Expert: Cloning exploits women
By Allen Palmeri
February 7, 2006
JEFFERSON CITY – Rodney Albert, chairman, Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) Christian Life Commission, is deeply concerned about the prospect of Missouri’s women being exploited through the harvesting of an unknown quantity of eggs that would be necessary to produce even one viable stem cell line if a proposed ballot initiative to protect cloning research in Missouri is passed in November.
David Prentice, senior fellow for life sciences at the Family Research Council, shares that concern. Prentice spoke Jan. 22 at Concord Baptist Church about how various countries like Australia, Germany and Switzerland have banned “egg factories.” Even the United Nations has taken a moral stand against embryonic stem cell research. Prentice knows because he worked with the Costa Rican delegation last year in passing the ban.
Even a liberal publication like Slate, in a Jan. 4 column by its national correspondent, William Saletan, complained about the deceit, fraud and lies oozing from the character of now-discredited South Korean scientist Hwang Woo Suk. The scandalous activities of Hwang amounted to “breaking eggs,” Slate concluded. Saletan questioned Hwang’s claim that he produced one stem cell line from 248 human female eggs. A rumor placed the ratio at 1,100 to 1, but even that is to be questioned because “maybe it was 1,100 to zero,” he wrote.
Saletan is angry that Hwang’s “ground-breaking” research in the same field that many Missouri academics, businessmen and politicians are now fighting to have protected by means of amending the Missouri Constitution was simply a hoax. The national correspondent wrote that Hwang committed “an ethical offense” when he obtained eggs from women who were junior researchers on his team, which was funded by the South Korean government and backed by the full academic weight of Seoul National University.
“He broke rules to get the eggs,” Saletan wrote. “What galls me this time isn’t just that the coercion has been made explicit. It’s that we’ve learned, in the interim, that it was for nothing. It isn’t the 1,100 that infuriates me. It’s the zero.”
Like Hwang and Saletan, Prentice has no idea how many female eggs it takes to produce one stem cell line. He just knows it takes a heaping helping of that commodity—the commodity of human life—to make it work.
“You’ll turn on the evening news and hear that the price of gold is up, the cost of human eggs is down,” Prentice said. “A lot of these other countries are saying, ‘We’re not going to benefit from this science. Our women are (not) just going to be egg factories.’ And by the way, there are some health risks. There is about a five percent risk of serious complications to these women that will require hospitalization.”
When Prentice decided to fight this practice in the United Nations, of all places, he found that his “egg rhetoric” was warmly received among UN participants. Indeed, the UN voted 71-35, with 43 nations abstaining, to ban human cloning.
“We had some strange allies,” Prentice confessed. “(Some) pro-choice feminists feel it’s a women’s health issue. You’re seeing women have to go through a series of painful hormone shots so that you get more than just one egg in a month.”
Women can even die in the name of embryonic stem cell research.
“There is a one percent risk of death,” Prentice said. “The surgery is also invasive. The risks are so high and the science is so shaky. Why would you want to do it?”
Missouri may eventually vote to subject its women to this practice, but Prentice kindly remarked that not even France is willing to go that far.
“How many would say France is a conservative, religious nation?” he asked rhetorically. “You get seven years in the slammer in France if you do any somatic cell nuclear transfer cloning to make a human embryo.”
Prentice acknowledged that scientists such as those at the Stowers Institute for Medical Research in Kansas City, the $2 billion powerhouse behind the Missouri ballot initiative, love to talk about gains in the field.
“The best evidence from animal experiments says it will take at least 100 eggs to get one cloned human embryo that you might get cells from,” Prentice said.
But Albert is aghast at the prospect of thousands of Missouri women jumping on board the egg factory train as it leaves the station in November.
“The procedure of female egg harvesting, ovarian hyper-stimulation (OHS), can be extremely dangerous for women,” Albert said. “Risks include stroke, blood clots, impaired future fertility and even death.”