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Stem Cell Debate Still Divides

Stem Cell Debate Still Divides

The Catholic Church debating the fate of hybrid animal-embryos in England and a vetoed stem cell research bill in the U.S. have renewed the discussion about the controversial topic.

Last week, President Bush vetoed a bill that, at its center, is one of the most polarizing issues his administration has dealt with. It is the second time the president has vetoed a bill that would allow new federal funds to support stem cell research. Last July, he vetoed a similar bill involving embryonic stem cell research legislation. This time, he signed the executive order asking researchers and scientists to pursue “ethically responsible” means of study.

Proponents of the legislation believe that stem cell research could be a key to unlocking cures to diseases such as Parkinson’s and cystic fibrosis, and that federal dollars could be a major push for further development. The president, however, addressed White House officials, saying, “If this legislation became law, it would compel American taxpayers for the first time in our history to support the deliberate destruction of human embryos. I made it clear to Congress and to the American people that I will not allow our nation to cross this moral line.” Some supporters say it is important to note that scientists were not further restricted on what kind of research they could do, but just on what would be funded through taxpayer money. Many pro-life groups support the president on the issue because of the implications it has on the value of human life at all levels.

In a story out of London this week, the Roman Catholic Church has become involved in a controversial issue surrounding experiments with hybrid animal-human embryos. British parliamentary legislation contains elements that seem like they could almost be out of a sci-fi novel.

Researchers created the hybrid embryos, which have earned the nickname “chimeras” (a mythical half-man, half-animal), to conduct their own study into diseases and potential cures. Because there is a shortage of human embryos, scientist experiment with the hybrid. Legislation that is being debated in the British parliament would require scientists to destroy the chimeras after 14 days, and it would be illegal to implant them into a woman’s womb. That’s where the Church has stepped in. A group of bishops have asked that the embryos be allowed to develop into human children, saying women should have the right bear them. They point to the fact that the children would be more than 99 percent human because the animal embryos would be “stripped of their nuclear and species identity.” The bishops are opposed to creating research embryos, but they say, if they are created, they should be allowed to develop, minimizing harm to human life.

With an election just a year away, the topic of embryonic stem cell research will continue to be a hot-button issue, especially for Christians concerned with its implications on the view of human life.

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