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Friday, February 23, 2007

The Plight of the Blastocyte

I spend some time on what is ostensibly a sports message board. However, as it is an open forum with no restrictions on membership or what can actually even be discussed there, the topics often stray far from the doings of the Red Sox. Being that we are primarily New Englanders, that off-topic is very often politics. Although it drives some other members batty, I really enjoy this aspect of the board. It exposes me to a broad cross section of political ideas I might not otherwise encounter frequently, given that a) I live in a blue area of a blue state, and b) most of my friends are of a blue persuasion. What never ceases to amaze me is that these people can espouse some of the ideas they do-in public, no less, albeit under the security cloak of an internet screenname-and still retain enough brain power to feed themselves. It's remarkable, (although also very unfortunate).

Today we got a special post from one of the most braindead far right regulars on the board (someone who has stated without shame that s/he believes that AIDS was brought to America by men having sex with monkeys-I am not making that up), a sexually ambiguous poster who calls itself turn2jeter (right wingnut and a Yankee fan to boot..oh, the humanity!) In response to a post about federal funding for stem cell research, turn2jeter remarked, just like it was a proclamation from the NIH:

"Fetal stem research has been conducted for over a quarter of a century with not much positive coming from it. However, stem cell research used from other means (not killing a baby) have found some success."

Ok...I swear this is an actual post on a Red Sox message board.

I get where s/he got the concept of stem cells being a "baby," because that's what the right wing media insists that they are, and if you're stupid you buy it. All one has to do is going to http://www.rushonline.com/visitors/stemcell.htm and see it borne out before your very eyes. Blastocytes suddenly become "pre-born children." Blastocytes! And nowhere is there any mention of the fact that the stem cells to be used for research are otherwise headed for the dumpster. The prolife crowd conveniently obfuscates that fact. The embryos in question come from two sources: either they are created in a lab by implanting human DNA into a donated egg, or left over from fertility treatments. In both cases, the extra embryos necessarily created by the process are destroyed. They have absolutely NO CHANCE IN HELL OF ENDING UP A BABY, and every chance of being incinerated.

So, what is the right wing really against in this case, anyway? The research? What purpose does it serve to be against the research? Not doing the research is not going to result in any more "human life" because these particular clumps of cells are going to end up as ashes no matter what. So, my best guess is that the US Taliban is actually against the process of invitro fertilization, the only process by which many otherwise infertile couples can have a baby. Hey, James Dobson! Tony Perkins! Look at that new mother! There's your real culprit! The murderous bitch! Here's a sign for you to picket outside her door-

HEY, MA! WHAT ABOUT YOUR OTHER KIDS?

TEST TUBE BABIES KILL OTHER BABIES!

Ludicrous, isn't it? But if the truth be told, those doctors and social workers and parents-to-be are the real offenders of the pre-born blastocytes, and if the right weren't so monumentally politically motivated by this issue, they would be agitating for the immediate shutdown of every fertility clinic in the US.

But that was only one idiotic point made in this moron's post. The other is that stem cell research has been conducted for 25 years with no results, but other stem cells have shown enormous promise. Well, of course that's utter nonsense. It's only been since 1998 that James Thomson's researchers at the University of Wisconsin isolated and grew stem cells from human embryos, not until 2000 that other researchers began finding that stem cells found in the brain are apparently able to form other kinds of cells. And while nobody is disputing the potential of adult stem cells to help provide insight and treatment for illness, their existence and usefulness in research vs that of embryonic stem cells has been distorted by the right wing media, in direct contrast to statements from scientists who ought to know what they're talking about, like those at the Mayo Clinic: "Researchers believe that adult stem cells may not be as versatile, durable or healthy as embryonic stem cells are. The problems with adult stem cells are that they may not be able to be manipulated to produce all cell types, which limits how they can be used to treat diseases, and they don't seem to have the same ability to multiply that embryonic stem cells do. They're also more likely to contain abnormalities due to exposure to environmental hazards, such as toxins, or from errors introduced into cells during replication."

Opponents of stem cell research really have only one target in sight-control of the sexual behavior in women. Once we get stem cells classified as people, how can we continue to support abortion? And once abortion is no longer available, women will stop having sex.

It's ridiculous, I know. But that really is the bottom line here.

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