(Last uptated: 21 May June 1999)
Richard Wheeler, EIH Rewriter
According to an Associated Press article published by the L.A. Times on 31 May 96, scientists have successfully transplanted sperm-making 'stem' cells from rats to sterilized mice. In another study, scientists found that mouse stem cells, thawed and placed in other mice, were still functional after up to five months in the freezer. If applied to human cells, the techniques might someday be used to restore fertility to men made sterile by chemotherapy. Current techniques freeze sperm samples for later use in artificial insemination. These are a one-shot deal because they do not restore a male's ability to manufacture new sperm cells. The author, Malcolm Ritter, AP Science Writer, raised the possibility that animals could someday manufacture sperm for humans, using human stem cells.
According to Ritter, human stem cells might be transplanted to another man or possibly even an animal. If so, why not to a woman? Stem cells could be transplanted to female-to-male transexuals so that a lesbian could impregnate her lover.
Another scenario has a pregnant woman exercising reproductive choice over her body by having stem cells removed from the unwanted tissue (let's call it tissue Alpha) in her uterus before having that tissue removed. The stem cells would then be placed back into the woman's body -- it's her body, right? it's her lump of protoplasm, right? -- and the sperm cells thus produced would be used to re-impregnate her. After all, she has a right to exercise her reproductive freedom.
This next tissue (let's call it tissue Beta), if allowed to develop into a baby, would have a female father (genetically... or, she would functionally be both male and female, a hermaphrodite.) In fact, the woman would be the baby's mother, father, and (remember, the woman contributed the egg from which tissue Alpha was created) grandmother.
However, if tissue Beta was discovered to be defective (perhaps it has an XY chromosome where an XX combination is desired), stem cells could be removed and used to replace the stem cells already in the woman's body, the 'product of conception' again 'terminated,' and the woman again impregnates herself, producing tissue Gamma.
Suppose tissue Gamma was wanted (which magically makes it human) and allowed to develop to birth. To little Gamma, the woman would be mother, father, grandmother, grandfather, and great-grandmother. Remember, tissue Beta was not a unique human individual, it was "an undesired part of the woman's body," and what a woman does with her body is between herself, her physician, and her god.
The process could be repeated until the correct, XX-chromosomal combination was produced in the fetus. At the next stage (or, genetically speaking, the next generation), the woman would be mother, father, grandmother, grandfather, great-grandmother, great-grandfather, and great-great-grandmother of the offspring.
As an interesting though tangential exercise, consider the effects of this. It might help to recall the topic of 'limits' from pre-calculus. Each generation of fetal tissue will be 50% closer to having the mother -- er, woman's -- genetic makeup. Eventually, barring mutations, the offspring would be, genetically, an exact reproduction of the mother.
Let's go back to tissue Alpha. Tissue Alpha was the woman's son -- genetically speaking, of course. When sperm from Alpha's stem cells combined with the woman's egg, this was -- genetically -- incest. In fact, each generation from Beta on was produced incestuously -- genetically speaking, of course. But none of this matters, because supporters of legalized abortion assure us that we are not dealing with unique human individuals, but rather are dealing with a woman's own body and her right to control it in the exercise of reproductive choice.
According to the article, Art Caplan, director of the Center for Bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania, says that the most important ethical issues would deal with ensuring that cryogenic and transplant procedures would not cause physical harm to the resulting children. Presumably, Caplan has the effects of mutations in mind. Yet, such should not be a problem, for one can always 'terminate' the 'fetal tissue' before birth, should any such difficulties be detected through genetic screening.
The article also raised the question of whether it would violate human dignity to come from sperm produced in an animal. I should think it would be rather undignified for the woman to be inseminated with sperm from an animal, as well, or for a husband to know that a mouse was his surrogate. This triggers thoughts of a number of humorous situations, but I'll spare you.
Widening the horizons, one might ask whether the techniques used with stem cells for sperm production could be applied as well with the ovarian cells which produce eggs? This would do away with the anti-prolife male gag rule, "men shouldn't have any say about abortion because they can't have babies."" (That argument has already been refuted by theoretical work on the possibility of implanting a zygote into a man's abdomen, to be removed at maturity by Caesarian section.) And what would it do to a man's self-esteem, not being able to refute reminders that he was born of an egg produced in a female dog?
OK, I've had some fun with the story, -- you can see a different take on it on my jokes page -- but how is it relevant to the issue of abortion's legality? The relevance is in the way it illustrates the ridiculous nature of the claim that a fetus is not a human individual.
According to Ritter, the L.A. Times science reporter, "Freezing so-called 'stem' cells could confer a sort of biological immortality because they contain an individual's genetic makeup." They "'really embody the essence of the individual.... If you freeze the stem cell, you've really frozen the individual,' said Brinster.&
Biological immortality. An individual's genetic makeup. The essense of the individual. The individual. Ritter thus describes the tissues of a single organ. It almost has a spiritual sound to it (but we'll bypass that... separation of church and state, you know). Yet this same wire service (AP) treats a prenatal baby, which consists not only of stem cells, but of a complete, functioning, feeling, dreaming little bundle of circulatory, immune, digestive, and nervous sytems, skeletal structure, skin, eyes, hearing ears, beating heart, as a lump of protoplasm to be destroyed at the whim of the mother.
Protoplasm is the contents of a cell; aborting a gestation destroys far more than that.
(Brinster is a researcher at the University of Pennsylvania's School of Veterinary Medicine. He and colleagues report the study on freezing in the June 96 issue of Nature Medicine and the study on the transplants in the 30 May 96 issue of Nature.)
From: Wheeler, Richard To: G. Gordon Liddy Subject: PETA sets pro-life precedent Date: Monday, April 15, 1996 7:56AM Dear G-man, BACKGROUND 1. You may have heard that PETA, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, plans to stage protests at fishing tournaments this year. These radical animal-rights activists plan to prevent the cruel and torturous deaths of innocent fishies by splashing around in waters where fishermen are competing to hook the big one. (No mention was made of whether they plan to prevent the eating of little fishies by big fish as well.) 2. It is commonly argued that abortion is not wrong because the nervous system of a fetus is comparable to that of a trout. (Note the way that the earliest fraction of abortions are generalized to the entire period of gestation.) "In fact, at early stages of development, a human fetus even has a tail and looks like a fish embryo," goes the cliched rationalization, as though the appearance of a fetus has anything to do with its humanity. COMMENT Now that the radical left has recognized that fish are capable of suffering and are worthy of protection, I wonder whether they will grant the same recognition and rights to pre-natal humans? Richard Wheeler Sunnyvale email@example.com
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