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What's a President to do?

Stem Cell Research

By Bruce W. Robida



President Bush’s decision to fund Stem Cell Research on frozen embryos using Federal money has mixed reactions by scientists and religious leaders alike, and rightly so.  It was a decision that was not easily made to say the least.  After consulting with countless doctors, scientists, and religious leaders, and after reading thousands of pages of technical data in support of and in opposition to this type of research, a compromise of sorts was made.  The President has agreed to fund Stem Cell Research only on those Stem Cell Lines already in existence. According to an AP news article by Paul Recer, August 11, 2001, “An embryonic cell line starts as a cluster of cells, each able to evolve into any tissue in the body. The cells can divide virtually forever. In effect, the cell ''line'' is endless. Properly cultured with special proteins, the new cells could evolve into heart, muscle, liver, brain and other tissue.”  Many scientists are concerned about the number of lines, which was mentioned in President Bush’s speech.  President Bush said, “As a result of private research, more than 60 genetically diverse stem cell lines already exist.”  This number was derived from surveying Stem Cell Researchers around the world, but some scientists are complaining that there are really only about 10 or 12 lines known to exist.  At some point, there will have to be an accounting of exactly how many Stem Cell Lines actually exist so that new ones do not appear.  This is the compromise that President Bush has made.  While he does not condone research on embryos which would cause their destruction; those that have already been destroyed pose no moral dilemma because in his words, “...the life and death decision has already been made.”  I find myself in opposition to this line of thinking. 

There are a couple of ways to look at this issue.  First, one could say that at least those lives that were taken for the purpose of research would not have been taken in vain.  Their lives (or deaths) can have some meaning. President Bush’s stand to not destroy any more embryos is a clear indication that he believes them to be living, and should they be allowed to develop, could live normal and healthy lives. If President Bush believes what he says, shouldn’t those developing Embryos be protected under the law?  Isn’t one of the primary functions of our government to protect all of its citizens from all aggression, foreign and domestic?  That they are living is already an established fact, and should not be ignored.

Second, since those lives have already been taken, we might as well make good use of them.  I don’t agree with either of these two views.  I can’t imagine benefiting in any way, from research done resulting in taking another life.  God forbid that someone died involuntarily, so that I may live.  I don’t have Parkinson’s disease, or some other dreadful illness that could possibly see benefits from Stem Cell Research, and God willing, I will never develop such an illness.  But if I do, may I die before receiving such help.  God decides whom He will heal and whom He will not heal.  Only He has authority to make life and death decisions with regard to innocent people.  That does not mean He does not give authority to others to take human life.  The Bible clearly shows that He has given that authority to some.  The difference is, He has given certain men authority to govern and to rule, and we must be in submission to that government.  However, this authority given to governing bodies is limited to punishing only the guilty.  No one has authority to take innocent life.

Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. For he is God's servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God's servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience. RO 13:1-5

As Governor of Texas, President Bush has had to make many such decisions against those who were found guilty of heinous crimes.  God had given him authority to carry out such heavy penalties for committing certain crimes.  The difference here is innocence versus guilt. A living Embryo that is allowed to develop without outside hindrances will continue to develop into children, innocent and involuntarily conceived. They are at our complete mercy, and we are charged by God to protect those who are helpless.

Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless; maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed. Rescue the weak and needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked. PS 82:3-4

“In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak...” Acts 20:35

Blessed is he who has regard for the weak; the LORD delivers him in times of trouble. PS 41:1

“And we urge you, brothers, warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone.” 1TH 5:14

learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow. ISA 1:17

So it is right for President Bush to say that research cannot be carried out on Frozen embryos, using Federal funds.  But he has not gone far enough.  It is also his responsibility as a government leader, whom God has appointed to rule over us, to protect those innocent lives, which are also under his sovereign leadership. If those embryos were to develop into what God has ordained, they would be subject to the laws of this land.  Should they not also be protected according to the same laws?  Has President Bush defended the cause of the fatherless?  If he does not, he will be called a rebel by God, and a companion of thieves.

Your rulers are rebels, companions of thieves; they all love bribes and chase after gifts.  They do not defend the cause of the fatherless; the widow's case does not come before them. Therefore the Lord, the LORD Almighty, the Mighty One of Israel, declares: "Ah, I will get relief from my foes and avenge myself on my enemies. I will turn my hand against you; I will thoroughly purge away your dross and remove all your impurities. ISA 1:23-25

So, while President Bush has moved in the right direction, he has not gone far enough.  First, there must be an accounting of all Frozen embryos, which exist today.  Second, there must be an accounting of the exact number of Stem Cell Lines already in existence if those lines are allowed to be used for research as the President has already declared.  Third, every attempt to develop new Stem Cell Lines from frozen embryos should be stopped, whether they are Federally funded or not.  Fourth, President Bush has a responsibility to defend and protect innocent life, no matter what stage in its development.  Fifth, Christians everywhere should reject treatments that are as a result of Stem Cell Research done on embryos which were destroyed.  At this point I have called them embryos, but they are our children.  They are God’s children.  They are a reward from Him (Psalm 127:3).

There are alternative methods of receiving Stem Cells for research.  President Bush said that the federal government would spend $250 million next year on research using alternatively derived stem cells.  These Stem Cell Lines should be thoroughly accounted for, and only those treatments developed as a result of that research should be sought by Christians.  There have been promising results using adult Stem Cells, and Stem Cells retrieved in umbilical cords, and placentas, which are routinely discarded.  A recent news article stated that some parents are freezing the umbilical cords of their children at an initial cost of about $1,200.00, and annual storage fees of around $50.00.  They are doing this in hopes that if their child should develop an illness they may be treated someday by their own Stem Cells.  There are also centers located around the country which will take your donated umbilical cords and Placenta Blood if you can arrange to get it to them.  This is not a simple process.  Even locating these centers is rather difficult.  The Red Cross says that they would be interested in setting up collection and storage sites just as they have for blood products, but there has not been enough interest to justify doing it.  Umbilical Cord and Placenta Blood are a very rich source of Stem Cells, which are discarded every day, yet few have taken notice.  It leads me to believe that there is another agenda at work here.  The Stem Cell controversy is only a secondary issue.  The primary issue is the marketability of frozen embryos and aborted fetuses.  The abortion industry thrives on selling the body parts of our children for the purpose of research.  Harvesting Stem Cells from them is only one resource the abortion industry has to derive its income. 

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