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By Dan Kennedy, CEO Human Life of Washington

The term "human embryo" does not refer to something
distinct from a whole human being. Human embryo refers to
a human being at a certain stage of development (in the
way that terms like "infant," "adolescent," and "adult" refer
to stages of development). Obviously, the complete human
organism that is now you, was once an adolescent and
before that an infant, before that a fetus and before that an
You began in the embryonic stage and developed by
a gradual process of self-directed growth to the
mature adult. By contrast, you were never a sperm
cell or an ovum. The sperm cell and ovum whose
union brought you into existence were genetically
and functionally parts of other, larger organisms -
your parents. It is the science of embryology that
tells us that human embryos are, namely, whole,
living individuals of the species homo sapiens.
As complete human organisms, and not mere parts
of larger organisms, embryos are radically unlike
human sex cells, somatic cells, organs, tissues, and
the like. If provided with adequate nutrition and a
suitable environment, and barring accident or
disease, a human embryo will develop himself or
herself from the embryonic into and through the
fetal, infant, child, and adolescent stages, and into
adulthood with his or her distinctness, unity, and
identity fully intact. What happens in successful
fertilization or cloning is the production of a new an
distinct organism - a complete individual member of
the human family.
Being genetically complete, they are already male or
female, genetically disposed to be 6'5" tall or 5'1''
tall and have blond hair and blue eyes or black hair
and brown eyes. This is the point at which a new
human being has been formed and this is the point
at which all of us began our individual life journey.
We oppose embryonic stem cell research because
embryos are human beings who are destroyed in
order to harvest their embryonic stem cells.
What is cloning?
Cloning commonly refers to the process of taking
a somatic (body) cell and fusing it with an egg
that has had its nucleus removed. The resulting
single-celled embryo has all of its nuclear DNA
derived from the somatic cell. It is essentially the
genetic twin of the donor of the somatic cell.
Cloning is also called "somatic cell nuclear
transfer" - this terminology is frequently used in
legislation where people may not realize that it
means cloning. Whether an embryo is formed by
cloning or sexual reproduction, he or she is a
distinct human being.
There are two possible outcomes for a cloned
embryo:1. So-called "reproductive" cloning -
placing the cloned embryo in a uterus with the
purpose of a live birth2. So-called "therapeutic"
cloning - meaning cloning for biomedical research
The term "therapeutic" cloning is a misnomer. The
process is certainly not therapeutic for the human
being that is destroyed. From an embryological
perspective, this is a false distinction between
"therapeutic" and "reproductive" cloning. All
cloning is reproductive in the sense that it
reproduces another human being, and destruction
of embryonic human beings is never therapeutic. A
more accurate term would be "cloning for
biomedical research."
The bottom line is that when an embryo is
created, he or she is endowed with their complete
genetic code. They possess their human nature
and begin to direct their own development to
adulthood. Developmental biology also recognizes
that birth is simply a change of environment. If
you are a human being at the end of the birth
canal, obviously, you were a human being at the
beginning of the birth canal. Those who use
euphemisms and illogical contortions to avoid this
truth choose to dispute the indisputable (it would
be laughable if the consequences weren't so
horrific). They do not have truth or science as
their agenda but something else.
Where do we stand in our pursuit of cures with
embryonic vs. adult stem cells?HERE ARE THE
FACTS: There are ZERO CURES from embryonic
stem cells.There are over 70 therapies already
available using adult stem cells.There are
almost 1300 publicly available clinical trials
using adult stem cells currently underway.
There are none underway using embryonic
stem cells.A number of adult stem cells
appear to be pluripotent, including amniotic
and placental stem cells. Which means they
are a readily available, ethical source of
stem cells for research, and have none of the
medical dangers of embryonic stem cells
Federal funds have already supported over 130
million dollars of research using existing
embryonic stem cell lines; and private institutions,
much more. Billions of dollars will be put into this
type of research with tax dollars from several
states - including Washington State (SEE
HERE)- over the next few years. Despite this,
embryonic stem cell research is still in its infancy
and has identified numerous problems using these
cells:Embryonic stem cells are so powerful that
they readily mutate, they tend to form tumors and
are likely to require patient cloning to prevent
immune system rejection.
"Ethics" Committees.
Lethal research is already being approved by
university and government "ethics" committees
that simply dress up their decisions in the
language of ethics. Too often, ethics committees
are simply a pretense. Their real purpose is to do
an end-run around moral boundaries. They have
contrived a dividing line between those persons
whom they deem possess rights and moral
protection, and those who don't. The
consequence? If you are no longer viewed as a
person possessing rights, you will be viewed
as either a natural resource to be exploited,
or a burden to be disposed of - and it is a
moving target. Today we sacrifice the embryo, the
unborn, the severely disabled, and the elderly.
Whom will this slippery slope claim tomorrow?
History repeats itself.
Within the history of the eugenics movement, this
isn't the first time media, science, academia, and
political leaders have been blinded by utopian
dreams, and specially selected members of the
human family have paid the price.
Human Exceptionalism
Historically, we have been able to battle back from
these horrors and regain our sanity. If for no other
reason than our common human experience
reveals that being human, in and of itself, is
sufficient to convey significant moral value.
As the philosopher/theologian Fr. Bernard
Lonegran observed: when animals run out of
biological opportunities and dangers (food, shelter,
reproduction, avoidance of pain and predators,
and even affection) they fall asleep. When humans
run out of biological opportunities and dangers,
they ask questions, questions about their identity,
their destiny, their ideals, about optimal love,
unconditional truth, perfect social orders and even
the infinite itself... this is what humans seem to
uniquely do by comparison with the other
members of the animal kingdom.
C.S. Lewis captured the same observation when
he wrote that people can look into the stars at
night and, from this, feel diminished by our own
infinite smallness. Animals simply see lights in the
When does a human being become a person?
There are those who admit embryos are human
beings, but insist embryos are not yet persons,
and consequently do not have the moral status of
persons deserving of rights.
One of the arguments against embryos being
persons is that at conception and embryo is only a
single-cell and no larger than the period at the end
of this sentence. This kind of reasoning is just
plain silly. Although both may be similar in size,
given a safe environment and nutrition, an embryo
will grow into an adult. The period just lays there.
It won't even grow into a complete sentence. A
period is a period - period.
The argument from size commits a dangerous
logical fallacy, and that is to base the argument
simply on a description of the embryo's
appearance. It is neither an explanation or
definition of what this human being is.
Aristotle 2400 years ago understood the principle
that to obtain a true definition of something, you
must discover what its powers are and what it is
meant to be. Passing judgement based on
appearance is not only irrational, but it has
brought about the horrors of genocide, slavery,
and ethnic cleansing.
At conception we are self-possessed human
persons. We possess our own future. It belongs to
us uniquely and no one else. Despite our size,
present within us at conception is the complete
design of what we are meant to be and a self-
directing power that brings that development
about. This power and the information necessary
to direct it must be present at conception in order
for development to occur. The genetics are
Personhood does not depend on whether one is
currently manifesting all one's powers or not. It is
not a temporary state that comes and goes with
our degree of functionality. I don't become a non-
person when I fall asleep or become unconscious.
We are after all, human beings not human doings.
Mere functionality does not reveal a living being. A
machine could conceivably be designed to look like
us, and mimic numerous human traits, but
functional mimicry is not personhood. Indeed,
there are already machines that actually function
more efficiently than we do at specific tasks, but I
seriously doubt your vacuum cleaner ever wonders
about the fairness of it all. You, on the other hand,
are intrinsically oriented toward that unique
human characteristic, evident even in young
children, to desire and reflect on transcendent
realities like truth and justice. Parents are
certainly aware of this characteristic, being the
recipient of the oft heard remark "that's not fair!"
Too often in the debate about embryonic stem
cells, our moral status as persons is obscured by
labels assigned to stages of development such as
embryo or fetus, but an embryo is not less of a
human being than an infant, anymore than a child
is less of a human being before puberty than after.
At every stage we are whole human beings.
Failing to distinguish between a label and reality is
not a new problem. In fact, Abraham Lincoln used
to illustrate it by humorously asking how many
legs does a dog have if you call the tail a leg? The
answer is four, because it makes no difference if
you call it a leg - it is still a tail. In the same way,
how we label a stage of development doesn't
change the fact that human beings are persons.
Absurdly, some argue that if we can't "perceive"
personhood in others with our senses, we cannot
assume they are persons. But we are persons
because of our human nature, not because of our
size, or skin color, or abilities. I can't "see"
freedom or justice either, that doesn't mean they
don't exist. I can't see that part of the
electromagnetic spectrum that allows us to have
radios but not only does it exist, but it existed
before radio was invented. The point is - our own
limited perception does not alter objective reality.
Those who would deny personhood under these
circumstances fancy themselves more
sophisticated than their historical counterparts
who condoned atrocities based on appearance. Yet
ironically, they display the same shallow mentality
when it comes to contemporary debates. Once
again, we witness ignorance and utilitarian
motives corrupting what is both rationally and
morally obvious - we can not earn for
ourselves, or bestow on others what is
already ours by nature.
Whether conceived by sexual reproduction,
in vitro fertilization, or cloning, an embryo is
not some thing but someone.