August 31, 2001
Volume 3/ Number 22
Shortly after President George W. Bush made his “compromise” on embryonic stem cell research, Senator Arlen Specter and others declared war on the President’s decision, demanding funding for experimentation on embryos. Others, like Congressman Chris Smith, are also pressing for more funding, but only for ethical and responsible research on adult stem cells. This is research that, unlike destructive experiments on human embryos, would kill no one. But it is research that is unlikely to be funded at all if wild-eyed scientists have their way. Caught in the crossfire of this debate is America’s frozen population.
Steven W. Mosher
America’s Frozen Population
Wild-eyed Scientists Threaten Life-saving Funds
How many people are there in the U.S. today? That depends on whether you count America’s frozen population. Current estimates hold that somewhere between 200,000 and 1,000,000 human embryos are “in storage”–frozen in vats of liquid nitrogen–at fertility clinics nationwide. Whether they are awaiting the date of their liberation, or of their destruction, will be determined by the outcome of the national debate on stem cell research that is currently underway.
Biotechnology companies, which stand to profit, claim that these human embryos are not really life. Renowned scientists who hope to reduce these embryos to their constituent cells dismiss them as merely “potential” life. Some, to dehumanize them even further, call them pre-embryos, instead of the more scientifically accurate term “embryo.” They hold out the hope of miracle cures for those with Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s or diabetes.
The trouble with these pie-in-the-sky promises is that embryonic stem cell research to date has yielded not one single cure. In fact, not only has the research not shown any therapeutic benefit, but fetal tissue trials – involving cells taken from aborted children – have actually had harmful effects on victims of Parkinson’s. Current reports confirm that stem cell lines may not even be able to sustain themselves, much less be used to cure diseases. (Ceci Connolly and Rick Weiss, “Stem Cell Colonies’ Viability Unproven,” Washington Post, 28 August, 2001, A1). Despite these and other setbacks, many a wild-eyed scientist continues to destroy life, promising that their experimentation will someday bear much fruit.
The truth is that these frozen embryos will only bear fruit if they are implanted into a mother’s womb. If women come forward to adopt these embryos, a few years from now these former frozen embryos would be graduating from high school and college, and entering the work force.
Some 2,100 human embryos were destroyed in establishing the 60 stem cell lines that exist at present. Had these human embryos been adopted and implanted, instead of destroyed for speculative science, a few decades from now we would have approximately 500 doctors, lawyers and other professionals entering the work force. (U.S. Census Bureau, “Current Population Survey,” March 2000, Special Population Division). Were any budding Nobel Laureates among the tiny human beings who were destroyed? We’ll never know.
What is the real potential of America’s frozen population? To be dissected for science? Or to live, grow and participate in American democracy?