Thursday, August 24, 2006

Hank Waters and Stem Cells

Hank Waters is the editor of my local newspaper—the Columbia Daily Tribune. In his editorial of this past Sunday, he wrote about the Coalition for Lifesaving Cures rally in Jefferson City. In it, he made several surprising and troubling statements.

First, Waters wrote “Let us freely admit that the procedure used to produce human stem cells for research is cloning, but not in any way part of a process for creating human babies.” The first part of the sentence was the most surprising because the pro-amendment 2 advocates, including supposedly “un-bias” media persons like Waters, have taken every precaution to give a wide berth between the amendment’s language and cloning. Waters was definitely going off the script. Such honesty isn’t suppose to happen it Missouri’s current climate of propaganda and medical hype.

So, to hear Waters “freely admit that the procedure used to produce human stem cells for research is cloning” is quite a breakthrough. It is what my side has been saying all along and it’s what every thinking person in Missouri knows. So it gives me a wee bit of hope that supporters of Amendment 2 are at least coming back to some degree of honesty and reality. Missouri’s Amendment 2 WILL legalize cloning. Even liberal supporters like Waters are finally agreeing with the truth.

The second part of Waters sentence is confusing. Does he want to draw a dis-connect between human stem cells and human babies? That’s very popular in the propagandistic lying machine of the pro-amendment 2 crowd (which I will now start calling PA2). Their mantra is that this isn’t human. They say it is a glob of cells in a Petri dish that suddenly became human if and only if they are implanted into a woman’s uterus. Is Waters advancing that position? It seems so. That position is ludicrous because of two reasons. First, we would need to know what is cloned. Obviously, it is human, so how could the stem cells be anything but human stem cells. Of course, they are not ‘advanced’ stem cells. That’s why we call them embryonic. It’s a title we use to describe a human being in a certain phase of development.

That brings us to the second reason it would be so ludicrous to argue that “produc[ing] human stem cells for research is cloning, but not in any way part of a process for creating human babies.” PA2 folks are using a descriptive term of humanity to now say the human is not human. Because they are against allowing a human embryo to be given the right environment to develop further, they say the embryo isn’t human. That logic really causes me to think of scrambled eggs. Could you imagine them being consistent? They’d have to say, “Look, a newborn really isn’t human if left outside on the doorstep in the middle of Missouri’s winter.” They’d defend it by saying “the newborn baby needs the right environment of warmth and milk, and because we refuse to give that newborn baby that environment, she is not human.” Most of us would be rescuing the baby from the cold and calling the police at that point. But that is exactly the argument being made by the PA2 crowd.

Let me state it again just so you don’t miss it. Their position is that a cloned human embryo needs an environment beyond a Petri dish to continue its developmental journey into a fully developed human; they will deprive that human embryo of his needed environment; therefore, the human embryo is not human. Wow! Which award do you give out—the brainless logic award or the cold, heartless morality award? Please realize denying humanity to the embryo because it has been deprived of a needed environment can easily be extended to other phases of human development. That is why we must engage our state in this issue.

Secondly, Waters wrote of the rally “critics were there, too, saying the new law would legalize human cloning. They should not be allowed to demonize the word.” There’s another WOW statement. Now I realize Hank Waters may easily rank in Missouri’s Top Ten Liberals. Still, it is a remarkable statement. I knew I’d encounter it, I just didn’t think it would be this soon. Did you get it? Regarding cloning, we “should not be allowed to demonize the word.” The paraphrase: Cloning isn’t all that bad. Danforth and Company know Missourians disagree. That’s why they used some 2000 words to complicate this amendment and redefine standard and widely accepted scientific terms. Robin Carnahan knows cloning is bad. That’s why our Secretary of State has deceptively stated the amendment will “ban human cloning or attempted cloning”. And now here’s a prominent Missourian, a newspaper editor of one of our largest cities arguing that cloning isn’t such a bad thing after all. My! How far we’ve already come in a few short months! Waters statement reveals the slippery slope argument. He is ready for cloning. I wonder how many other prominent Missourians are ready for it as well, just reluctant to be as honest about it as Waters. Amendment 2 will legalize cloning but unlike Hank Waters, I’m not ready for that. Cloning should be a “demonized” word because it is a demonized practice.

Third, I found his statement “Today, thousands of organic elements available for creating stem cells are routinely destroyed. To clone them for research is just as legitimately called God’s work as that of the devil” very troubling. Hank Waters is typically very clear and very pointed. You may not agree with him (I typically don’t) but you usually know what he’s said. Here however, I’m even confused. I think he is referring to human embryos created through the in vitro fertilization process. It appears he has combined “cloning” and “in vitro embryos” and if so, notice these troubling elements.

First, he has extended dehumanizing language from cloned human embryos to fertilized human embryos. Embryos created by sperm and egg union in a laboratory dish are only “organic elements” in Waters vocabulary—not human embryos as recognized by science. Second, you do not “clone” embryos created through in vitro fertilization. Cloning is not the same as extracting stem cells. You can harvest embryonic stem cells from a human embryo created through the in vitro process or you can harvest embryonic stem cells from a human embryo created through the Somatic Cell Nuclear Transfer (cloning) process. Both end the life of the developing human embryo. Third, the idea that “thousands of organic elements…are routinely destroyed” is exaggerated and irrelevant. Most in vitro embryos have not been slated for destruction. Many couples are preserving their embryos and giving them over for adoption to other infertile couples. Also, just because some inmates have been given the death penalty (“slated for destruction”) does not give us the right to use their bodies for medical research. To clone human embryos for the purposes of killing human embryos is horribly immoral.

Let’s help our fellow Missourians to see these things. Currently blinded by promises of cures, our neighbors are friends need help in seeing the total picture. Let’s be faithful to show it.

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