[Randy Tobler is on 97.1 FM here in St. Louis. He is a doctor (physician, I think) and he is saying that the embryos produced by Somatic Cell Nuclear Transfer technology are substantially different than embryos produced by sperm and egg in a woman’s womb. (The weakness of his argument is illustrated by an analogy he used: it’s like calling a rusted, transmission-less Ford a “car” and calling a new Hummer off the line a “car.” What?) The following is my e-mail to him–I tried to call, but his line was jammed. I’ve inserted in brackets further details to make clear what I was talking about.]
Dr. Tobler, I’m sure you’re getting lots of e-mails on this. I’ve got two points/questions:
1. I heard you on Dave Glover and on your show trying hard to make a distinction between the embryo on which experimentation will be done, and a naturally fertilised egg in a woman’s body. Can you tell me why, then, the definition of “clone or attempt to clone” in the amendment explicitly rules out implantation in a woman’s womb? If there is such a great distinction between the two, no one would ever even think of implanting it in a womb. But apparently the authors of the amendment saw a need to explicitly exclude implantation. (This doesn’t even get to the point of the redefinition of “clone.” No one, when asked what “cloning” is, would define it as “implantation of–what?–into a woman’s womb.” A clone is a clone is a clone.) As one of your callers said, just because scientists can’t produce humans from the SCNT embryos now, and just because reputable scientists wouldn’t produce humans, means absolutely nothing.
2. To your point that we subordinate some human lives to others [by choosing the mother over the child]. A tubal pregnancy or some other circumstance where it would, medically, seem to be either the fetus’ life or the mother’s life is not equivalent to experimenting on human embryos. I think it is essentially murder to choose one life over the other, whether the mother or the child. What is the solution? Every woman who finds herself in that situation is going to have to make her own choice. But even if a woman chooses to have her child aborted because it threatens her life (a real threat, not as NARAL, et al. would have it), that doesn’t make it any less wrong. The fact that people do things, and society basically accepts those actions, has no bearing whatsoever on the rightness or wrongness of the action. If it was my wife? I can’t say what I would do. We will have to choose if we ever encounter that situation. But again, regardless of our decision, the fact that we make a decision doesn’t tell us whether it is right or wrong. “Is” doesn’t equal “ought.” Same with IVF; the fact that we do it now is irrelevant. I would probably vote for legislation that outlawed IVF or at least required all embryos produced to be implanted.
On the other hand, experimenting on human embryos (you have not convinced me that there is a substantial–in the literal sense of substance–difference between the two embryos; you said “human life as we define it”–which is what? In my opinion, human life is, first of all, any embryo that results from other humans, whether “artificially” in a lab, or “naturally” in a woman’s womb) is not something where there is a “one or the other” choice to be made. And yes, if you’re compiling the list, put me down as one who would not choose, selfishly, to sacrifice another human life to help or save one of my relatives’ lives, whether it’s legal in other states or not. It is nothing other than pure selfishness to sacrifice other lives for the benefit of mine or that of someone I love. Perhaps it should then be legal for me to anesthethize my neighbor and kill him and take his organs when my daughter’s organs fail. Why do we have a visceral reaction to that, but not to embryonic research? Because they’re smaller? Because they don’t look like you or me? There is no definitive difference. Human life is human life, period.
Finally, give me a break with your analogy of cancer cells [to embryonic stem cells]. That’s ridiculous. Surely you know what the substantial difference is between a cell taken from a cancerous tumor and a cell taken from a human embryo. That’s just weak.
Thanks for your time.