Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Stem Cells as a Woman's Issue.

I have thus far stayed out of the fray, I think. But this morning I was reading an article- a very inaccurate article- about stem cells and it got me pretty pissed off.

For me, there are really two sticky issues.

First, it's an abortion rights issue. Yes, it is. Why (you ask and scratch your head, puzzled)?

Here's the logic used by the Bush administration:

sperm + egg = person. Immediately. Do not pass go, do not develop into an embryo and then incubate IN A WOMAN. Do not admit that we don't have any other way, to date, of growing people.

So they are refusing to allow researchers to 'destroy embryos' by studying what some states (like the one I was reading about this morning) consider 'fetuses' from the moment of conception.

The WOMAN never enters into the equation.

Nevermind the reality that, without women both willing and able to be implanted with someone else's embryo, the embryos are worthless, anyway.

Have I said this before? I say it again.

Second, it's a Your Body Is Your Own Business issue.

I have a friend who went through a really hellish set of infertility treatments before finally having children (not without complications). Having done that, she's so bitter she doesn't want to donate her leftover eggs or frozen embryos to research. I get that. Why help fertility doctors, or other doctors, or PhD doctors, if they're a bunch of jerks?

And she has a point. What scares me the most about embryonic stem cell research is the need for human eggs. From women, of course. And lots of 'em.

I've heard a little about the consent forms and issues with whether it's better or worse to pay women to donate for research, and so on. But the whole concept makes me squirm. Money aside, what we're really talking about are women's body parts.

This is not breast milk, which pregnant women mostly generate whether they want to or not, and may or may not use. This is something that requires lengthy, expensive and painful injections of hormones at doses with mostly unknown side-effects.

If we were talking about men donating not just sperm, but their actual testicles, would that ever be legal? Would men ever say about that, "hey if they want to, that's their business"?

I'm thinking probably not.

What do you think? Are we being asked to sign petitions for things we're not sure we agree with, or is it just me? Would legalizing stem cell research at the federal level actually lead to fewer women's reproductive and healthcare rights?

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At 1:05 PM, Blogger JF, scientist said...

Especially after the Hwang/ South Korea thing where women in his lab were pressured (read:blackmailed) into donating eggs. Speaking of things that make you feel squodgy inside.

At 6:10 PM, Anonymous TW Andrews said...

I'm sympathetic to your argument, but I would be rather leary of tying reproductive rights and/or use of embryonic stem cells to the absence of the ability to artificially gestate embryos. That will happen sooner or later, and when it does you can be sure that opponents of reproductive freedom and use of embryonic stem cells won't hesitate to use your own arguments against you.

At 4:13 PM, Blogger Ms.PhD said...

Wow, I kind of can't believe I wrote this. Looking back on it, I was just musing about the possible consequences... I certainly wouldn't want to imply that I'm against embryonic stem cell research. I'm not against it at all. I'm against the Handmaid's Tale, which is what I'm afraid the opposition wants.


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