Scientists with Advanced Cell Technology yesterday announced a minor breakthrough in stem-cell collection. The White House immediately seized this opportunity to announce its own major breakthrough in IVF hypocrisy.
The Seattle Times cobbles together a nice summary from reports by The Los Angeles Times and The Philadelphia Inquirer:
A biotech company has developed a way to generate human embryonic stem-cell colonies without intentionally destroying embryos in the process. …
But opponents of embryonic stem-cell research said the new approach still poses moral dilemmas. Proponents, meanwhile, said that going to extraordinary lengths to avoid destroying embryos during research is hypocritical, considering that embryos are created and discarded every day in infertility clinics. …
The method, described in the current issue of the journal Nature, involves taking a normal 3-day-old embryo with eight to 10 cells and removing a single cell, which is then biochemically coaxed into producing embryonic stem cells. The original embryo, despite missing one cell, is unharmed, thus avoiding concerns about destroying a potential life, the researchers say.
Stem cells from days-old human embryos can morph into virtually every kind of tissue, including nerves to replace those destroyed by spinal injuries and cardiac muscle to fill in for cells lost in a heart attack. Scientists see stem cells as the key to a new era of regenerative medicine.
Until now, however, the only way to get these cells was to destroy embryos — which, though smaller than the period at the end of this sentence, are deemed by some people as "the youngest members of the human family." …
Fertility clinics have been removing cells from embryos created in vitro since 1990 to screen them for genetic diseases and chromosomal abnormalities. Doctors estimate at least 2,500 children alive today had a cell or two removed when they were early embryos.
The Bush administration … said it was too soon to say whether the new approach could solve the ethical dilemma at the heart of the research.
President Bush offered little encouragement Wednesday and, if anything, raised the bar higher, suggesting he would not be comfortable unless embryos were not involved at all.
"Any use of human embryos for research purposes raises serious ethical concerns," a statement released by the White House said. "The president is hopeful that with time scientists can find ways of deriving cells like those now derived from human embryos but without the need for using embryos."
So, to review:
Unobjectionable: The discarding of uncounted thousands of embryos every year by fertility clinics. IVF clinics are popular, and therefore good. And therefore their discarding of thousands of embryos is unquestionably also good. Freeze, flush, repeat.
Unacceptable: The use of any of these destined-for-the-dustbin embryos for potentially life-saving research. Embryonic stem-cell research is something conducted by pointy-headed, intellectual blue staters and advocated by out-of-touch Hollywood types like Superman, Marty McFly and that actress who used to play the First Lady. It is therefore bad. And therefore the diverting of any of these clinically doomed embryos from their preordained disposal is a violation of the culture of life and constitutes the "murder" of "the youngest members of the human family."
Morally blessed: The removal of a single cell from an embryo for genetic testing ("pre-implantation genetic diagnosis") in a fertility clinic to separate the healthiest YMOTHF from those who may be prone to disease and which/who will therefore be discarded, as will that single cell used for PGD.
Depraved: Permitting the cell taken for PGD to divide and using the second cell for embryonic stem-cell research.
You can approve of both embryonic stem-cell research and IVF clinics, or you can disapprove of both. But you cannot, as President Bush does, condemn the former while embracing the latter. The logic of Bush's YMOTHF argument against stem-cell research demands an even stronger opposition to fertility clinics. The logic of Bush's sanguine acceptance of fertility clinics demands an even stronger affirmation of embryonic stem-cell research.
The president's circumstantially contradictory attitude toward the sanctity/disposability of the YMOTHF makes no sense. And it doesn't seem possible to even try to make sense of it without coming to some uncharitable conclusions about his intellect and/or his integrity, so I'll stop here.