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Senate Bill 25, an offensive proposition

Posted: 2/18/2005

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The Massachusetts legislature should oppose Senate bill 25, “An act promoting stem-cell research,” because such a bill would allow the destruction of human embryos for research and experimentation. The bill would also allow the creation of embryos by “somatic cell nuclear transplantation,” the politically correct term for cloning.

If Bill S25 were to become law, it would send the message that human life in Massachusetts is expendable if used for experimentation. The bill aims to create a new legal status for embryos “donated to medicine,” allowing them to be destroyed.

The bill would amend the section of the General Laws of Massachusetts that prohibits experimentation on fetuses to state that a “fetus shall include a neonate and an embryo, but shall exclude an embryo donated to medicine.”

This would create an interesting paradox in the law: On the one hand, the state would be saying that a human embryo has a value and is worthy of protection under the law but, on the other hand, that its value can be disregarded if the embryo is made available for experimentation.

Stem cells can be obtained from different sources: from adult individuals and from human embryos. That source is of the utmost importance in considering the morality of the procedure. Stem cells derived from human embryos can only be obtained by destroying those embryos. Despite what many media reports would have the public believe, it is this destruction of human life that the Church condemns — not all stem-cell research. Indeed, the Church actively encourages research on stem cells derived from umbilical cord blood and adult tissues. In fact, the only practical medical applications using stem cells to date have come from stem cells derived from those sources.

The debate is complex and can be confusing for most of us who are not medical professionals. Still, Catholics must educate themselves on these issues and understand the implications that this bill would have for the future of our society.

The issue gets even thornier when considering the use of cloning in embryonic stem-cell research. Scientists are now arguing that the best way to ensure the success of stem-cell therapy is to use embryos cloned from the DNA of the patient.

What is the potential next step? Proponents of cloning have created deceiving terms that would separate cloning for research — they call it therapeutic cloning — from cloning to eventually create an adult individual — called reproductive cloning. But the fact is that once the cloning process is mastered, nothing impedes those cloned embryos from being implanted into a womb and being gestated. As science progresses and moral barriers erode, who can assure that cloned children will not some day be used to provide fully developed body parts to their parent?

SB 25 crosses a line. Proponents say they are compelled by legislation in other states such as California or New Jersey. They say that Massachusetts will be adversely affected if this bill is not passed. They are wrong. Nothing will adversely affect our society more than losing our moral compass on such a grave and fundamental issue as the defense of innocent human life.

Supporting a bill that would strip an individual of his protection under the law based on his usefulness for research is an immoral proposition that should offend the citizens of this commonwealth.

In her testimony prepared for a Feb. 16 hearing on SB25, Kris Mineau, president of the Massachusetts Family Institute, reminded state legislators of the atrocities committed in her native Germany by the Nazis that included countless medical research experiments on hundreds of thousands of defenseless people. In a compelling statement, she cited the Nuremberg Code — established in response to the slaughter of so many innocent lives — “which forbids experimentation on a human subject when it is known that death or disability will occur.”

Human embryos are human subjects, whether donated to medicine or not.