Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Who gets the embryos? Whoever wants to make them into babies, new law says.

The Washington Post (Jul. 17, 2018): Who gets the embryos? Whoever wants to make them into babies, new law says, by Ariana Eunjung Cha: 

New court cases cases are grappling with the decision of what to do with frozen embryos created during a marriage that later dissolves. In many cases that Cha reports on, the couples chose to create and freeze several embryos in the wake of a cancer diagnosis and treatment schedule that threatened later fertility.

When these same couples faced divorce, there were bitter divides over what should be done with the embryos: one party wanted to maintain "ownership" of the embryos for a future chance at children while the other wanted the embryos destroyed, fearing unwanted future financial or relationship obligations. 

With the number of frozen embryos in the United States soaring into the millions, disputes over who owns them are also on the rise. Judges have often — but not always — ruled in favor of the person who does not want the embryos used, sometimes ordering them destroyed, following the theory that no one should be forced to become a parent.

In Arizona, though, a "first-in-the-nation law" went into effect on July 1 that states "custody of disputed embryos must be given to the party who intends to help them 'develop to birth.'"

The legislation represents for some lawmakers the idea that frozen embryos have their own right to life, and many imagine that the implications could eventually include a delineation of when life begins and a claim to a separate set of embryonic rights of their own as human beings (rather than the discussion being centered on who "owns" the embryos). 

Some groups, like the anti-abortion Thomas More Society, advocate for that embryos to be considered "children" in the legal sense, asking judges to make decisions on disputes based on the best interest of the "child." 

Debates to extend personhood to unborn embryos and fetuses abound in anti-abortion work. Abortion rights advocates are concerned that these discussions could further disintegrate the right to abortion in the United States. "If a days-old embryo in a freezer has a right to life, why not a days-old embryo in utero?"

While judges have historically ordered disputed embryos destroyed based on the wishes of the party who does not want a child, an Arizona judge chose to balance one party's "probable inability to have a child without the embryos" against the other party's "desire to not be a father" a different way. 

Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Ronee Korbin Steiner held that Ruby Torres, who wanted the embryos in order to have biological children one day, had no right to them. The judge did not order them destroyed, though, and instead ordered that they go up for donation.

Torres appealed the decision and expects a new ruling any day. 

The new Arizona law that states embryos shall be given to the party who intends to develop them to birth was written in response to this case to "help" people in Torres' situation. It also attempts to recognize the rights of those who do not want the embryos used by providing that those parties would not be liable for child support in the future. 

Both the judicial decisions and the legislation continue to prove extremely controversial:

The Center for Arizona Policy, a conservative lobbying group that has successfully pushed antiabortion legislation in the state, supported the measure, saying the bill would “lead to more consistent rulings.”

The American Society for Reproductive Medicine, which represents doctors, nurses and other professionals who work on fertility issues, opposed the measure, arguing that it would have a profound impact on reproductive medicine.

Medical professionals foresee profound complications to stem-cell research in particular, which relies on embryos donated to science. Such research is believed essential in developing treatments for many diseases and conditions like Parkinson's and Alzheimer's. The treatment and storage of embryos as a result of the new legislation will likely make embryonic stem cells much more scarce.

In a friend-of-the-court brief in Torres' pending appellate case, the Academy of Adoption and Assisted Reproduction Attorneys urged judges in the Arizona Court of Appeals to balance the interest of each former spouse. They argue that the parties claims are not equal and that "the constitutional protection against compulsory parenthood is [generally] greater than any procreative interest in pre-embryos." 

Time will tell both if the appellate judges affirm Judge Steiner's controversial ruling (likely leading to further appeals) while we also wait for the inevitable challenges to Arizona's new embryo law.

July 18, 2018 in Abortion, Assisted Reproduction, Bioethics, Culture, Current Affairs, Fertility, Fetal Rights, In the Courts, Medical News, Parenthood, Politics, Public Opinion, Scholarship and Research, State and Local News, State Legislatures, Stem Cell Research | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Chimeras: Medical Cure or Threat to Humanity?

National Public Radio (May 18, 2016): In Search for Cures, Scientists Create Embryos That Are Both Animal and Human, by Rob Stein:

Does creating animal-human hybrids--also known as chimeras--damage humanity?  Some bioethicists think so.  They are responding to developing technology that would perfect the manufacture of embryos that are part human and part animal.  The hope is that these embryos could be used to study human diseases and to grow human organs that could be used for transplants.  One technique is to remove genes from animal embryos that create certain organs and to fill the void with induced human pluripotent stem cells in the hope that they will fill it by creating the corresponding human organ.  If the patient needing the transplant donated the stem cells, her body would be less likely to reject the new organ.    

The National Institutes of Health has decided not to fund this research until the ethical issues are resolved.  These include the ethics of conducting experiments on animals and the uncertainty of what injecting human cells into animals might do.  One of the fears is that human intelligence might appear in animals or the embryo could develop into a creature that is half-human.   

June 29, 2016 in Science, Stem Cell Research | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Attacks on Abortion Ensnare Family Planning and Fetal Tissue Research

RH Reality Check (Jan. 4, 2016): Attacks of Abortion Rights Continued in 2015 Ensnaring Family Planning Funding and Fetal Tissue Research, Rachel Benson Gold and Elizabeth Nash: 

As discussed in previous posts, during the 2015 state legislative session, state legislatures adopted 57 new abortion restrictions.  But the year was also memorable "because the politics of abortion ensnared family planning programs and providers, as well as critical, life-saving fetal tissue research."

At the same time, several states made important advances in 2015 on other sexual and reproductive health and rights issues. Some of the new provisions include measures that allow women to obtain a full year’s worth of prescription contraceptives at one time from a pharmacy, that allow a provider to treat a patient’s partner for an STI without first seeing the patient, that prohibit the use of “conversion therapy” with minors, and that expand access to dating or sexual violence education. 

According to Guttmacher, in 2015, 11 states tried to cut funding for Planned Parenthood to any family family provider that also offers abortion.  This could seriously impact family planning for low income women because Planned Parenthood health centers serve half or more of the women obtaining contraceptive care from safety-net health centers in two-third of the counties where they operate.  Five states tried to exclude Planned Parenthood from the Medicaid program, although these efforts were blocked by federal courts.  Ten states tried to regulate fetal tissue donation and research. 

January 5, 2016 in Contraception, State Legislatures, Stem Cell Research | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Pew Poll Compares Public's Views on Morality of Abortion vs. Other Embryo-Destroying Procedures

Pew Research - Religion & Public Life Project: Abortion Viewed in Moral Terms: Fewer See Stem Cell Research and IVF as Moral Issues:

Regardless of their views about the legality of abortion, most Americans think that having an abortion is a moral issue. By contrast, the public is much less likely to see other issues involving human embryos – such as stem cell research or in vitro fertilization – as a matter of morality. . . .


Lifenews seems somewhat puzzled by the discrepancy:

A new Pew research poll finds Americans say abortion is morally wrong by a 3-1 margin. However, Americas are still divided on the issue of embryonic stem cell research — even though it destroys human life and still has not helped any patients. . . .

But perhaps anti-choice groups themselves are partly to blame:

The Atlantic Wire: Americans See Abortion, But Not Stem Cell Research, as a Moral Issue, by Abby Ohl Heiser:

. . . While the issue is currently framed in "momentum" language familiar to any election horse race aficionado, our views on its legalization overall have stayed pretty steady since Roe v. Wade. . . . So what's momentum got to do with it?

For starters, the far-right legislative push to pass a series of abortion-restricting laws is bringing a cornucopia of moral associations with it, ones that resonate with conservative-leaning politics. . . .


For scholarly analysis of this issue, see my articles The Meaning of 'Life': Belief and Reason in the Abortion Debate and Roe v. Wade's 40th Anniversary: A Moment of Truth for the Anti-Abortion-Rights Movement?


August 17, 2013 in Abortion, Bioethics, Public Opinion, Stem Cell Research | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Research Shows Promise for Use of Embryonic Stem Cells to Restore Sight

The Guardian: Embryonic stem cells could help restore sight to blind, by Alok Jha:

Stem cellPhotoreceptors grown from embryonic stem cells have been successfully implanted in the retinas of blind mice

Scientists have shown that light-sensitive retinal cells, grown in the lab from stem cells, can successfully integrate into the eye when implanted into blind mice. The technique opens up the possibility that a similar treatment could help people who have become blind through damage to their retinas to regain some of their sight. . . .

July 21, 2013 in Science, Stem Cell Research | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, January 7, 2013

Supreme Court Declines to Review Challenge to Obama's Stem Cell Research Policy

Stem cellThe Los Angeles Times: Supreme Court rejects challenge to Obama stem cell policy, by David G. Savage:

The Supreme Court has turned away a challenge to President Obama’s policy of expanding government-funded research using embryonic stem cells that scientists say may offer hope for new treatments for spinal injuries and Parkinson’s disease.

The court’s action brings a quiet end to a lawsuit that briefly threatened to derail all funding for such research. . . .

January 7, 2013 in In the Courts, President/Executive Branch, Stem Cell Research, Supreme Court | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, December 28, 2012

Stem Cell Research Produces Small But Steady Gains

Stem cellThe Atlantic: 2013: Year of the Stem Cell, by Lindsay Abrams:

Researchers have already safely injected stem cells into patients with neurodegenerative diseases and spinal cord injuries -- and they've seen the potential to vastly improve lives.

. . . In 1998, when human embryonic stem cells were first isolated, we anticipated a "rush of medical advances," as The New York Times put it. That promise -- along with all of the ensuing controversy -- is still alive, has already become reality in select cases -- for example, with bone marrow transplantations -- and still has plans to live up to all of the expectations that have been set for it.

"The question now," the Times wrote then, "is what use can be made of the potentially awesome power to rejuvenate human cells." After 15 years, there are a lot of people waiting for a miracle, for the day cell-based therapy gives back what's been taken from them.

December 28, 2012 in Medical News, Science, Stem Cell Research | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Two Scientists Receive Nobel for Cloning and Stem Cell Research

The New York Times: Cloning and Stem Cell Work Earns Nobel, by Nicholas Wade:

Two scientists who were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine on Monday helped lay the foundation for regenerative medicine, the hotly pursued though still distant idea of rebuilding the body with tissues generated from its own cells. They are John B. Gurdon of the University of Cambridge in England and Shinya Yamanaka of Kyoto University in Japan. . . .

October 9, 2012 in Scholarship and Research, Science, Stem Cell Research | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, August 24, 2012

D.C. Circuit Upholds Federal Funding of Stem Cell Research

NBC News: Court rules controversial stem cell research is legal, by Maggie Fox:

Stem cellThe federal government may continue to pay for controversial human embryonic stem cell research, a federal appeals court ruled Friday.

The three-judge panel says the government has correctly interpreted a law that bans the use of federal funds to destroy human embryos for research. The ruling is unlikely to put the issue to rest and one of the judges pleaded for Congress to make clear what the government should and should not be able to do. . . .

See also this story by the Associated Press.

August 24, 2012 in Congress, In the Courts, Religion, Stem Cell Research | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Stem-Cell-Based Drug Approved in Canada for Treatment of Graft-Versus-Host Disease

Stem cellThe New York Times: A Stem-Cell-Based Drug Gets Approval in Canada, by Andrew Pollack:

In a boost for the field of regenerative medicine, a small biotechnology company has received regulatory approval in Canada for what it says is the first manufactured drug based on stem cells.

The company, Osiris Therapeutics of Columbia, Md., said Thursday that Canadian regulators had approved its drug Prochymal, to treat children suffering from graft-versus-host disease, a potentially deadly complication of bone marrow transplantation. . . .

May 17, 2012 in Bioethics, International, Medical News, Stem Cell Research | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, February 6, 2012

Komen Foundation's Defunding of Groups Associated with Stem Cell Research Has Largely Flown Under the Radar

Jezebel: Komen Halted Funding for $12 Million in Stem Cell Research Like We Wouldn't Notice, by Erin Gloria Ryan:

Now, that Susan G. Komen for the Cure has sufficiently pissed off progressives, they've changed course and reinstated existing grants to Planned Parenthood, pissing off the anti-abortion crew they'd initially been trying to appease. But before Komen was loudly defunding— and then reinstating funding for— Planned Parenthood, they were stealthily defunding organizations that associate with embryonic stem cell research. And the financial damage from this iteration of their pro-life ideology totals in the millions.

When Komen messed with Planned Parenthood, they messed with an organization with millions of vocal supporters tired of seeing the health care provider being politically stigmatized. But when Komen's newly Karen Handel flavored muscle messed with Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, the University of Kansas, the US National Cancer Institute, the Society for Women's Health Research, and Yale University, last fall the only people who noticed were the researchers who were no longer receiving the more than $12 million in funding Komen had provided. . . .


I have received the following correction from a University of Kansas Medical Center official:

The information appearing on some websites is incorrect. Komen did not defund the University of Kansas Medical Center. In 2010 it granted one of our researchers $4.5 million in 2010 to study whether an estrogen found in flax seed might help prevent breast cancer -- that release is here: The researcher, Carol Fabian, MD, has not lost any Komen funding.

February 6, 2012 in Politics, Science, Stem Cell Research | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, January 30, 2012

Gingrich Promises to Ban Embryonic Stem-Cell Research and Examine Ethics of In Vitro Fertilization

The Washington Post - PostPolitics: Gingrich vows to ban embryonic stem-cell research, questions in vitro practice, by Karen Tumulty:

As former House speaker Newt Gingrich courts evangelical voters in advance of Tuesday’s Florida primary, he is drawing an increasingly hard line against the use of embryonic stem-cell research — a position that contrasts not only with that of former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, but also with statements that Gingrich himself has made on the subject in the past.

Speaking at a Baptist church in Winter Park on Saturday, the former speaker received a standing ovation when he declared that embryonic stem-cell research amounts to “the use of science to desensitize society over the killing of babies.” . . .

January 30, 2012 in 2012 Presidential Campaign, Assisted Reproduction, Fertility, Politics, Stem Cell Research | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, September 19, 2011

Two Scientists Opposed to Embryonic Stem Cell Research Appeal Court Ruling Allowing U.S. Gov't Funding

Stem cell Reuters: U.S. scientists appeal on embryonic stem cell funding:

Two scientists on Monday appealed a ruling that permitted federal funding of human embryonic stem research to go forward, an effort by the U.S. government to try to find cures for deadly diseases.

Dr. James Sherley, a biological engineer at Boston Biomedical Research Institute, and Theresa Deisher, of Washington-based AVM Biotechnology, opposed such research and had sued to block funding. . . .

September 19, 2011 in In the Courts, Science, Stem Cell Research | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, May 2, 2011

Federal Appeals Court Rules Federally Funded Stem Cell Research May Proceed

Reuters: Court backs federal embryonic stem cells funds, by Jeremy Pelofsky:

An appeals court ruled on Friday the Obama administration can continue using federal money to fund human embryonic stem cell research, a possible avenue toward new treatments for many medical conditions.

The appeals court overturned a ruling by a federal judge who found that the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) guidelines on such research violated the law because embryos were destroyed and it put other researchers working with adult stem cells at a disadvantage to win federal grants. . . .

May 2, 2011 in In the Courts, President/Executive Branch, Stem Cell Research | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Edward Fallone on Funding Stem Cell Research

Edward Fallone (Marquette University Law School) has posted Funding Stem Cell Research: The Convergence of Science, Religion & Politics in the Formation of Public Health Policy on SSRN. Here is the abstract:

Mallone The controversy over the funding of stem cell research by the federal government is used as a case study for examining how policy choices are made in the field of public bioethics. This article examines the manner in which the decision to fund stem cell research has been influenced by the convergence of evolving scientific knowledge, conflicting religious values, and the role of elected officials in a representative democracy. The article begins by reviewing the current state of scientific knowledge concerning adult stem cells, embryonic stem cells, induced pluripotent stem cells, and the process of direct cell re-programming. Because each of these four areas of regenerative medicine possess advantages and disadvantages as a potential source of medical treatment, it appears that non-scientific considerations explain the decisions of policymakers to favor or disfavor particular types of research. Next, the article surveys the official positions of major religious faiths in the United States in regards to stem cell research, and concludes that there are a variety of differing religious perspectives concerning both the moral status of the embryo and our society’s affirmative obligation to heal the sick. In addition, the article discusses the bifurcated funding landscape for stem cell research, whereby individual states and the federal government both currently provide some measure of research support. Finally, this article concludes by asserting two neutral principles that should guide elected officials in the future when they consider whether to fund medical research in controversial areas: 1) the federal government should be the preferred source of funding for basic medical research and 2) government funding decisions should not favor one religious perspective over another.

February 8, 2011 in Bioethics, Religion and Reproductive Rights, Scholarship and Research, Stem Cell Research | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, November 14, 2010

New Congress is "Most Hostile" to Abortion Since Roe v. Wade Was Decided

The Nation: Antichoicers on the March, by Katha Pollitt:

When the 112th Congress convenes in January it will have at least fifty-three additional antichoice Republicans in the House and five in the Senate. Some of the newcomers are particularly extreme: Senator-elect Rand Paul and incoming Representatives Mike Fitzpatrick and Tim Walberg oppose most common methods of birth control, in vitro fertilization and stem cell research, and join Marco Rubio and Pat Toomey in opposing abortion even for rape or incest; Toomey supports jailing doctors who perform abortions. Supporters of reproductive rights are looking at the most hostile Congress since abortion was legalized in 1973. . . .

November 14, 2010 in Abortion, Anti-Choice Movement, Assisted Reproduction, Congress, Contraception, Politics, Stem Cell Research | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Winning Stem Cell Poem Sparks Controversy

The Huffington Post: Stem Cell Poem Sparks Heated Debate, by John Lundberg:

Stem Cell The California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) sponsored a poetry contest to promote Stem Cell Awareness Day last Wednesday, and the seemingly innocuous event kicked up a serious controversy.

One of the winning poems, published on CIRM's website and in a national publication, utilizes the language of the Christian ceremony of communion to make its point. Here's the full text of that poem, entitled "Stem C.," by Tyson Anderson:

This is my body
which is given for you.
But I am not great.
I have neither wealth,
nor fame, nor grace.
I cannot comfort with words,
nor inspire to march.
I am small and simple,
so leave me this.
Let me heal you.
This is my body
which is given for you.
Take this
in remembrance of me.

Anderson's poem doesn't strike me as being deliberately provocative -- its tone is clearly heartfelt. But using the language considered sacred by most opponents of stem cell research in order to promote the research is, well, provocative. . . .

October 19, 2010 in Bioethics, Stem Cell Research | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, October 11, 2010

First Embryonic Stem-Cell Treatment on Patient Begins

ABC News: Medical Milestone: Genetics Company Begins First Embryonic Stem-Cell Treatment on Patient, by David Wright & Dan Childs:

Caduceus First Study to Focus on How Patient With Spinal Cord Injuries Will React to Treatment

For years, scientists have held out the promise that embryonic stem cells could repair damaged spinal cords and cure other serious ailments.

Scientists today got one step closer to making that promise a reality as they began an embryonic stem-cell treatment on a patient with spinal cord injuries. It is the first time a medical therapy has been used on a human in a government approved study. . . .

October 11, 2010 in Medical News, Stem Cell Research | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, October 1, 2010

Federal Appeals Court Rules that Stem Cell Funding Can Continue Pending Lawsuit Outcome

Wash. Post: Court lets stem cell funding continue, by Rob Stein:

Stem Cells A federal appeals courts Tuesday ruled that the federal government can continue funding human embryonic stem cell research pending the outcome of a lawsuit challenging the Obama administration's new policies on the controversial field of science.

The decision stays a temporary injunction issued on Aug. 23 by Chief Judge Royce Lamberth of the U.S. District Court in Washington. Lamberth said the funding violated the Dickey-Wicker law, which bars federal funding of research that involves the destruction of human embryos.

The Obama administration appealed, and a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit on Sept. 9 temporarily lifted the injunction pending further consideration. The appeals court on Monday heard arguments about whether to leave the injunction lifted while the case is decided. . . .

October 1, 2010 in In the Courts, President/Executive Branch, Stem Cell Research | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Federal Judge Denies Obama Adminstration's Request to Stay Stem Cell Ruling

Wall St. Journal: Judge Refuses to Stay Stem-Cell Ruling, by Brent Kendall:

A federal judge refused Tuesday to stay his ruling that blocked the federal government from funding human embryonic stem-cell research.

In a three-page order, U.S. Chief District Court Judge Royce Lamberth in Washington denied the Obama administration's emergency request to stay a preliminary injunction against federal funding while the government appeals the judge's ruling.

Judge Lamberth said issuing a temporary stay of his earlier ruling would flout the will of Congress. . . .

September 7, 2010 in Congress, In the Courts, President/Executive Branch, Stem Cell Research | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)