Monday, October 11, 2010

An Interesting Reflection on Embryos and Embryonic Stem Cell Research

About a week ago I went to a Respect Life Conference in Cody while visiting Anthony in Wyoming. The primary topic of the conference was embryonic stem cell research, and the main speaker was Father Tadeusz Pacholczyk (short bio here). In one of his talks, Father Tad (as he is called for short) brought up an interesting reflection on one of the lines often used by Planned Parenthood on pregnant women considering an abortion, namely, that the fetus "is not a baby, it's just a bunch of cells." He said, "I'm just a bunch of cells. We're all just a bunch of cells. Our bodies are just bunches of cells." Therefore, to say that the fetus is just a bunch of cells is not in any way to say that it is not human or less human, because all humans are bunches of cells (joined to an immortal soul, of course). He went on to say that the unborn baby at whatever stage of development it's at is not less human than we are because it looks different from us; rather, it looks precisely how a human at that point in its life is supposed to look. A baby does not look like a teenager, and a teenager does not look like a senior citizen, but that doesn't mean that one is less human than the other. Similarly, just because the 5-day old embryo doesn't look like a newborn or even a further developed fetus, that doesn't mean it's not a human being. It just looks like a human being is supposed to look when it's 5 days old.

Father Tad illustrated this with an example. When bald eagles were put on the endangered species list, there were certain severe penalties one would incur if one were to kill a bald eagle flying around in the sky. But if someone were to go into an eagle's nest and destroy its eggs, those SAME penalties would apply. Clearly, people understand in the case of the eagles that the egg is no less of an eagle than the mature bird is. Why, then, do they try to say that a gestational human is not really a human? Especially considering that we "are of more value than many sparrows" (or eagles, for that matter)?

(Father Tad is on staff for the National Catholic Bioethics Center.)


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