful true record of the abortion of an unborn child at twelve weeks. Even at that early stage of pre-natal development, you can see the child struggling, resisting, trying to fend off the murderous probe that will take her young life. It is a soul-searing experience to see that killing on ultra-sound.

Such irrefutable evidence moved Dr. Nathanson, then an atheist who had presided over 60,000 abortions, to repent and, in time, to come to a saving faith. Dr. Nathanson related the campaign of lies, half-truths, and semantic gymnastics President Reagan authorized Dr. Nathanson to present that video to a White House audience. And Dr. Nathanson sent video copies of The Silent Scream to every Member of Congress.

I do not claim Father Abraham as a right-to-life advocate, but I do ask others what they make of this Lincoln quote from 1858:

Nothing stamped in the divine image was sent into the world to be trod upon.

Lincoln meant it to refer to the slave, of course. But we have a right to ask: Are not unborn children so stamped?

Don’t Miss out on ProLifeCon

by Krystle Gabele

January 9, 2014

In less than two weeks, we will be hosting ProLifeCon, which is a gathering for pro-life internet activists.  Come and join us, as we hear from experts and legislators, who will inform you about the cutting edge of the pro-life movement and give you ways to make an impact on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and the rest of the online world.

Confirmed Speakers include:

  • Ryan Bomberger, Chief Creative Officer, The Radiance Foundation
  • Joe Carter, Director of Communications, Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention
  • Michelle Duggar, Star of TLC’s “19 Kids & Counting”
  • Brian Fisher, Co-Founder and President, Online for Life
  • Jane Fuller, Executive Director, Assist Pregnancy Center of Virginia
  • Bethany Goodman, Assistant Director, March for Life Education and Defense Fund
  • Arina Grossu, Director, Center for Human Dignity, Family Research Council
  • Anna Higgins, Senior Fellow for Life Studies, Family Research Council
  • Tony Perkins, President, Family Research Council
  • Henry Potrykus, Senior Fellow, FRC’s Marriage and Religion Research Institute (MARRI)
  • Sen. Rick Santorum, Founder, Patriot Voices
  • Jill Stanek, Blogger, jillstanek.com
  • More to be announced

Register today for ProLifeCon 2014 and invite your friends.  You can also join in on the conversation on Twitter by using #ProLifeCon.

Gordon Chang Gives Details of China’s Paltry One-Child Policy Changes

by Chris Gacek

November 19, 2013

Go to this article in Forbes by Gordon Chang who reports on China’s coming demographic cratering.  China’s fertility rate has declined from 5.9 under Deng to 1.4 presently with the advent of the brutal one-child policy.  As Chang explains, the recently announced population-control policy changes will allow a modest number more urban dwellers to have two children.  However, this minor adjustment is not going to be rolled out quickly.  Perhaps, the greatest resistance to population policy change lies in the fact that the family planning police represent the Communist Party’s strongest control over the populace.  Thus, the Party will be deeply reluctant to relax its grip on that nation even though population decline is rapidly approaching.  You can also listen to this excellent interview of Chang by John Batchelor.  Go to the player and start at 31:00.  

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