Friday, November 30, 2007

Life Links 11/30/07

Scott Klusendorf provides a point Steve Weimar makes about Michael Kinsley's latest stem cell column and one of the methods Kinsley uses to try to justify the killing of human embryos for research. Weimar notes,
Kinsley makes the dubious claim that not speaking against in-vitro fertilization makes embryonic stem cell research justified. The logical conclusion though from his line of reasoning is that both in vitro and ESCR are wrong, not that both are OK. Secular people argue this way all the time. They try to find an inconsistency and then claim that everything is permissible.
Weimar's right - I see this quite often. For example, the whole "How much time?" debate, which was recently revisited at CNN's Republican presidential debate. Pro-choicers for some reason believe that since most prolife politicians (and prolifers in general) don't want to punish women who have abortions this somehow proves the prolife position (abortion should be illegal because it intentionally kills an innocent human being) to be wrong or proves that prolifers don't really believe the unborn are worthy of protection.

It's this simplistic thinking where, "If you have position A on issue B, you must therefore have position C on issue D. If you have position A on issue B but not position C on issue D, then your position on issue B is false." There's either no or very limited thought put into the possibility that maybe someone's position on issue D is wrong or that there are reasonable reasons to hold position A on B but not position C on D.

Charles Krauthammer on stem cell vindication.

More details about the Wisconsin man who slipped his girlfriend RU-486 to cause her to miscarry have been revealed and printed in a variety of papers including the Washington Post. I'm wondering what pro-choicers who opposed unborn victims of violence laws think Manishkumar Patel should be charged with if his actions didn't physically hurt his girlfriend's body.

This is truly distrubing.
Police investigating four abortion clinics in Barcelona used frequently by British women have been horrified to find purpose-built machines attached to the drains that were used to crush foetuses.

The clinics allegedly performed illegal abortions on women into their eighth month of pregnancy.

Sad news about the prevalence of abortion in Korea.
Prof. Kim Hae-jung of Korea University said that a total of 342,000 fetuses were aborted in 2005 while 476,000 babies were delivered in the same year.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Life Links 11/29/07

Here's another case of a man slipping his girlfriend RU-486 to induce an abortion, this time in Wisconsin.

The National Review has a symposium remembering former congressman Henry Hyde.

Planned Parenthood is defending itself from a lawsuit filed by a woman who experienced complications during an abortion at a Planned Parenthood in Nebraska.

Doctors in Arizona are awaiting approval for Phase II clinical trials after using adult stem cells to replace scar tissue of heart attack patients.

A new biotechnology company named Fate Therapeutics has formed to "harness the healing power of adult stem cells by using small molecule drugs tomodulate cells in vivo (in the body) and by reprogramming mature adult cellsinto stem cells."

Michael Kinsley: The latest of the stick-to-the-storyline embryonic stem cell proponents

Michael Kinsley is the latest of the embryonic stem cell proponents to stand firm in the face of the recent stem cell news. The standard talking points are as usual - 1.) This new research is great 2.) Embryonic stem cell research needs to continue and 3.) We must keep all avenues open because we don't know what will work. And most of all, never mention all that past advocacy and excitement for human cloning research and the truly thoughtless response to concerns to how the need for millions of human eggs might exploit women.

Kinsley also adds his own little spice of grossly exaggerated banter, claiming Bush "ban(ned) almost all federal financing of embryonic-stem-cell research in 2001," the last six years have been lost and "Bush and most Republicans in Congress have done their best to stop medical research that could cure many diseases" and claims Bush believes all embryonic stem cell research is "immoral." Never mind the more than $100 million in federal funding which has gone toward embryonic stem cell research based on Bush's decision. Reading Bush's August 2001 comments again next to Kinsley's latest, it's clear who has thought more about these issues and who is bent on intentionally distorting the other's position. Kinsley even claims the moral dilemma over embryonic stem cell research isn't real and never was. According to James Thomson (the creator of the first human embryonic stem cell line), it seems Kinsley hasn't been thinking about the possible moral dilemma hard enough.

Actually after reading Kinsley, I have a hard time believing he is honestly happy about the recent advances in stem cell research and for some reason I get this same impression when reading other advocates of cloning and killing human embryos. It's like his (and their) strong distaste for those who oppose killing embryos prevents him from truly accepting research on pluripotent stem cells can go forward without killing anymore human embryos for research. He really wants his anti-Bush talking points and nothing is going to make him loosen his grip on them.

Kinsley can't even admit that human cloning is never going to cure anyone and or concede his past advocacy for it (to the point of attacking liberal environmental groups who wanted a human cloning moratorium) was obviously misguided. He can't note how pluripotent stem cells created by reprogramming adult skin cells have at least one obvious advantage (same DNA as potential patient) to embryonic stem cells created by killing IVF embryos.

Look for the same kind of pattern from other big cloning proponents. How many of them will be able to honestly concede the advantages reprogramming has to human cloning?

The stem cell storyline changes

Joe Carter and Ramesh Ponnuru note how Newsweek and reporter Sharon Begley let their readers know now (after pluripotent stem cells have been created with killing human embryos) that research with pluripotent stem cells isn't about to cure anyone soon. Here's a quality couple of sentences from the Newsweek article:
And the attention the discovery is receiving obscures an important change in stem-cell science. While the research was once hailed as leading directly to cures—by turning stem cells into neuronal cells that could be implanted in patients with Parkinson's disease, say—it now looks like something much more mundane: another laboratory tool to study different diseases, yielding insights that would launch the slow, years-long search for new therapies.
When did this "important change" magically occur? When the biased media lost their "President Bush is anti-cures" storyline?

It has been known for years that pluripotent stem cells are years (probably at least a decade or two, if ever) away from successfully treating human patients and that some scientists believe pluripotent stem cells might be better at helping study disease than curing it but only after pluripotent stem cells are created ethically do Newsweek and Sharon Begley admit this and act like it's some change that just occurred.

Begley also has an obviously biased and inaccurate description of cloning. She doesn't seem to understand that scientists interested in cloning don't insert genes into eggs, the insert the nucleus of a somatic cell into an egg whose nucleus has been removed.

Stand to Reason has a YouTube page

It's filled with a number of clips of Greg Koukl talking about Christianity, the problem of evil, etc. Hopefully, there will be more clips to come.

The Detroit News and reporter Kim Kozlowski still can't write an unbiased story on stem cells

The Detroit News has another article on stem cell research. The article notes how some individuals are traveling overseas to receive various stem cell treatments. There's just a couple of problems. One, embryonic stem cells are described as,
These cells are derived from unclaimed fertilized eggs in fertility clinics that are typically discarded as medical waste. They are highly prized because the cells can be developed into any type of tissue, while the uses for adult stem cells are limited.

Unclaimed fertilized eggs? Okay, we already knew that in biased media "fertilized eggs" are the preferred term for human embryos but "unclaimed?" That's just ridiculous. They aren't "unclaimed." Their parents have decided to donate their embryonic children for research. Thank you Kim Kozlowski for once again showing your bias.

Second problem: After describing embryonic stem cells as cells from "unclaimed fertilized eggs in fertility clinics," Kozlowski describes the treatment of a man named Chuck Burt by writing,
That's why Chuck Burt of White Lake Township went to Beijing two years ago for an embryonic stem cell treatment in his spinal cord, which was injured in a car accident in 2000 that left him paralyzed from the waist down.

Except that when you Google "chuck burt" and "stem cell" you get this story which describes how Mr. Burt received cells from "aborted fetuses." Not quite cells from "unclaimed fertilized eggs,"eh?

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Life Links 11/28/07

Kathleen Parker asks a good question to a couple of individuals who think having no kids (or aborting the ones you conceive) will help save the planet.
If we're not saving the planet for our kids, for whom are we saving it? After we're all sterilized and aborted, who's going to appreciate the fact that global warming is, by golly, under control? Who's going to live to tell the tale?

Former Republican Congressman Joe Schwarz continues to promote killing and cloning human embryos in Michigan - this time at the Livingston Democratic Party headquarters. He claims the majority of people support his position on embryonic stem cell research and it's wrong that the supposed minority opinion is Michigan's current law. I wonder if he feels the same way about human cloning for research?

Marcia Baum of the Michigan Citizens for Stem Cell Research and Cures was there as well, spreading her usual pro-embryonic stem cell myths like claiming there are 400,000 embryos "that could be used for embryonic stem cell research." Never mind the majority of those embryos aren't available for research.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution details how an employee of Operation Rescue was jailed for display photos of aborted children on his truck. According to the Journal-Constitution police arrested Robert Roethlisberger Jr. based on a "provision that refers to ‘the display of obscene and vulgar images visible to persons under age 14.'" On the side of the internet article (and possible the newspaper article?) there is a picture of one side of Roethlisberger's truck.

It's nice to know that Amy Moy of Planned Parenthood Golden Gate is so sure that abortion can never cause long-term emotional effects by itself. Here's a quote from a San Franscisco Examiner article about a conference for men dealing with post-abortion issues.
A Planned Parenthood Golden Gate spokeswoman said abortion alone doesn't cause long-term grief. "If there is any long-term emotional impact, then there are other emotional issues at play," Amy Moy said.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Could Jonathan Moreno be more obtuse?

With the news about researchers being able to reprogram adult cells into pluripotent stem cells, I'm trying to see how various former critics of the alternative methods of obtaining pluripotent stem cells are reacting to the news. One individual whose response I've found is Jonathan Moreno. Back in January of 2007, Moreno and Sam Berger wrote a piece for the Center for American Progress disparaging a white paper from the White House entitled "Advancing Stem Cell Science Without Destroying Human Life."

In their piece, Moreno and Berger attack the White House for "exaggerat(ing) the potential of adult cell reprogramming." They even quote the James Battey referred to this research as a "pie in the sky." Their piece led the National Review's Ramesh Ponnuru to respond, which led to a Moreno/Berger response to Ponnuru, and so on and so forth. In the Moreno/Berger response to Ponnuru on January 16 they assert, "Ultimately, the scientific community has reached its consensus: there are no viable alternatives to embryonic stem cells."

Well, it looks like Shinya Yamanaka and James Thomson missed that official Scientific Community Consensus memo.

Yesterday, the Center for American Progress posted a piece by Moreno discussing Yamanaka's and Thomson's iPS cells from reprogrammed adult cells. He says it "ranks as one of the most exciting achievements in modern biology" but doesn't believe prolife proponents of alternative methods should take any of the credit for it.

He falsely claims James Thomson said Bush's decision to limit federal funding on embryonic stem cells to those created before August 2001 "delayed the production of induced pluripotent stem cells by years." This claim makes no sense on its face since Bush's limits on federal funding wouldn't have affected research which didn't kill embryos. If you go to Moreno's link (a recent Washington Post article) to back his claim up you'll read a paragraph where the Post writer says Thomson believes the "ethical turmoil surrounding the embryonic cells set the field back four or five years." In its context it seems obvious that Thomson is claiming the ethical turmoil over killing human embryos set embryonic stem cell research field back, not iPS cell research. For Moreno to claim that his faulty reading of this paragraph is some kind of "fact" (which just happens to reflect the story line that Bush is the great stem cell stopper) is another piece of evidence on the overflowing pile that you should always check the sources of liberal bioethicists.

Moreno concludes by saying, "Ironically, this discovery reinforces the larger concerns of those who have opposed human embryonic stem cell research: the production of induced pluripotent stem cells is a giant step in the growing human mastery of biological nature."

Huh? The production of pluripotent stem cells without killing human embryos reinforces the concerns of those who both opposed to killing human embryos for research and who strongly promoted alternatives to killing human embryos like this discovery?

I hope to critique many more responses from bioethicists who originally downplayed alternatives methods of acquiring pluripotent stem cells because they favored cloning and killing human embryos but who now applaud this discovery and act like their preferred policies would have magically brought these results sooner.

Life Links 11/27/07

Clark Forsythe and Denise Burke on state human life amendments aren't the best way to challenge Roe v. Wade and other potential problems with state HLAs.
In the abstract, a state HLA is very appealing. Protecting human life is a fundamental principle and protecting it in the federal or a state constitution seems like an essential goal. If a constitution protects essential rights, the right to life should be part of that. But human lives are protected not by abstractions but by effective laws.

Rich Lowry on the recent stem cell news:
Their muted reaction to the latest development suggests that for some of them what was so exciting about stem-cell research wasn't the far-off potential therapeutic applications, but the chance to portray pro-lifers as standing in the way of life-enhancing scientific discoveries.

For some reason Mike King of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution thinks the discovery of scientists being able to get pluripotent stem cells by reprogramming adult cells should lead the federal government to expand the funding of embryonic stem cell research not just to lines created after August of 2001 but to funding of the process of destroying human embryos for their stem cells.

The New York Times has an interesting article on what happens now in stem cell research. I can't recall the Times being so forthright before about the numerous practical problems with using pluripotent stem cells to create cells which might be useful in therapy.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Arrests for illegal abortions in Spain

Six people in Spain have been arrested for performing illegal abortions.

The raids were ordered as part of an investigation that began following a complaint by an anti-abortion group called E-Cristians, the Civil Guard official said.

That complaint was filed in January after Danish television broadcast a documentary in which the gynecologist who runs the four raided clinics, Dr. Carlos Morin, was filmed offering to perform an abortion on a female journalist posing as being nearly seven months pregnant, said Pablo Molins, a lawyer for E-Cristians.

Fighting the Tide of Reality

What do you do when your efforts to legalize human cloning in Michigan get completely undermined by a recent scientific breakthrough?

Marcia Baum and the Michigan Citizens for Stem Cell Research and Cures have decided to spin the recent news that pluripotent stem cells can be obtained by reprogramming skin cells. Research that totally undermines their effort to legalize human cloning in Michigan is somehow an "advancement in embryonic stem cell research" and Michigan laws banning human cloning and the killing of human embryos somehow forced Michigan researchers to "miss out" on this recent research which didn't require the cloning or killing of human embryos.

Marcia then notes some of the potential problems with pluripotent iPS cells. It's amazing how all these obstacles to using pluripotent stem cells for clinical treatments suddenly get mentioned now that we don't need to kill human embryos to get them. It's also amazing the MCSCRC web site never mentions the numerous technical problems with trying to obtain and treat people with embryonic stem cells from cloned human embryos (or nuclear transfer blastocysts in MCSCRC-speak).

Truly amazing!

Life Links - What you might have missed over Thanksgiving edition

James Thomson, who created the first human embryonic stem cell line, had ethical concerns about embryonic stem cell research.
"If human embryonic stem cell research does not make you at least a little bit uncomfortable, you have not thought about it enough," he said. "I thought long and hard about whether I would do it."

Stanford researchers have used adult stem cells to help replace the immune systems of mice. This could have potential benefits for individuals with arthritis and multiple sclerosis.

Mark I. at Red State wonders why presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama haven't mentioned the recent breakthrough of obtaining pluripotent stem cell by reprogramming skin cells. Both candidates voted no on legislation to promote alternative means of obtaining pluripotent stem cells which don't kill human embryos.
For Sen. Hillary!™ Clinton and Sen. Barack Obama, it may be because in a crucial vote for ethical stem cell alternatives taken earlier this year, they voted no....

In other words, the HOPE Act's purpose was to support and promote the very same kind of research that resulted in the breakthrough announced yesterday. It cannot be said that the act led to the result, however, clearly those who voted no on the act cannot reasonably claim to support the result. If Clinton and Obama had their way, yesterday's research result might never have happened at all.
That could be one of the stupider votes of both of their careers if these pluripotent stem cells ever become useable for treatments.

National Review has symposium of reactions a to last week's stem cell news.

Hadley Arkes in First Things on Abortion Politics 2008.

David Freddosso discusses the problem with being opposed to embryonic stem cells because they aren't currently effective. He notes prolife opposition to embryonic stem cell research exists because, "The willful destruction of human life in a science experiment is always unethical, regardless of any good consequences it may bring."

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Reactions to today's stem cell news

From Wesley Smith:
I believe that many of these exciting “alternative” methods would not have been achieved but for President Bush’s stalwart stand promoting ethical stem-cell research. Indeed, had the president followed the crowd instead of leading it, most research efforts would have been devoted to trying to perfect ESCR and human-cloning research — which, despite copious funding, have not worked out yet as scientists originally hoped.

Father Thomas Berg:
So here we have both the scientist who gave us embryonic-stem-cell research and the scientist who gave us cloning both telling us that the cloning agenda is now obsolete and that the future of robust stem-cell research does not lie in embryos.

Ponder the meaning.

Yuval Levin:
At first some folks in Washington and elsewhere will certainly be inclined to deny it or insist human cloning or embryo-destructive research remain essential, but as these findings sink in, that view is likely to sink too. It offers a path to a win-win conclusion to what seemed like an intractable argument—you get the cells scientists have said are so valuable, and you avoid the violation of human equality and dignity that so troubles some of us. It’s not only ethically preferable, it also seems to be scientifically superior in some ways, because it’s so much easier and more direct (as British scientist Ian Wilmut noted late last week (almost breaking the story), it offers genetically matched embryonic-like stem cells, as you’d get from human cloning, but without the need for cloning or embryos; all you need is a tiny bit of skin)

Human Pluripotent Stem Cells Without Killing Human Embryos

The New York Times, the Boston Globe, Time, the Wall Street Journal and others are reporting that two groups of researchers (one headed by Shinya Yamanaka of Kyoto University and the other headed by James Thomson of the University of Wisconsin) have created cells which have the same properties as embryonic stem cells by reprogramming adult cells.

Today is a day where those in favor of killing human embryos for their embryonic stem cells and those in favor of creating cloned human embryos through cloning must begin to decide what their priorities are. Do they want to cure patients or get patents? Do they want to stick to their guns and continue to claim that the insanely inefficient process of trying to create cloned human embryos is the way forward or do they have courage to admit their cloning attempts have been miserable failures? Will they continue to throw millions of dollars into failed unethical research or will they look to the new ethical alternative? Will they still throw millions of dollars at ballot initiatives focused on fooling the public or will they live in reality? Will they be excited about this new discovery or will they downplay it because overshadows their work?

Reporters also must decide where they stand. Will they continue to pass deceptive myths off as the truth or will they get with program and realize that human cloning is never going to cure anyone. For example, the Boston Globe is still clinging to the old storyline and should be ashamed of itself for this quote in today's article:
Most stem cell scientists had believed that the cloning of human embryos through a process know as somatic cell nuclear transfer represented the best bet for producing useable human embryonic stem cells in the next five- or 10 years.

"Most scientists" thought a process which has never produced human stem cells was "the best bet?" Please. If I see another newspaper or cloning advocate claim cells from cloned human embryos represent "the only hope" or "the greatest promise" or "best bet," I'll have to try hard to control my laughter. They no longer have anything left to even attempt to stand on.

The debate has ended today. There is no medical reason to even attempt to create cloned human embryos anymore. The question that remains is how long will human cloning advocates attempt to push and haul their broken down car which ran out of gas miles ago.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Life Links 11/19/07

Jack Kevorkian - the assisted suicide advocate who cried "I'm near death." Not Dead Yet has the details.

Some embryonic stem cell researchers really come up with odd reasoning to justify their killing of human embryos. Laura Grabel, a professor at Wesleyan University had this to say recently:
"My position is that if I create a line of stem cells from an embryo, I don't think I've destroyed it," Grabel said. "I think I've allowed it to continue its life, especially if it's helping someone."

Students for Life of America have post video clips of a recent speech given by abortionist Alberto Hodari at Wayne State University. In the first short clip, he says doctors have a license to lie. The second clip is a 50 minute clip. It is somewhat difficult to understand most of what Hodari says.

Ian Wilmut is done with human cloning

The UK's Telegraph reports on how the creator of Dolly the sheep has given up on human "therapeutic cloning" (attempting to create cloned human embryos and remove their stem cells) because the process of creating pluripotent stem cells by reprogramming adult cells (no eggs or embryos needed) is more practical.
This approach, he says, represents, the future for stem cell research, rather than the nuclear transfer method that his large team used more than a decade ago at the Roslin Institute, near Edinburgh, to create Dolly....

Cloning is still too wasteful of precious human eggs, which are in great demand for fertility treatments, to consider for creating embryonic stem cells. "It is a nice success but a bit limited," commented Prof Wilmut. "Given the low efficiency, you wonder just how long nuclear transfer will have a useful life."

Nor is it clear, he said, why the Oregon team was successful, which will hamper attempts to improve their methods. Instead, Prof Wilmut is backing direct reprogramming or "de-differentiation", the embryo free route pursued by Prof Yamanaka, which he finds "100 times more interesting."

"The odds are that by the time we make nuclear transfer work in humans, direct reprogramming will work too.

I am anticipating that before too long we will be able to use the Yamanaka approach to achieve the same, without making human embryos. I have no doubt that in the long term, direct reprogramming will be more productive, though we can't be sure exactly when, next year or five years into the future."
Can you hear that? That's the death bell is ringing for human cloning for research. How soon before other researchers start catching on and begin to admit that therapies via human cloning aren't at all practical?

Friday, November 16, 2007

Life Links 11/16/07

Father Thomas Berg on what the cloning monkey business might mean for cell reprogramming among other things.
Reprogramming will certainly now receive an enormous boost from Miltalipov's work. Therapeutic cloning is essentially a process of cell reprogramming: the cytoplasm of the egg reprograms the genetic material in the nucleus of the body cell that is fused to the egg during the cloning procedure. If scientists can learn how monkey egg cells reprogram body cells to an embryonic-like state, this could give us the key to reprogramming human body cells without having to damage or destroy, let alone clone, human embryos.

It should be noted that it took 304 monkey eggs to create just two stem cell lines. If this ratio were roughly equivalent for human cloning experiments. It would require about ten women (with a generous 15 usuable eggs retrieved per woman) to donate eggs to get one stem cell line for each patient. To cure millions of people with this technique, you'd need ten of millions to agree to donate their eggs. To cure tens of millions, you'd need hundreds of millions of women to agree to donate their eggs. Remember this the next time some proponent of human cloning claims embryonic stem cells from cloned human embryos are the next great hope of modern medicine. More like next great hype.

A man in Texas named Jason Lee Cook has been found guilty of misdemeanor assault after his girlfriend claimed he "beat her, stuck a gun to her head and threatened to kill her if she didn't get an abortion."
Assistant Smith County District Attorney Amanda Dillon said Cook took the victim over to his house and assaulted her because he didn't want the baby she was carrying. He had three children and didn't want another, she said.

"If you won't get an abortion, then I'll beat it out of you," the victim reported Cook telling her as he beat her in the stomach, Ms. Dillon said. Cook choked her, slammed her down, pushed her into a door and held a handgun to her head, threatening to kill her if she didn't get an abortion, she told the jurors during closing arguments.

A paper in Nature Clinical Practice Neurology finds the "transplantation of human neural stem cells (hNSCs) leads to functional improvement in a primate model of severe Parkinson's disease. Importantly, their study indicates that the stem cells seem to act not only by replacement of dopaminergic cells, but also by supporting multiple endogenous repair systems."

Friday Cat Blogging

Sleeping cheek to cheek

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Life Links 11/15/07

Hugh Hewitt interviews/argues with David O'Steen (National Right to Life Committee's executive director) about NRLC's endorsement of Fred Thompson.

Hewitt is a Romney supporter and he makes some really broad statements ("If you're not for the Constitutional amendment, you're not with the pro-life movement in the way that presidents need to be with the pro-life movement.") regarding the Human Life Amendment considering his candidate of choice supports the killing of "leftover" human embryos for stem cell research. Couldn't someone easily argue that Romney's position on killing "leftover" human embryos for research is "not with the pro-life movement in the way that presidents need to be with the pro-life movement?" Doesn't Romney's position that it's alright to kill "leftover" human embryos "undermine the complete argument for protecting the unborn?"

A panel of individuals with diverse positions on a variety of issues came together to talk about one issue they agreed upon: the problems of egg harvesting.

It's nice to know how serious the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine and the governator are with their board appointees. Who better to decide how $300 million annually will be spent on embryonic stem cell research and human cloning experiments than Leeza Gibbons?

Newsflash: Planned Parenthood's research arm doesn't like informed consent laws in various states

The Alan Guttmacher Institute has a new report out entitled ""State Abortion Counseling Policies and the Fundamental Principles of Informed Consent," regarding the informed consent laws a number of states have passed to provide women with information regarding fetal development, other pregnancy options, abortion procedures, etc. before having an abortion.

The report has the usual pro-choice talking points. Breast cancer? No way! The National Cancer Institute says one thing so we can ignore all those studies which say something different. Negative mental health? Nope. We have an almost 20-year-old review of health literature from the American Psychological Association. Fetal pain? Not until 29 weeks because a bunch of abortion proponents did a biased literature review which was printed in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Some of the complaints are extraordinarily childish. The report cries afoul that some states distribute materials which list a variety of abortion procedures and have information on various stages of fetal development.
By mandating information about a range of abortion procedures performed at various points in gestation, the materials include information nongermane to individual women....

With nearly 90% of all abortions occurring at or before 12 weeks, information on the development of a fetus after that point is generally not germane to most patients.
The most obvious reason for why a state would distribute materials which have a variety of abortion procedures and information on various stages of fetal development is because they want to create a single brochure/pamphlet which can be given to women considering an abortion as opposed to having a bunch of different pamphlet/handouts depending on what stage of pregnancy a women is in and what abortion procedures she's considering having.

The report also whines about "graphic, inflammatory language" some states use to describe abortion procedures.
Four states—Idaho, Oklahoma, South Dakota and Texas—take a different tack. Each uses graphic, inflammatory language to describe later abortion procedures similar to that used in Justice Kennedy's majority opinion in Carhart.

Let's take a look at that language where we can (I couldn't find Oklahoma's or Idaho's informed consent info online) since the authors provide no examples.

It seems that "unborn child" may part of what the AGI considers to be the graphic and inflammatory language. Texas' informed consent materials describe D & E thus:
The uterus will be scraped and the unborn child and placenta are removed. After 16 weeks, the unborn child and placenta are removed, piece-by-piece, using forceps or other instruments.
Partial birth abortion/D & X is described by saying,
The doctor will grasp the unborn child's foot with an instrument and deliver the child except for the head. While the head is kept in the birth canal, scissors are used to make a hole in the back of the head, a tube is inserted, and suction is applied. The contents of the unborn child's skull are suctioned out, the bones of the head collapse, and the child is delivered dead.
I guess Planned Parenthood would prefer "gentle" be placed in front of suction or for terms like "decompression of the skull" or "reducing the intercrainial contents of the skull" to be used.

South Dakota
Information on second trimester abortion procedures here and third trimester abortion procedures here.

I'm not sure what the authors might find "inflammatory" regarding the descriptions of 2nd trimester procedures. Maybe under "Intra-amniotic instillations" where it says, "Urea kills the fetus." Under 3rd trimester abortion procedures they describe partial-birth abortion by saying,
- this procedure, the physician pulls the fetus feet-first out of the uterus into the birth canal, except for the head which is kept lodged just inside the uterus.
- The base of the fetus's skull is punctured with a sharp instrument such as a long scissors or pointed metal tube.
- A catheter is inserted into the wound and removes the fetus's brain with a powerful suction machine. This causes the skull to collapse, and allows for the expulsion of the fetus.

Conclusion: The Alan Guttmacher Institute finds accurate descriptions of partial-birth abortion to be "inflammatory" and "graphic." I'm sorry but state health departments aren't the ones who invented this disgusting procedure and it's not their job to try to make the procedure sound appetizing.

The authors also don't like language which "personif(ies)" the unborn child. This quote is classic:
But in their descriptions of the fetus, many states use loaded language in an apparently deliberate attempt to "personify" the fetus. For example, the North Dakota materials note that fetus is "a Latin word meaning young one or offspring." The materials also say that at 10 weeks' gestation, the fetus "now has a distinct human appearance" and that "eyelids are formed." At 14 weeks, according to the materials, the fetus "is able to swallow" and "sleeps and awakens."
Nowhere do they say this information is false or misleading. They just don't want women considering abortion to know what an unborn child (there I go again with that "inflammatory language") does because these facts might convince women the unborn are valuable human beings who shouldn't be killed. Why shouldn't women who are 14 weeks pregnant know their unborn child has eyelids or is able to swallow? The only reason I can think of is because you want them to have an abortion.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Art Caplan on what cloning monkeys means for human cloning

Art Caplan, a well-known bioethicist, is using the recent news about monkey cloning to promote the creation of cloning human embryos for embryonic stem cell research. While I strongly disagree with his position and find his reasoning to be incredibly sloppy, he is at least being honest about what he wants.
The real drive in cloning human embryos with this Oregon technique is not to implant the cloned embryos into wombs, but to try to manipulate these embryos in lab dishes to see if they can provide viable sources of stem cells.
Notice how Caplan, when writing to the general public, avoids using terms like "blastocyst" or "somatic cell nuclear transfer" which the public isn't familiar with. What's the state of our media when a fierce advocate of cloning human embryos for research like Caplan is willing to be open about what he wants while some media outlets are bent on misleading their readers about what cloning is and what researchers want to do?

Let's take a look at Caplan's reasoning,
While it is true that the creation of stem cells means destroying a cloned embryo, a cloned embryo in a lab dish has no ability to develop into a person. It is at best a possible person —not an actual one.

Caplan contradicts himself here. On one hand, he claims a cloned human embryo has "no ability" to develop into a person, which for Caplan probably means obtaining some level of mental ability (though he provides no argument for that position here), and then in the next sentence claims a cloned embryo is, at best, a possible person meaning it would be possible for a cloned human embryo to develop into what he considers a person. Well, which is it?

Caplan continues,
Moreover, we already know that nearly all cloned embryos are so miswired that very few are capable of becoming a healthy adult organism at all, making cloned human embryos far more ethical to use for embryonic stem cell research than human embryos created solely for research purposes.
Notice here how Caplan doesn't provide an argument for why creating cloned human embryos for the purpose of killing them is ethical. He provides an argument for why it is "more ethical" to kill cloned human embryos created solely for research than kill IVF human embryos created solely for research. It may be true that killing cloned embryos created solely for research is more ethical than killing IVF embryos created solely for research but that doesn't mean creating and killing cloned human embryos for research is itself ethical. Just because act A is "more ethical" than act B doesn't mean that act A is ethical or should be legal. Shoplifting may be "more ethical" than armed robbery but that doesn't mean shoplifting is ethical and should be made legal.

Also, I can think of numerous kinds of afflictions which prevent born children from becoming "healthy adult organism(s)." I don't see why this would lead us to the conclusions that it is 1.) ethical to kill them for research and 2.) more ethical to kill them for research than children who have a higher likelihood of developing into healthy adults.

Domo arigato, Mr. Roboto

Is it me or could National Right to Life Committee's response to questions about why they endorsed Fred Thompson be any more robotic?

You can almost hear Darla St. Martin say to herself, "Stay on message. Stay on message."

It seems the subtext here is that they endorsed Thompson because Romney doesn't have a strong record on life issues (and possibly because he is in favor of expanded federal funding for embryonic stem cell research) and they don't believe Huckabee can win. McCain was probably out of consideration because of some combination of his advocacy with regards to expanding the federal funding of embryonic stem cell research and his low poll numbers.

I wonder what they'll do if Thompson drops out of the race before super Tuesday. Issue another endorsement?

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Life Links 11/13/07

A court in India has ruled that a woman having an abortion without her husband's knowledge or consent is cruelty and can play a part in grounds for a divorce.

Bonnie Grabenhofer, president of Illinois NOW, is "Discouraged by how "complacent" abortion-rights activists have been "outnumbered" and "out-organized" by anti-abortion activists thus far at Aurora City Council meetings and outside the (new Planned Parenthood) clinic." Maybe it's because you and your organization are still recycling a bunch of myths about parental notification laws when those laws are typically fairly popular with the public.

Researchers in Montreal believe they have discovered the protein which keeps adult stem cells from helping to treat spinal cord injuries. They believe they will eventually be able to manipulate the protein and allow for new therapies.

A number of prolifers in Michigan have responded to the most recent Detroit News editorial calling for the Michigan's law against killing human embryos for research to be overturned.

Individuals and churches throughout West Michigan have reached out to help a woman who is homeless and recently gave birth to triplets.

Endorsing Fred?

It's official. National Right to Life Committee will/has endorsed Fred Thompson for president.

Ross Douhat finds it hard to believe anyone who has followed what Thompson has said on abortion and how he has run his campaign would believe Thompson is the most deserving of this endorsement.

I tend to agree. Currently, Thompson seems to be neither the most viable nor the most prolife candidate.

Ramesh notes this is the first time NRLC has endorsed a candidate who isn't in favor of the Human Life Amendment.

David Freddoso writes about the possible effect this endorsement could have on Thompson's campaign which seems to be languishing in recent weeks.

I also find the timing to be a bit off. I mean, Fred's numbers aren't real impressive in the early states. If "viability" is the reason, they're endorsing Thompson over someone like Huckabee (who has a much stronger and more consistent prolife position) then they might have wanted to make that endorsement about a month ago.

What happens if/when Mitt wins Iowa, New Hampshire, gets first or second in South Carolina while Thompson sits in 3rd or 4th? At that point, won't it seemingly be a race between Romney and Giuliani?

As Jill Stanek notes, "As it becomes clearer pro-lifers are not going to coalesce around one or even two candidates, the likelihood only increases Giuliani will win the nomination."

Monday, November 12, 2007

Cloning monkeys

A researcher at the Oregon National Primate Research Center has claimed to have created a number of cloned monkey embryos and successfully extracted embryonic stem cells from two of them. Their efforts to bring a cloned monkey to birth failed. The research has yet to be published but will supposedly be published in Nature in the upcoming months.

I would guess that certain scientists and advocates in favor of human cloning for research will attempt to use this research to promote the possibility of researchers being able to extract embryonic stem cells from cloned human embryos. Note how the reporter for the UK's Independent doesn't avoid the terms "cloning" or "embryos" like many biased reporters in the U.S. do.

Why should no reasonable person trust a "factsheet" from the Center for Reproductive Rights?

In their "What if Roe Fell 2007?" report they think Delaware and Rhode Island are states at "high risk" to outlaw abortion if Roe is overturned. Illinois is listed as a state at "moderate risk."

They come to their conclusions seemingly based almost completely on whether old laws have be explicitly overturned in the legislature or not and pay almost no attention to the current makeup of the state legislature. If a state has an abortion ban which has been ruled unconstitutional by the courts (like Rhode Island) the state is at "high risk" to outlaw abortion because "state officials may seek to set aside the court rulings in order to enforce the ban if Roe is overturned." There doesn't seem to be any thought to whether state officials would actually do this or how the state's supreme court would rule.

They also list Michigan's Legal Birth Definition Act as an "Abortion Ban Bill" as if it outlawed all abortions and not just abortions where the unborn child is partially-born.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Life Links 11/9/07

Justin Taylor in Boundless: From Adopted to Adopting

Paul Kengor discusses a possible Rudy-Hillary match up and how it would work out with regards to those who attend church and those opposed to abortion. Both Hillary and Rudy have been judged the "least religious" of their party's possible nominees.

John Kerry is still working the "I'm pro-choice but opposed to abortion" angle. He does note that he thinks the Democratic party has been "overly pro-choice" at times. I wish he would have expanded more on what he meant by being "overly pro-choice." It seems like he meant that Democrats don't mention they want fewer abortions enough but I'm not sure how not mentioning they want fewer abortions enough is "overly pro-choice."

The Los Angeles Times has printed a response by Gregory Popcak to Gary Wills' "Abortion isn't a religious issue" editorial.
Wills states that the fetus is human life "just like" a piece of hair is human life. That's like saying a seat cover is a mode of transportation "just like" a car is a mode of transportation because it decorates the car and moves when the car does. Hair is part of a living organism, but it is not alive in the same sense that a person is. Something that is merely part of the whole does not share the same essence as the whole.....

He argues the woman needs to be given the choice to decide when and whether she is carrying a fetus or a person. So, by some amazing act of cognitive voodoo, it is the woman's choice that decides when human personhood begins? Why then, restrict the woman's choice to the womb? Some philosophers, like Princeton's Peter Singer, have the courage of Wills' convictions, extending a woman's choice to end a life all the way through birth and infancy. Using his own argument, there is no logical reason Wills should deny a woman's right to infanticide. After all, qualified people disagree here too.

A woman from West Michigan, who is homeless and currently living in a woman's shelter, recently gave birth to triplets.
Roberts, who has a 13-year-old son from a previous relationship -- he lives with his father -- said that upon learning of her pregnancy with the triplets, "I did think about abortion at the time, but it was just a thought...."

"I wish I could have made some different decisions," she said. "But I felt these babies were meant to be. I have a strong faith in God that He will see me through."

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Life Links 11/8/07

Freezing menstrual stem cells? I agree with Wesley, it's a waste of money. When researchers can't patent your own adult stem cells, companies have to try to figure a way to make money. As far as I know, there hasn't been a single case of anyone being treated with menstrual stem cells.

Robert Novak believes Fred Thompson's comments about putting young girls in jail and the Human Life Amendment were a "stunning error."

USA Today has a story on how researchers have used adult stem cells to help the heart's pumping power.

Stem cell research on dogs may help young children in the future.

Prosperity gospel leaders facing some adversity

A Senate committee is hoping to crack down on the prosperity gospel churches which seem to provide lavish material prosperity to their pastors.

Coverage of Michigan embryonic stem cell committee hearings

The Detroit News has this article. Note this quote from Stacy Geisen, the mother of Frank, whom she and her husband adopted as an embryo:
"Do scientists truly believe my Frank could have better served humanity dissected, destroyed and ultimately injected into someone's spine?"
I'm reminded of those fight scenes in the old Adam West Batman shows when Batman and Robin would put a whoppin' on the Joker and the Riddler.

Bam! Wham! Pow!

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Life Links 11/7/07

Pat Robertson will endorse Rudy Giuliani? Assuming this is true (it is), if you didn't think Robertson was off his rocker before, I have trouble seeing how you wouldn't now. Just for clarification - I'm not saying that anyone who endorses Giuliani is off their rocker. Endorsing Giuliani makes sense for certain people with certain beliefs but when you've tried to promote yourself as a prolife leader who stands with social conservatives like Robertson has, it makes no sense to endorse someone with Giuliani's positions considering the positions of the other candidates in the race.

New Jersey voters have shot down the initiative to give a $450 million for embryonic stem cell research.

Senator Sam Brownback endorses McCain.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

The Finances of the Michigan Citizens for Stem Cell Research and Cures

Looks like the Michigan Citizens for Stem Cell Research and Cures' executive director Marcia Baum has a good deal going for herself.

From my recollection, the MCSCRC didn't announce their presence until the fall of 2006. Does that mean Marcia Baum got a salary of $72,000 for less than half a year's work from a non-profit which had an income of about half that?

Ramesh responds

Ramesh Ponnuru discusses the reviews of his book, The Party of Death, in Human Life Review.
I have come to believe that if we had no motives for embracing false ideas about human beings in the earliest stages of development—if we were thinking about the moral questions here as a purely abstract matter—nobody would be at all confused about whether embryos are living human organisms or whether it is morally acceptable to kill them.

Invoking intuitions, feelings, etc., allows for a highly convenient double standard for defenders of abortion, embryo-destructive research, and euthanasia. Rauch, recall, demands that pro-lifers' ideas pass rigorous tests of internal coherence. I have to show that the logical premises behind laws protecting the unborn are compatible with exceptions for the life of the mother, with refusals to throw mothers in jail, and so forth. I can't just say, well, putting the women in jail doesn't feel right. He, on the other hand, doesn't have to do anything but offer an unsupported assertion about the in-between moral status of the unborn, and call it centrism.....

The response, detailed above, to the book's central moral claims is also instructive. In 1970 and for many years thereafter, advocates of legal abortion portrayed themselves as the party of cool, dispassionate reason. Their opponents were the prisoners of superstition and emotion. Pro-abortionists back then tried—not, I think, well—to argue either that fetuses were not "alive" or "human" or that their killing could be justified philosophically. Today, they tend with few exceptions either to refuse to engage the argument at all or to retreat behind their feelings and other non-rational defenses.

There are, of course, very smart people on the other side of the debate. But I think The Party of Death and the reaction to it demonstrate something else that has changed in the last four decades: The intellectual high ground is now ours.

Life Links 11/6/07

Dr. Kenneth Stevens on nearly 10 years of assisted suicide in Oregon. HT: Wesley Smith

The New York Times profiles abortionist Susan Wicklund.
But Dr. Wicklund acknowledges that abortion is an issue fraught with dilemmas. In the book, she describes witnessing, as a medical student, the abortion of a 21-week fetus. She writes that at the sight of its tiny arm she decided she would perform abortions only in the first trimester of pregnancy. She says late-term abortions should be legal, but her decision means she occasionally sees desperate women she must refuse to help.

Dr. Wicklund describes her horror when she aborted the pregnancy of a woman who had been raped, only to discover, by examining the removed tissue, that the pregnancy was further along than she or the woman had thought — and that she had destroyed an embryo the woman and her husband had conceived together.

The Los Angeles Times has a review of the book "Choice: True Stories of Birth, Contraception, Infertility, Adoption, Single Parenthood & Abortion."

The review begins with this question from the book:
DO the pro-lifers truly believe that women who have abortions do so carelessly, callously, without a second thought?
Huh? On one hand you have pro-choicers who claim that prolifers believe that all women who have abortions have some kind of serious post-abortion regret and then you have other pro-choicers who think prolifers believe women callously have abortions without a second thought. Would you get your story straight. Which is it?

Or maybe neither of those strawmen is true.

Prakriti Mishra has probably the least persuasive editorial in favor of human cloning I've ever read. It's in the Chicago Maroon, a student paper at the University of Chicago.

Carnegie Mellon researchers have "developed cell-instructive microcapsules that contain the genetically engineered neural stem cells" to prevent "an inflammatory response and would cause the stem cells to differentiate into mature cell types which would not be clinically effective."
The idea behind the technology being developed is to give clinicians the ability to genetically engineer neural cells from the patient, re-implant them and remotely control their actions in non-invasive ways.

Monday, November 05, 2007

More on Gary Wills' Los Angeles Times Editorial on Abortion

From Steve Wagner, Albert Mohler, John Jakubczyk and Rick Garnett.

The Greatest Interception Return in the History of Professional Football

Or at least I think so.

Life Links 11/5/07

Ann Friedman of Feministing recently attended a House Foreign Affairs Committee on the Mexico City policy. The Mexico City Policy (or called the Global Gag Rule by its opponents) prevents organizations which provide or promote abortion overseas from receiving U.S. tax dollars. She notes the lack of attendance from pro-choice members of the committee and says she was almost "retching" because Representative Chris Smith "went so far as to put ultrasound images up on the screens on either end of the room and draw our attention to ‘the child kicking, catapulting in the womb.'"

How dare he? We all know that ultrasound images are vile examples of inadmissible evidence.

In another Feministing post, Vanessa believes that Wisconsin legislation which attempts to prevent women from being coerced into abortion "nibbles away at choice." Apparently, asking women if they've been coerced into this abortion is an attempt to "persuade everyone else that women can't make their own decisions." Is this a pro-woman position or a pro-abortionist position?

David Sessions in Slate about how the evangelical crack up is "Not All It's Cracked Up To Be."

Fred Thompson isn't in favor of the Human Life Amendment. What is the deal with the putting-young-girls-in-jail line at the end of the clip?

Ramesh Ponnuru takes down Gary Wills' abortion essay in the LA Times. Wills' essay which is filled with almost an unbelievable amount of ignorance and is worthy of so many blog posts. The best part is when he uses the thoughts of Aquinas (who, because of no fault of his own, had almost no knowledge of embryology) to defend a position on personhood while claiming evangelicals don't want to hear from embryologists. Embryologists don't give evangelicals the answers we want to hear? Evangelicals want to exclude embryologists? Under which rock has Wills been living? Maybe I've been missing something but I see quotes from embryology textbooks on prolife web sites (like my own side bar) fairly often. I can't recall the last time I saw an embryology textbook quoted on a pro-choice site.

Amanda Marcotte admits the Fox News documentary on abortion was "okay" but clings to her paranoid theory "that Fox was trying to promote stereotypes of who gets abortions was pretty accurate." Basically, Amanda thinks Fox News tried really hard to find stereotypical women but messed up because one of the women defied the stereotype which Amanda thinks Fox News was trying to fit her in. Why Fox News didn't leave their supposedly failed stereotype clips on the cutting room floor isn't mentioned.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Life Links 11/2/07

Jay from the LTI Blog on typically prolife Senator Tom Coburn's bad argument that deficit spending is a greater moral issue than abortion.
This is the same pro-choice argument that we have heard for years in a whole new venue. It only works if you agree that it would be better for people to be aborted than to be born into desperate financial situations.

A jury in Michigan has ruled that an auto insurance company must reimburse Kevin Krohn for an adult stem cell surgery he received in Portugal to treat his paralysis.

Friday Pumpkin Carving Blogging

This year's results below - my wife's on the left, mine on the right.

Past years here and here.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Francis Beckwith: Let us define pro-life for you

Here's a guest column by Francis Beckwith in the Waco Tribune which is a response to this editorial by John Young. Beckwith writes,
If we are intrinsically valuable beings now, we were intrinsically valuable beings then. We don't become less intrinsically valuable because others think it is in their interest to destroy us.

Moreover, the differences between our prenatal and postnatal selves carry no moral weight: Size, level of development, environment and dependency do not impart to us moral status. We continue to be ourselves as we undergo these changes.

Young and Planned Parenthood seem to believe that absolute power over the consequences of extra-marital sex will make us a freer and more compassionate people.

I am far less sanguine. For it is a posture that treats sex and the children that arise from it as instruments of our wills rather than as gifts that ought to be treated with respect and dignity.

That is neither liberating nor loving.

Should stem cell surgery be covered?

A Michigan man named Kevin Krohn is suing Home Owners Insurance, Inc. for not paying for his adult stem cell surgery in Portugal with Dr. Carlos Lima. The procedure cost $51,000 and according to Krohn played a vital role in improving his condition. Krohn was paralyzed after a car accident and has "regained bladder and bowel control and is able to move his hips and legs" after receiving a transplant of his own nasal stem cells.
The legal issue the jury must decide is how to apply the state's auto insurance law to Krohn's case. The law requires insurance companies to provide "reasonably necessary" treatment and services to people injured in auto crashes.

Life Links 11/1/07

Scientists at Jefferson College of Medicine have discovered there are stem cells located in the "intervertebral discs of the human spine, suggesting that such cells might someday be used to help repair degenerating discs and remedy lower back and neck pain." They even got some press coverage in U.S. News and World Report.

Jeanine Plant has an article focused on prolifers in the documentary movie Unborn in the USA: Inside the War on Abortion. I believe the article shows us more about Plant than it does about prolifers.

Terry Lawson reviews Lake of Fire in the Detroit Free Press.
In the film's most stunning sequence, Kaye turns his camera on a 28-year-old woman and follows her through the entire procedure, from giving her history to the clinic counselor -- a survivor of childhood abuse, this will be her fifth abortion -- through the surgery prep to the operating table and then, to the recovery room. There, she attempts to make sense of what has just happened to her body and that of a child to whom she might have given life.

If you shed tears here, it will not just be for the unborn, but for those who must go on living.

Phil Power - too lazy to be bothered with facts

Here's another example of the unfathomable laziness (or possibly untruthfulness) of the Michigan media on stem cell research:

Phil Power ("president of The Center for Michigan, a centrist think-and-do tank" and a former University of Michigan regent) has decided to put his full trust in the Michigan Citizens for Stem Cell Research and Cures and has written an editorial with this ridiculous statement.
Any scientist (in Michigan- ed.) who does research on human embryonic stem cells is now subject to jail time of up to 10 years and a fine of up to $10 million.

Nevermind that the University of Michigan has a "Michigan Center for hES (human embryonic stem) Cell Research."

Nevermind that the site above notes that "(m)ore than 40 scientists are active participants in the Center for hES Cell Research"

Nevermind that the Michigan Center for hES Cell Research lists the human embryonic stem cell lines it makes available.

Nevermind that they list the specific human embryonic stem cell projects a variety of University of Michigan researchers are working on.

Way to go Phil! Pay no attention to the facts. Don't do a shred of research. Just parrot the talking points of the Michigan Citizens for Stem Cell Research and Cures. Good job.

Power want a cracker?