Political Battles


Political battles

To appreciate the political battles over the support of human embryonic stem cell (hESC) research, it is necessary to understand the conflicting beliefs concerning the status of the human embryo on the spectrum of life (Brock 2010).

  • There are those who believe that an embryo is a full human life, and therefore cannot be destroyed wantonly or otherwise. According to this school of thought, embryos should not be actively destroyed regardless of the purpose, and regardless of the source.
  • On the other side are those who believe that an embryo is merely a community of cells with no moral status. According to this viewpoint, the creation of embryos for the sole purpose of conducting research poses no problem.
  • Occupying a middle ground are those who believe in an “intermediate moral status,” for example, as proposed by Dan Brock (2010). This group views embryos as neither an aggregate of cells nor a complete being, but rather as entities with potential for full life, giving them at least partial moral status. According to this perspective, creating embryos to then destroy them would be problematic, but using existing embryos that will otherwise be discarded might be acceptable.


Partisan lines

Given that the acceptability of hESC research hinges on the issue of destroying early embryos, the discussion was quickly drawn into the well-rehearsed abortion debates that have long occupied the American conscience (Robertson 2010). As such, political lines were similarly drawn, with the more conservative-minded opposing abortion and hESC research, and the more liberal-minded in favor.
Political and social divisions regarding hESC research and abortion may be rooted more in differences in religious ideologies.

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