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For example, the testimony that Richard Doerflinger, the principal spokesperson for the U. Catholic bishops on pro-life matters, offered before the Senate Appropriation Subcommittee on Labor, Health, and Education in 1998 was substantially the same as that he offered before the HERP in 1994 on stem cell research (Doerflinger, 1998, 1994).
Callahan was not alone in raising this issue and attempts to answer his question continue to appear in the literature (See Lebacqz, 2001; Meyer and Nelson, 2001; Ryan, “Creating Embryos,” 2001; Steinbock, 2001, 2000).
In retrospect, then, it seems that the HERP report served almost as choreography for the initial debates about stem cell research, and, as a result, the steps in the debate closely followed those that are familiar from the abortion controversy (On this point, see Hall 2003).
For example, shortly after the HERP was impaneled, thirty-two members of Congress wrote to Harold Varmus, the director of NIH, to complain about the composition of the panel.
A lawsuit was filed in an attempt to prevent the panel from meeting, and members of the panel received threatening letters and phone calls (Green, 1994; Tauer, 1995; Hall, 2003).
(Lewis, 1947) This sudden shift from a belief in Nurture, in the form of social conditioning, to Nature, in the form of genetics and brain physiology is the great intellectual event, to borrow Nietzsche’s term, of the late twentieth century.
(Wolfe, 2001) I begin with passages from an unlikely pair of authors because although C. Lewis and Tom Wolfe are somewhat distant in time, certainly different in temperament, and extravagantly different in personal style, they share an imaginative capacity to envision the possible consequences of modern technology.
The Moral Status of the Embryo There is little doubt that public reflection on stem cell research in the United States has been affected by the extraordinarily volatile cross-currents of the abortion debate.
Although I will indicate below several reasons why framing the stem cell debate as a subset of that on abortion is problematic, nevertheless, in its current form, stem cell research is debated in terms dictated by the abortion controversy, and that has meant that questions about the status of the embryo have been particularly prominent.
Given Catholic teaching that the embryo must be treated as a person from conception, no experimentation on the embryo can be allowed that would not also be allowed on infants or children.
Hence, the Catholic church treats stem cell research as it has treated previous issues involving the destruction of human embryos; it is condemned as morally abhorrent.