One of the emerging truths of the 1990s is the admission that our country is in a profound moral decline. More precisely, as many political analysts have said: "We are in a cultural war"!
We contend that the first and greatest casualty in this war has been and continues to be the human embryo and fetus. This is The Third Holocaust. The status of both embryo and fetus has been arbitrarily reduced to that of a non-person, one of the new "Untermenschen".
The concept of the "Untermenschen" as less than fully human persons was an essential characteristic of the dehumanization in the Third Reich, more than a half century ago. That dehumanization led scientists, physicians, and others, in the service of the state, to abandon ethical medicine and carry out fatal experiments on piteous non-consenting human beings. These fatal experiments were regarded as useful in yielding information presumed beneficial to the war effort, or simply for the advancement of science. Dehumanization led directly to the concentration (death) camps, the gas ovens and the deaths of millions of innocent human beings in what is known as The Holocaust, and the lesser known Second Holocaust, which included the mentally defective, the crippled, pastors, priests, gypsies, Poles, Russians, Germans and political dissenters.
The nations of the free world acting as one, indicted, tried, convicted and sentenced to imprisonment or death responsible officials and physicians. The charge at Nuremberg was "crimes against humanity". "Never again" was the universal cry as the Nuremberg trials drew to a close.
Some will object that today is not the 1930s, that this is not Nazi Germany and that it is offensive to draw any analogy to those times. But, the record shows that it was in academic medicine in the Third Reich that eager recruits were found and the concept of Lebens Unwertenleben (lives unworthy of life) and its deliberate pursuit began there. Ideas do have consequences, and words do mean things, and are not to be dismissed lightly. Particularly virulent is the concept that human lives are not worthy of protection under the law.
In a nation terminating 1.5 million normal pregnancies each year only those regarded as convenient and the wanted survive. The dehumanization of the human conceptus so evident in the abortion debate and in the denial of personhood and equal protection under the law is now being rendered complete by the imminent approval of experimentation on the human embryo as sanctioned by the Clinton administration through the National Institutes of Health (NRI) and to be paid for by taxpayer's dollars.
This is part of redefining the human being, which has been going on since Roe v. Wade, adjudicated in 1973. This has been eminently demonstrated by public hearings held by a select NIH Advisory Panel On Human Embryo Research. Those hearings began in January, 1994 and were conducted monthly with the last one held in September, 1994. Those meetings were for the purpose of constructing guidelines for research on the human embryo. To establish credibility for such research, they first concluded that the human embryo is not entitled to the same protection as a human being.
What is society to make of such attempts, under academically impeccable auspices, sponsored by the U. S. government, to declare the early human conceptus, during its first 14 days of life (or beyond), as less than fully human? What is society to think of this attempt to acquire federal funding for exploitation and non-therapeutic experimentation on human life in its early stages?
An ancient aphorism states: "It's money that makes the mare go". This applies with particular emphasis to medical research in The U.S. Indeed, were federal funding to suddenly disappear the medical research establishment would essentially collapse like rising souffle responding to a slamming door. Events currently unfolding at NIH with the prospect of non-therapeutic research on the early human conceptus threaten to create immense problems in conscience for persons sensitive to the rights and inherent dignity of the early human conceptus and our moral responsibility as taxpayers.
Dr. Seuss' charming allegorical children's story "Horton Hears A Who" with its conclusion: "A person's a person no matter how small" does not cut the mustard inside the beltway or with The American Fertility Society (AFS) or The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology. To prepare for this latest assault on the U.S. Treasury, for research funds, they have invoked a reinvented human embryology, which has been roughly 15 years in the making. In 1979, Clifford Grobstein, Ph.D., a developmental biologist, created a new term, the "preembryo", designed and used to dehumanize and isolate that tiny island of humanity, whose normal residence is in the womb, specifically to cut it off from the moral concern due one human in origin and immortal in destiny.
Grobstein, who is not a human embryologist, and The Reverend Richard McCormick S.J. have been the principal spokesmen in this dehumanizing process. They and others formed an arbitrary Ethics Committee ofthe AFS in 1986, reconvened in 1990, and initially designed, then slightly amended and reaffirmed, statements removing a moral status and protection of the conceptus up to 14 days post-fertilization.
If, in fact, the early human embryo remains what it always has been considered, a member of the human species, it is crucial that the American public understand the significance of the struggle now raging. Bogus human embryology tailored for a specific political strategy must not provide a warrant for calculated dehumanization and a sneak attack on the taxpayer's wallet.
The term "preembryo" did not exist in the literature anywhere before 1979. To our knowledge, it has never been proposed for any specie other than the human. Further, to our knowledge, no human embryologist accepts this term. It has been used to 'scientifically' justify early abortion, and, now, to justify experimentation on early individual human life up to 14 days of post-fertilization age. This includes creating human embryos, their exploitation, experimentation and destruction at will. The term is commonly used by the AFS and the ACOG. The NIH now uses the terms "preembryo" and "Ex Utero Embryo" interchangeably.
Compounding this devilment, Grobstein is now extending his interpretations of human embryology. He currently proposes that the definition of "preembryo" should apply to at least 7 weeks post fertilization.
During the Reagan-Bush years, 1980-1992, no non-therapeutic research using IVF-bred human embryos and no IVF research was governmentally subsidized. This is because an Ethics Advisory Board was required by law to approve any such grant, and no such permission was forthcoming. The Ethics Advisory Board was allowed to go out of existence and no new appointees were narned. The issue became essentially moot. Additionally, in existence have been 25 states with laws regulating fetal research and 15 of these have laws controlling human embryo research. Further, there is wide-spread public opposition to exploitation ofthe human embryo and fetus.
To rescue the AFS and the ACOG and their research plans, Senator Edward Kennedy, Massachusetts, and Representative Henry Waxman, California, pushed and helped enact the NIH Revitalization Act of 1993. An obscure section overturned the existing Ethics Advisory Board approval requirement and allowed the NIH to appoint a Human Embryo Research Panel "to provide advice as to those areas acceptable for Federal Funding". The appointed Panel included members of the AFS and the ACOG, and first met in January, 1994. Among the members were 3 cellular or subcellular biologists, 1 primate anatomist, 5 physicians, 2 lawyers, 2 University Presidents, I sociologist, 2 educationists, and 3 philosophers. While appearing to be academically impeccable it had no human embryologist or a known opponent of human fetal or embryo research among its members! In fact, we do not know of a single human embryologist who advocates human embryo research. Why are the developmental biologists, the molecular biologists, compulsively lobbying for human embryo research? They are the contemporary biological engineers, and perhaps 75% of all that ever lived in the world are alive and working today. They are the tinkerers, the fiddlers, the doodlers. What they have done
with invertebrate and vertebrate embryos they now propose to do with human embryos without compunction or moral restraint.
It is doubtful that a significant number of members of Congress realized that the Ethics Advisory Board requirement was being eliminated when they voted for the NIH Revitalization Act of 1993. Nor were they aware that they were ceding to the NIH the power to appoint a stacked committee in an area of such great moral concern to many Americans.
It is of special significance that the Fact Sheet instructed the Panel to "address the profound moral and ethical issues raised by the use of human embryos in research, and develop guidelines to govern the review and conduct of federally-funded research".
Although not included in the wording of the "Panel Charge" it was clear as to the considerations demanded by the NIH. In fact, the overwhelming testimonies presented to the Panel (a maximum of 5 minutes each) were opposed to recreational experimentation on the human embryo. That is, opposition was heavily against non-therapeutic research from In-vitro fertilization procedures. For example, at the June 21st public session all 12 testimonies opposed the panel's agenda. Yet, the Panel overtly rejected most of this testimony, often to the point of overt contestation. They also virtually ignored thousands of written criticisms, while proceeding toward their recommendations.
At the May 4th, 1994 meeting of Panel members Professor Brigid Hogan did suggest that a licensing authority should be set up for embryo research in the U.S. Panel appointee Professor Patricia King rejected this concept pointing out that it might end embryo research "for the next 20 years because such a licensing authority requires an act of Congress and if we start getting into that bailiwick everything gets totally messed up". (emphasis added) So much for Congress!
Discussions by this Panel, as indicated by the official transcripts, included the following non-therapeutic human embryo experiments:
At the June 21st-22nd meeting, the panel took preliminary votes and approved of the following research: 1) use of donated eggs and sperm for creation of "research" embryos, 2) experimentation on emb~yos up to 14 days post-fertilization age, 3) parthenogenesis studies, 4) genetic testing of isolated embryonic cells, 5) experiments beyond 14 days of age involving the neural tube, 6) use of human embryos to produce cell lines for culture, and 7) cloning, the introduction of a healthy nucleus of a cell into an egg whose impaired nucleus has been removed, with further culture.
These votes were sustained and recommended in the final report of the panel to the Director of NIH. The Director presumably submitted the report and recommendations to another advisory group, after which he was to decide on the guidelines, presumably due sometime in December, 1994, or shortly thereafter. To date, January 1977, he has not done so.
Justifying all of the "recreational" experimentation is the application of the terms "preembryo" or "human embryo exutero", as used by the Panel, to the first 14 days after fertilization. The assumption is that up to a certain stage the individual is not there and while it may be treated with profound respect it is not owed the tifll respect due to an 'authentic' human being. The implication is that we are to accept manipulation and exploitation of the "preembryo", and this can be done with impunity and, of course, subsidized with tax dollars.
Obviating all of the bogus and esoteric embryology including the assumed recognition of the term "preembryo" is the undeniable truth that all of human development (indeed, all of life) from initial contact of egg and sperm to birth (and beyond to death) is a continuum and is not subject to any arbitrations under what the scientific world recognizes and accepts as normal circumstances. Therefore, the human being, the individual, and the person, are one and inseparable, and are present at the moment of contact between sperm and egg. So-called stages overlap and are useful only to human embryologists and Obstetricians in the taxonomic sense as markers.
Thus, the creation of any stage during development, such as "preembryo", or one which identifies the appearance of the "individual" is purely specious and arbitrary, as even some of the NIH Advisory Panel members admit. The reason for inventing these stages is to justify the experimentation proposed for the human embryo. Even though non-therapeutic procedures may kill the human embryo, advocates may claim such experiments would be redeeming if they render useful results. In other words, the end would justify the means!
Dr. Henry K. Beecher in Experiments in Man (1950, JAMA 169:486) pointed out that, "if an experiment is moral it is moral from the outset. "It does not become moral because it produces valuable data or results." Already a number of other nations have considered and rejected the path down which our NIH is proceeding.
The hour is late in our nation. The public must become concerned. It would be well to reflect on a statement found in philosopher Hans Jonas"'Philosophical Reflections On Experimenting With Human Subjects, (1969, Daedelus, 98:244) "Progress is an optimal goal not an unconditional commitment. Let us remember that slower progress in the conquest of disease would not threaten society, grievous as it is for those who have a disease which has not yet been conquered. But, society would indeed be threatened by the erosion of those moral values whose loss possibly caused by too ruthless a pursuit of scientific progress would make its most dazzling triumph not worth having."
This government and the taxpayer should not tolerate the invoking of bogus embryology by any agency of this government to create a free fire zone for exploitation of the human conceptus. Not for l day, not for 14 days, not for 270 days should that stage of human life, which each of us living passed through, be dehumanized as born "Untermenschen" were more than 50 years ago.
One of the more odious concepts concerning the status of the human embryo has come from Judge Michael J. Noonan, presiding over Municipal Court at Morris County, New Jersey in April of 1991. This was the trial of Alexander Loce, and friends, for attempting to block the entrance of a woman, pregnant with an embryo Loce had fathered, to an abortion clinic. In finding the accused guilty of criminal trespass, Noonan also had this to say: "I find that the eight week fetus (sic) in this case was a living human being that was legally executed pursuant to the United States Supreme Court decision in Roe V. Wade."
Certainly, if an 8 week embryo, supremely innocent, can be executed there is no hope for any previous age, which the NIH Advisory Panel is now amplifying!
This bizarre concept, surprisingly, has ancillary support from the medical profession through the fact that many graduating medical students are now swearing, not to the Hippocratic Oath, and its restrictions of doing harm or taking part in an abortion, but to a different oath, The Oath of Lasagna, which includes the statement: "It may also be within my power to take a life; this awesome responsibility must be faced with great humbleness and awareness of my own fraility".
Truly, demonic doctrines, once more, threaten to darken the earth with The Third Holocaust.
After Nuremberg the medical declaration of Geneva, which became the "Gold Standard" held: "I will maintain the utmost respect for human life from conception"! And the U.N. Declaration On The Child, November 20th, 1959, to which the U.S.A. was a signatory held: "The child by reason of his physical and mental immaturity needs special safeguards and care, including appropriate legal protection before as well as after birth". Verily!
Following the final report issued by the NIH Human Embryo Research Advisory Panel, there has been an effiusion of editorial comments in the press. The Washington Post blasted the recommendations by the Panel, as did articles in the Washington Times and the Wall Street Journal. The New York Times published an editorial debate on November 25th, 1994, in which Philip Boffey, speaking on the pro side in defense of the recommendations by the Panel, uses the standard descriptions of the early human embryo previously used over several years, and lately, by the Panel: "The clump"; "no sense of self'; "no feeling"; "no bigger than a period". Of course, such descriptions of ourselves in our earliest moments of development would not be originated by any human embryologist, and some of them could easily refer to you and me at any age!
But, the real down side of the "debate", briefly discussed by Mary Cantwell, on the supposedly con side, was when she agreed with the Panel that "young embryos do not have the same moral status as infants and children"! Unfortunately, she does not understand the concept of the conti'`uum. The wrong persons are answering to the wrong concepts, as has been the case in many instances over the past 20 years. Therefore, the dilemma does not get resolved for the public in the mainstream media.
At about the same time, President Clinton announced that no federal funds would be used to fund the creation of research embryos, because of the great moral implications. But, he said nothing about leftover embryos from IVF procedures - "spare" embryos. They are equivalent. Therefore, if a "reduced moral status" is applicable to one, it would be applicable to the other, also. And so said the NIH Panel. In reality, a "reduced moral status" is the corruption of a magnificent story. Remember, science did not assign a "reduced moral status" to the early human embryo. This assignment is purely arbitrary and political.
The battle still rages and the war continues.