Mar 6, 2007

Embryonic stem cell debate continues

by Claire Melsi, Opinion
Embryonic stem cell research has been a highly debated topic since scientists discovered the dividing cells in the late 1960s.  On Jan. 12, 2007, the Cures Can Be Found Act was introduced in the House of Representatives. The act would allow taxpayers who funds or the umbilical cords themselves for stem cell research or store stem cells for research purposes to receive credit on their income taxes. A bill to “expand the number of embryonic stem cell lines available for research” has The Stem Cell Research Act has already passed in the House and was introduced in the Senate on Jan. 23, 2007. According to the bill, federal funding of stem cell research would be allowed, as long embryos are not destroyed in the process.

In an article published on, Dr. Dianne Irving states that “The three primary goals usually cited for pursuing this research are: the gaining of important scientific knowledge about embryonic stem cell development and its application to related fields; curing debilitating diseases…and screening drugs for pharmaceutical companies, instead of having to rely on animal models.”

Whether or not the benefits of research outweigh the questionable morality of the science continues to ignite heated differences of opinion.  Although the research has potential, its morality is not debatable. Some may consider this a fundamentalist view conceived within the boundaries of a strictly conservative paradigm.  At the same time, they must be consider that the virtue of upholding a sense of morality may contribute more to the nation’s population than any form of scientific research possibly could.

When does life begin? This is the question from which most debate springs. Regardless of faith and religious beliefs, science alone gives some insight into the answer.  As soon as the sperm and egg conjoin, the zygote immediately establishes its own individual DNA and 46 chromosomes.  If this is what makes each of us human, what sets us apart from the embryos being used for this research?  Does the fact we have survived birth give us any more value? 

According to the U.S. Senate’s Web site, a bill passed by a 63 to 37 vote on July 18, 2006 that would “amend the Public Health Service Act to provide for embryonic stem cell research.” President Bush, who is openly against the procedure, vetoed the bill.  According to, Bush was concerned not only with the destruction of human life, but also with expanding federal support with taxpayer dollars.  

The Hyde Amendment, as mentioned on the Family Research Council Web site, was established in 1977 as a means to greatly decrease federal funding of abortion. Perhaps such amendments are needed in order restrict the use of tax dollars for embryonic stem cell research.

Embryonic stem cell research may also serve as a justification for abortion and thus increase the amount of abortions had by women.  A mother torn over whether or not to abort her child may find it less emotionally horrific to abort the baby if she believes that by doing so she may contribute to society.

While some people promote embryonic stem cell research, society still seems to have trouble establishing when life begins. For example, in the murder case of Lacey Peterson, Scott Peterson was charged with two counts of murder, his wife and the unborn child she was carrying, instead of one. Because the Peterson baby was wanted and Lacey did not ask Scott to kill the baby, the embryo was considered to be a person, not a mere mass of cells.
Despite conflicting views on the issue, it is important that individuals thoroughly scrutinize the topic. Society must come to the understanding that not everything is a grey issue.  Some things in this world are black and white, although our society has a hard time recognizing this.  

When it comes to embryonic stem cell research, it would be easy to say that every individual must draw his or her own conclusion. Unfortunately, due to abortion, a number of people were not given the chance at life that may have allowed them to impact the way the world views this important topic.

Contact Claire Melsi at

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