I encourage you to read this fantastic article from the Action Institute by Jennifer Roback Morse, Ph.D, outlining the advantages, both ethical and economic of pursuing stem cell research using umbilical cord blood rather than embryonic stem cells. While much of the information is not new to those who follow the stem cell debate closely, the final paragraph of the article has me considering a new position in that debate which I've not seen advocated before.
"This is the ultimate irony of the conflict over stem cells. Umbilical
cord blood produces cells that are more practical than those obtained
from embryo destruction. If we would allow the embryos to be born, we
would have a ready supply of something more therapeutic and less
costly. And, we get a free prize: a cute baby, as a by-product. A
win-win situation all around.'
As the author points out earlier in the article, the proponents of stem cell research often argue that there are banks of frozen human embryos out there and that those embryos will go to waste if we don't use them for research. This is an argument that has convinced even a number of Republicans and Conservatives to begrudgingly assent to the use of those embryos for research purposes leading to their destruction. After all, what on earth would we do with those embryos other than just let them die?
As Dr. Morse seems to suggest, why don't we let them do what embryos do? Why don't we let them grow and be born?
I am sure this argument has been made by many before, I've just never seen it, and never considered the idea myself. Probably because though the idea is morally correct, it would face nearly insurmountable opposition.
I realize that I'm living in my Conservative fantasy world when I make the suggestion that we should have a national initiative to require all viable frozen embryos be implanted into volunteer host mothers and essentially adopted. Aside from the fuss that would be raised over suggesting that we bring 400,000 frozen embryos to birth (not necessarily all at once, mind you) when we still have children languishing in the adoption system, there are the legal issues over the ownership of the embryos. A study from the RAND Corporation which Dr. Morse cites shows that over 88% of all harvested embryos are stored for "Future Family Building" meaning that the parents maintain "ownership." Only 11,000, or about 2.8% have been donated for research.
Regardless of the opposition, I've found my answer to those who argue that frozen embryos would simply go to waste if not used for research; let them be born. If we truly believe that these embryos are human life, we can advance no other position. As Dr. Morse writes, not only do we get a great new source of umbilical cord blood for research, but we get babies as well. Lots of babies. And who doesn't like babies? I mean, besides liberals...