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Stem cell research needs cultural acceptance

The cultural lag to accept research on embryos makes little sense. It was more than 30 years ago that Roe v. Wade legalized abortion in the states. Five years later, Louise Brown, the first baby to be conceived through in vitro fertilization (IVF), was born. Since then, countless babies have been birthed as a result of IVF.

What some fail to realize, and what medical professionals don’t necessarily advertise, is that multiple eggs are typically fertilized during the IVF process. As a result, only the
highest-quality embryos are selected and the others are destroyed and discarded.

In 2006, former President George W. Bush issued his first veto to a bill that expanded federal funding for embryonic stem cell research. During a press conference, he explained that the passage of the bill would be crossing a “moral line” and “support the taking of innocent human life,” according to The New York Times.

Regardless of the authenticity of the “moral line” Bush was referring to, that line had already been far crossed by Roe v. Wade and IVF. As such, it is absurd that stem cell research is still being legally debated.

Those holding a consistent view of what embryos are within the current legal scope must never consider them persons. For some, personhood is defined by the consent a woman has given to cultivate the embryo, and the intrinsic value of life is gifted by the gestation period, not the collection of cells itself.

Conforming to this logic, President Barack Obama lifted the ban on federal funding for stem cell research March 9.

The move allows for potentially remarkable scientific breakthroughs. Stem cells have many therapeutic applications. When the body is injured, stem cells can help it grow new cells.

In January, approval was given for the use of stem cells in patients with spinal cord injuries. In research done at the University of California, transplants of human stem cells in laboratory rats with similar spinal cord injuries proved promising. Many of the lab rats exhibited improvements in locomotion, giving researchers hope for stem cells’ application in humans with paralysis.

Limiting research and funding for a technology that could be a significant boon to the quality of life of thousands of people based on a legally inconsistent and empirically deficient ethical position is absurd. The administration should be applauded for looking beyond political pandering and reviewing the scientific merits of stem cell research.