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Scientists Believe in No Limits on Embryo Research

by | Mar 17, 2021

By Wesley J. Smith

I could have predicted this. In fact, I did. Repeatedly.

During the Great Stem Cell debate, “the scientists” said they “only” wanted to be able to create and experiment on embryos up to 14 days of development, when cells begin to differentiate. Of course, at the time they couldn’t maintain them for longer than 14 days, so nothing was actually limited.

Now that they can, they plan to ditch the “14 day rule” as it is called — actually, it is a guideline since it isn’t legally binding — promulgated by the International Society for Stem Cell Research. 

From the MIT Technology Review story:

For the last 40 years, this voluntary guideline has served as an important stop sign for embryonic research. It has provided a clear signal to the public that scientists wouldn’t grow babies in labs. To researchers, it gave clarity about what research they could pursue.

Now, however, a key scientific body is ready to do away with the 14-day limit. The action would come at a time when scientists are making remarkable progress in growing embryonic cells and watching them develop. Researchers, for example, can now create embryo-like structures starting even from stem cells, and some hope to follow these synthetic embryo models well past the old two-week line.

And after that? Once embryos can be gestated in artificial uteruses, why not go to one month, three months, or six months? Hell, why not up to the point of birth? These are developing human beings, but there will always be a utilitarian excuse! Vermont has already passed a law that states no embryo or fetus has any rights of their own that have to be respected.

Much of this is learning how to engage eugenic manipulations:

Scientists are motivated to grow embryos longer in order to study — and potentially manipulate — the development process. But such techniques raise the possibility of someday gestating animals outside the womb until birth, a concept called ectogenesis.

According to [bioethicist Tetsuya] Ishii, new experiments “might ignite abortion debates,” especially if the researchers develop human embryos to the point where they take on recognizable characteristics like a head, beating heart cells, or the beginning of limbs.

Just know this: All of these talks of “limits” and “ethical boundaries” are a big con. Guidelines will not protect against abuse because those in charge will keep changing the guidelines.

And people wonder why there is so much distrust of our institutions.

Editor’s note. Wesley’s columns appear at National Review Online and are reposted with permission.

Categories: Human Embryos