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The Morality of Stem Cell Research 10/19/2006

Michael J. Fox, who suffers from Parkinson's disease, uses his affliction to campaign for Democrats.

Stem cell research has shot to the forefront of political debate leading up to the mid-term elections. Michael J. Fox's emotional television ad supporting the Democrat Party has raised many questions about the various forms of stem cell research and forced us to examine our own attitudes toward this evolving science.

As a Christian, should we support or oppose stem cell research? Does it promise to cure debilitating diseases? Is it akin to human experimentation? Should it affect the way we vote? These questions must be answered in order to avoid purely emotional reactions to a highly sensitive subject.

Scientists are still discovering new facts about stem cells, but the general belief is that stem cells can transform into virtually any other type of cell, like a brain cell, blood cell or muscle cell. These new cells may then replace damaged cells in the human body, thereby leading to healing for a wide range of diseases. (See the National Institute of Health for more detailed information.)

Scientists primarily work with two kinds of stem cells from animals and humans: embryonic stem cells and adult stem cells. There is little moral debate about the harvesting of adult stem cells and, in fact, more progress has been made in this area than in others. Research shows that stem cells taken from your own body have a greater chance of success to create healthy cells for your own use. Stem cells from other people run a higher risk of rejection by your body.

The moral debate surrounds the use of embryonic stem cells, which can be taken from fertilized human embryos often used for in vitro fertilization. The root issue is whether or not a fertilized egg constitutes human life. It is the same issue that determines the morality of abortion. That is, if human life begins at conception, then abortion at any stage and embryonic stem cell research both result in the destruction of a human life.

However, if life begins at a later stage, such as the beginning of brainwave activity (about 40 days after conception,) then embryos could be considered usable human tissue. The difficulty with this position is the fact that embryos undeniably contain the potential to become a human life. Many "snowflake children" are alive today, having been derived from the very same embryos that scientists wish to use for stem cell research.

President Bush and many elected officials have balked at the idea of federally funded research on embryonic stem cell research. Privately, the research continues, but at this point, your tax dollars should not be used to destroy human embryos.

Pro-abortionists cannot allow any debate on the beginning of life because it threatens their fundamental commitment to abortion on demand. If embryonic stem cell research proves immoral, then abortion on demand logically becomes inexcusable.

Research on adult stem cells continues unabated. Republicans and Democrats both support and fund this research. Everyone wants to find a cure for Parkinson's disease, muscular dystrophy, leukemia and all of the other potentially affected ailments. But some people do not want to sacrifice human lives to achieve that end. There is no evidence to show that these cures require the destruction of embryos, so many people push for alternative research in order to avoid trampling the most basic human right of the unborn – the right to live.

In politics and in much of the media, nobody seems willing to discuss the real issue, which is when life begins. But each of us must decide what is important in this debate. Does life begin at conception or at another point? Are human embryos worthy of protection? We all want to see Michael J. Fox get well, but not if it requires the involuntary sacrifice of another person's life.

Author: James Robison

Word Count: 632

About the author: James Robison is the founder and president of LIFE Outreach International, an international humanitarian aid ministry; host of the television program, Life Today; and author of The Absolutes: Freedom's Only Hope.

Media Contact: Randy Robison, editor at

Photo available upon request. Reprint rights granted with attribution for complete, unedited article. Revisions allowed only with approval.