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Last week, the same day President Bush vetoed a bill that would have forced taxpayers to further subsidize embryonic stem-cell experimentation, he signed the Fetus Farming Prohibition Act of 2006.
The former got lots of negative press; the latter caused barely a stir. The latter bode poorly for embryonic stem-cell research’s public image. Better to ignore.
At any rate, a ban on fetus farming wasn’t controversial, passing unanimously in both the Senate and House. Fetus farming seems far-fetched.
But ratifying FFPA scythed a huge swath through plans of embryonic stem-cell harvesters – laudable quick work by pro-life academics and politicos before the other side’s powerful lobby could sway self-interested politicians and Americans.
Researchers have promoted embryonic stem cells as magical, saying they can be coaxed to develop into any type of cell.
But the thesis hasn’t stood. ESCs isolated from very young embryos grow wildly into cancerous tumors. That which was extolled, their pliability, makes ESCs difficult, perhaps impossible, to control.
Furthermore, because ESCs come from unique human beings, whatever they might be coaxed to grow into stands as much chance of matching a recipient as, say, bone marrow, another type of stem cell. The likelihood of bone marrow matches between donor and recipient is 1:4 for siblings and 1:20,000 for unrelated people.
Imagine the logistics of growing and storing a minimum of 20,000 livers in a national liver bank. That’s just livers. The list of body organs and tissue needed to cure ailments is countless.
Despite those obstacles, ESC proponents inexplicitly reject shifting their focus to adult and umbilical cord research, both of which are morally acceptable and making huge gains. Adult and umbilical stem cells, of course, provide exact matches if the donor is the recipient. There would be no organ or tissue rejections.
No, ESC researchers are determined to walk further down the sinister path, which is why they fight cloning bans. Cloned body parts would also provide exact matches.
What else would increase their odds of success?
Older embryos and fetuses.
(“Embryo” is the scientific name for preborns up to 8 weeks old, “fetus” for preborns older than 8 weeks.)
At eight weeks gestation, basic structures for all body systems are established. All remaining time in the uterus is spent growing and refining tissues and organs.
Bioethicist Robert George of Princeton concluded in the Weekly Standard last October that ESC researchers were beginning to look toward older preborn humans.
[R]ecent studies show that the problem of tumor formation does not exist in cells taken from cows, mice and other mammals when embryos have been implanted and extracted after several weeks or months of development (i.e., have been gestated to the late embryonic or fetal stage). This means that the real therapeutic potential lies precisely in the practice of fetus farming. Because the developmental process stabilizes cells (which is why we are not all masses of tumors), it is likely true that stem cells, tissues and organs harvested from human beings at, say, 16 or 18 weeks or later could be used in the treatment of diseases.
The other side had already begun the shift.
Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s 2005 embryonic stem-cell research executive order not only authorized taxpayer funded human cloning research but also “payment” for “transplantation or implantation of [embryonic] tissue,” with no age restriction. It also included “payment” for “cadaveric fetal tissue,” or dead fetuses.
In other words, researchers who wrote that executive order were planning to harvest a new crop in Illinois, fetuses, in uterine farms.
George noted his home state of New Jersey had also passed legislation to harvest “cadaveric fetal tissue.”
“What the bill envisages and promotes, in other words,” wrote George, “is fetus farming.”
With the passage of the Fetus Farming Prohibition Act of 2006, one important method to grow crops of fetuses for research has been shot to hell, where it belongs.
But there are still loopholes. Researchers can still grow them in artificial environments.
They can also still use aborted baby parts, the biggest reason why the abortion industry supports ESCR.
One of my sons rented a small home on the corner of a hog farm last year, so I’ve learned a little about the industry. He told me that sometimes due to rigorous jostling in close quarters, a pig will burst open. In that event, the other pigs will quickly descend upon the eviscerated animal and eat it.
There’s an analogy in there somewhere.
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