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Discounting Dignity for Human Embryos — Shifting Ground Among Christians?

Are we witnessing the moral abandonment of the human embryo — by evangelical Christians? The Orlando Sentinel published a release from Religion News Service yesterday, indicating that conservative Christians are shifting toward the use of human embryos in stem cell research, even when they know that this means the embryo’s destruction.

The article introduces Peggy Willocks, who identifies herself as “a conservative, pro-life Christian” living in Johnson City, Tennessee — in “the heart of the Bible Belt.” When she first considered embryonic stem-cell research two years ago, she found it “morally repulsive.”

“I was equating it with killing a child,” she recalled. “I thought of it as grinding up fetuses and all that, so I didn’t want any part of it.” Now, she gives talks in support of the same research.

As reporter G. Jeffrey Macdonald relates, Willocks changed her mind after she watched a friend decline and die due to Parkinson’s Disease. The article also indicates that Willocks has the disease herself. Macdonald reports that Willocks “went back to her Bible, recalled God’s compassion for the living and determined that cells in a Petri dish aren’t sacred because Scripture informs her that ‘life begins in the womb.’” No details of her Bible study are given, and there is no indication that she has through through the implications of her idea that “life begins in the womb.” That conclusion would leave any extra-uterine prenatal life without defense.

The article also cites research conducted by the Pew Center for the People and the Press that points to a similar trend. Carroll Doherty, an editor at Pew, commented: “The hope for medical breakthroughs is outweighing the destruction of embryos. . . . Is there less concern for the embryo? I don’t think so. People are just feeling it’s worth it.” This is moral evasion. This trend certainly does mean that there is less concern for the embryo. In fact, it can’t mean anything else. Let’s be honest.

SOURCES: G. Jeffrey Macdonald, Religious Americans Shifting on Stem Cells, The Orlando Sentinel, June 11, 2005. More See Benefits of Stem Cell Research, Pew Center for the People and the Press, May 23, 2005.