Mother Hubbard's Cupboard

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Location: East Peoria, Illinois, United States

A Lutheran seminarian eagerly awaiting the return of Our Lord. Soli Deo Gloria!

Friday, October 27, 2006

The Politics of Abortion and the 2006 Midterm Elections

You can tell by the rhetoric in the media now that an election is coming up. This one is apparently big, even though many people don't think about anything other than the presidential election as big. We're deciding several important members of Congress.....you know, that other branch of the government we vote for? The big deal is that according to the polls, many of the races are tied neck and neck. Currently, the Republicans control Congress....after this election, the Democrats might. So why am I talking about politics? You all know I'm conservative....who cares? Well, there's a recent hot button issue that has, for lack of a better phrase, pissed me off!
Another person has done this issue justice as well in a very well written blog post.

Stem Cells, Parkinsons, Abortion, and Selective Scientific Ethics:
A new commercial has surfaced in the political arena. Michael J. Fox who was diagnosed with Parkinson's some time ago gives an impassioned plea for the passing of amendment no. 2 which will help sick people by supporting stem cell research. In the commercial he asserts that Missouri's new bill supporting stem cell research will be vetoed by the Republican Senator, Jim Talent, and that it will prevent cures for Parkinson's and other diseases (an add from a conservative perspective with such celebrities as Jim Caviezel, Patricia Heaton, and Jeff Suppan exists as well). I agree wholeheartedly with Rush that in this instance, it seems as though Fox is saying that Talent, and anyone who is against stem cell research is against cures. But there is a caveat in this: Fox uses "stem cells" and "embryonic stem cells" interchangeably in a political context. In actuality, "stem cells" is the broad name of a group of cells that has the potential to become another type of cell.

What are Embryonic Stem Cells?
To understand what embryonic stem cells are, we need to take a brief developmental biology refresher course. Humans are sexual animals who are diploid, that is we have two copies of our genetic material in our bodies. Humans have a male with haploid spermatozoa and a female with a haploid egg. To make the cells diploid, two haploid cells must come into contact (haploid means half, which refers to the sex cells as having a half compliment of the genetic material as the adult, so there is one copy of the genetic material of a parent in each) and in a certain way. Through copulation, a male ejaculates spermatozoa into the vagina of the female. As this occurs, a mature egg is waiting for fertilization in the woman. The sperm encounter the egg, and one sperm will make it in at a distinct spot on the egg. After fertilization, the two cells become one cell called a zygote which has genes from the mother and genes from the father....and a new cell with a unique genetic code is conceived. From that point, the cell begins to grow and new cells are added in a pattern termed radial cleavage. At this point, if a cell is taken away, it won't affect the final organism. Right before the ball of cells (blastocyst stage) begins to differentiate is when the embryonic stem cells (which are those cells that are dividing and growing) would be taken out of the developing human....however, when this is done, the individual dies.

Why is cloning considered in this discussion?
Cloning would be a way to copy the stem cells. There are other methods to get the stem cells to remain stem cells....by preventing differentiation while they are being studied, the stem cells will continue to divide and stay stem cells. This has however led to mutations in the older lines of stem cells. When the cell differentiates though, that's it.....the cell is locked into it's fate. By harvesting these stem cells, we can use the cells with a practically limitless ability to cure Parkinson's disease, diabetes, and other degenerative diseases.

Human cloning (usually under the guise of "therapeutic cloning") has also been mentioned in other contexts to this whole discussion, but in a much bigger way. The Scientist is a popular news journal of the life sciences (by popular, I don't necessarily mean "well known"). In that journal (or news magazine), human cloning has been mentioned in positive ways or with no emotion. The main writers and contributors are usually very divisive politically, and the main benefit of reading the journal is to see what some researchers out there really think about ethics (or lack thereof). The only sane people tend to be the readers themselves who write in ocassionally.

What are Adult Stem Cells and Blood Cord Cells?:
Adult stem cells are stem cells from a human adult. They are unlike embryonic stem cells in that they cannot become any cell in the body, but they can become a specific type of cell depending on what tissue they are taken from.

Blood cord stem cells are stem cells taken from the umbilical cord and placenta when a child is born, and they are stored for later transplant if needed.

Both can be taken without the injury or death of the living adult/baby/fetus/embryo at any stage.

But Aren't Embryonic Stem Cells the Best Stem Cells to Use?:
Theoretically yes in some ways. They can become any cell! But in other ways, it may not be so good theoretically. If the embryo is destroyed in the process of collecting its stem cells, then no matter what cell type you make that stem cell into, it won't have the same genes as the person you are giving them to. In other words, there is a chance for rejection of the stem cells by a person you are donating them to. If the person's own adult stem cells were used, that wouldn't be so much of a problem. If someone needs a hormone, an organ, etc. and you are using embryonic stem cells, you stand the chance of killing them outright because of a biological rejection of the material!

In another way, embryonic stem cells are too undifferentiated. What do I mean? If it can become any cell, you need to make SURE you have the right signalers in the patient you are giving them to so that it becomes the RIGHT type of cell. Once again, if you use adult stem cells, there is less of a range of cells they can become....and less of a chance for undesirable cells to develop.

But Hasn't Research on Existing ESC Lines Shown Promising Results?:
Absolutely not! Differentiation problems have killed people in other countries when ESC have been injected into them! The problem with using embryonic stem cells is that they CAN become any cell in the body.....leading in some animals to tumors.

Instead, adult stem cells have enjoyed much sucess in research and therapy. All one must do is seek and they shall find! You similarly help prevent possible rejection of the stem cells by the person you are donating them to.

Why Bring Politics into this?:
I bring politics into this, a usually religious blog because of the moral and ethical considerations involved. First, there is talk of cloning human beings of which I am against. Second, is the deception that exists in that people use terms interchangeably when they shouldn't simply to get their agenda enacted (everyone has an agenda, but you shouldn't further yours by deception). Third, this has VERY important implications for the abortion debate (by the way, Christianity has NEVER accepted abortion until very recently....it was denounced by church fathers so it is nothing new!).

We constantly think we live in a society that is better than our previous ones because we have science and reason, and our ancestors lived shorter periods of time, afraid of their own shadows and superstitious in all things. Sadly, we have ignored that we are no different from societies in the past. Where civilizations in the Promised Land had both orgys and child sacrifice to Baal, we are no different. Instead of an idol of stone we fornicate and abort to the glory of ourselves and our "freedoms"....but ultimately the blood of our innocent unborn children runs from the altar of convenience (paraphrased from Michael Tagge-"we are sacrificing our children on the altar of convenience"). We live in a society where we not only slaughter our unborn, we canibalize their remains for our own longevity and well-being.

If living another five or ten years must come at the expense of the total lifespan of the next generation, I want nothing to do with it. It is greed and convenience rolled into idolatry of the self and the epicurean lifestyle where we define life so that we don't end up hurting others for our own fun. I pray that God sends His Holy Spirit to help turn our nation, and other nations of the world from their folly and horrific sin. I ask that the Blessed Virgin pray for us and for our unborn children, and I pray fervently that Christ returns to end this suffering on earth......thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven!

2 Comments:

Blogger AJStrata said...

Great Post.

1:29 PM  
Blogger thinkinboutstuff said...

Well said and very informative. Thank you for taking the time to provide a rational contribution to the debate.

2:19 PM  

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