Every day in a building along Lake Union, a few human embryos — 5-day-old unions of sperm and egg — are destroyed. Some are discarded for...
Every day in a building along Lake Union, a few human embryos — 5-day-old unions of sperm and egg — are destroyed.
Some are discarded for being flawed or weak. Others are frozen in liquid nitrogen and then perish when thawed.
Two hundred are thrown away each year because they aren’t going to be used. Given that some of our state’s leaders are saying this is tantamount to genocide, you’d think they’d be extremely concerned about what’s going on in this building.
But they aren’t. In fact the guy who runs the place hasn’t heard a peep since opening 11 years ago.
“We are the state’s largest fertility clinic,” said Dr. Michael Soules of Seattle Reproductive Medicine. “Logically you’d think that if destroying a human embryo is wrong, then there’d be protests and picketing of fertility clinics.
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“We have always expected protests, but we’ve never had one.”
Yet the state Senate just voted down a stem-cell-research law, in part due to a belief that destroying an embryo in a Petri dish is murder.
One senator, Republican Alex Deccio of Yakima, said stem-cell research reminds him of the Bergen-Belsen Concentration Camp, which he saw as a soldier in World War II. “To see those bodies stacked … they were embryos at one point,” he said. “But somebody decided those people should be done away with. That was the public policy in Germany. … We’re talking about the same thing.”
Other senators decried how the research is part of our “culture of death.” They appeared to be getting talking points from the state chapter of the Christian Coalition, whose director, Rick Forcier, told a Senate committee that the embryos are “tiny humans.”
OK, if you think the spark of consciousness begins at the instant sperm bores into egg, then I can see how you’d be troubled by scientists operating on the result.
But then why no outcry about fertility clinics, at which far more “tiny humans” are destroyed than ever will be in the name of stem-cell science?
Technology to both create and destroy human embryos is an accepted part of modern life. Hundreds of thousands of embryos have been discarded since the first test-tube baby was born in the United States in 1981. There are 400,000 embryos in cold storage, many of which will be thrown away.
“Isn’t it a little late to be worried about destroying human embryos?” said Soules when told of the Senate vote.
So late, I’d say, it’s archaic.
Aren’t we supposed to be a blue state? If the Legislature won’t endorse stem-cell research and therapeutic cloning, it puts us scientifically behind such states as California and Illinois.
It puts us politically to the right of the red state of Missouri, where the Republican governor just endorsed such research.
And it puts our heads deep in the sand about both the past reality and future promise of human-embryo science.
Is this really where we want the state of Washington to be?
Danny Westneat’s column appears Wednesday and Friday. Reach him at 206-464-2086 or firstname.lastname@example.org