A Clear and Present Danger to Human Life

This January 22 marks the 45th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the landmark US Supreme Court case that ruled that a woman’s right to privacy grants her a right to an abortion. Since then, nearly 55 million unborn children have been killed legally through this grisly procedure. Despite abortion rates slightly declining in the last few years, the threat to innocent human life has not waned.

With the advancement of science, we’ve entered a new era of biotechnology where we’re experimenting on humans even more. Though scientists tell us these state-of-the-art procedures promise to treat disease and disability, very few of them are asking the ethical question: We can, but should we?

George Daley, dean of Harvard University’s medical school, recently declared it’s “time to move forward from [debates about] ethical permissibility to outline the path to clinical translation.” In other words, stop talking about whether we’re doing anything right or wrong, and instead move forward with experimenting on humans. I’m all for advances in our ability to help people who are suffering, but not at the expense of endangering, hurting, or killing innocent human beings. That’s why I’m concerned that abortion is no longer alone in its ability to jeopardize the most vulnerable lives in our society. Since Roe v. Wade, new threats have emerged.

  1. Embryonic stem-cell research (ESCR): A stem cell is a special type of cell that can transform into any cell type in your body (e.g. skin cell, brain cell, bone cell, etc.). During human development, our bodies use stem cells to create the various tissues and organs that are required to build our body. ESCR is the process of extracting those stem cells in the first week of development, coaxing them to turn into some desired tissue, and then implanting the new tissue in a patient’s body to treat a condition or illness. Removing the stem cells at the embryo stage, though, kills the developing human since he or she requires those cells to create the rest of their body.
     
  2. In vitro fertilization: In vitro fertilization (IVF) is a reproductive technology that assists couples with conceiving a child. The procedure takes the woman’s eggs and the man’s sperm and manually combines them in a laboratory dish. Once sperm and egg combine to form a human embryo, a new human being comes into existence. IVF clinics often create dozens of embryos, only some of which are implanted in the woman’s womb and nurtured to birth. That means there are usually unused “leftover” embryos (the couple’s own children) that are often placed in freezers and left there for years. These frozen human embryos are sought after by scientists for research purposes—often to harvest their stem cells (ESCR), which ends up killing them.
     
  3. Cloning: Cloning is simply a form of reproduction. Humans can be created though sexual intercourse, IVF, and now by cloning. Unlike the first two methods, cloning creates a genetic duplicate (like an identical twin, but of a different age) of a person. The goal, in most cases today, is to create a human body that is a perfect tissue match to the body of a person with a disease or illness. That way, a clone can be stripped of their stem cells or other body parts and have them implanted into the patient’s body with a decreased risk of rejection. This is precisely the problem with cloning: It treats human beings as a means to an end. Clones are not considered equal to other humans. Rather, they are sacrificed as spare parts for another person’s benefit.
     
  4. Transhumanism: Transhumanism is the biotechnological movement that seeks to enhance the human race. By reengineering our bodies, we have the potential for longer lifespans, greater strength, the ability to resist illness, and other augmentations. One of the more troubling aspects of transhumanism is gene editing (using a technique called CRISPR). Much like editing a sentence in a word processor, scientists can modify the human genome to “improve” individuals. Although such methods appear beneficial, the process involves significant trial and error, resulting in the deaths of human embryos during failed experiments.

We’re not merely anti-science as Christians, though. Nor are we opposed to treating disease and disability. Because we are made in God’s image (Gen. 1:27), we respect human life and oppose killing innocent human beings or treating them as a means to an end.

Besides, we can proceed with beneficial scientific advancements without jeopardizing human life. For example, stem cells don’t have to be harvested from human embryos, thereby killing innocent life. Scientists can extract stem cells from adults and use them to treat various types of conditions. We’ve been treating human beings with their own adult stem cells for decades, and the results have been astonishingly successful. The same careful approach should be taken with any medical technology. Proceeding with beneficial scientific advancements shouldn’t necessitate the termination of innocent human lives.

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Alan Shlemon

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