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Thursday, March 25, 2004

The Facts of Life

Want to hear something strange? Not once, never in the history of mankind, has a fertilized egg ever implanted in a woman’s womb. Surprised? It’s true. Misunderstanding this single fact destroys the ability to think clearly about a host of issues, yet even medical doctors regularly mis-speak when they discuss it. There’s a reason for this.

When a woman’s ovary releases an egg, the clock starts ticking. That single cell has only one of two possible fates: disintegration or fertilization. On average, the ovum disintegrates in about twelve hours; it certainly doesn’t last much more than twenty-four. The Fallopian tubes, the egg’s highway to the womb, are about six to eight inches long. The egg will disintegrate before it travels more than a third of the distance. Unless, of course, it meets a spermatozoon.

Since sperm have flagella, they move quite a lot faster than eggs. If they can make it to the egg before it disintegrates, the egg will be fertilized. Keep in mind what this means. As soon as the egg is fertilized, it meshes the new DNA into its own and starts using the new information immediately. That is, the fertilized egg almost immediately begins to divide.

Now, according to every embryology text in the world, as soon as a fertilized egg begins to divide, it is no longer a fertilized egg, she is an embryo. She will remain an embryo until about the end of the eighth week, when she is old enough and mature enough to be called a fetus. Yet even with that first cell division, the cells within the embryo are organizing themselves. As the embryonic child travels down the Fallopian tube, she is constantly growing, dividing, creating and organizing more and more cells within herself, getting everything ready to prepare for implantation in the womb.

Unlike fertilization, which is the work of a moment or two, it takes days for implantation to occur. The embryo typically makes it into the womb about four days after fertilization; the growth necessary to complete implantation won’t finish until roughly day ten. Like God in Genesis, it takes the embryo six days to create the right conditions and get everything in the womb arranged as it needs to be.

The moral of the story? No egg, fertilized or not, ever makes it to the womb. Not ever. Only embryos enter the womb because only an embryo can implant in the womb. A fertilized egg can’t implant. Even the pagans at the local IVF clinic recognize this. After the lab technicians conceive a child, they wait until the embryo is ready before they attempt implantation.

And herein lies the irony. The same people who deny the existence of the child in the womb or in the petri dish likewise can’t seem to keep their medical terminology straight. Back in the early 1980’s, researchers who had both the curiosity and the moral scruples of a hyperactive three-year old wanted to tear little boys and girls into little pieces in order to see how they worked. But they knew that tearing apart embryos might get them into trouble with ethics committees. So, they simply invented a brand new term: pre-embryo.

“Pre-embryo” was the smokescreen term for an embryo prior to the fourteenth day of growth. By changing the name to “pre-embryo”, the researchers neatly got around the ethics panels who didn’t want anyone messing with “embryos.” They could IVF and tear up little kids all day long, and no one would yell. The American media, which supports slicing and dicing little boys and girls no matter what the reason, went along with it. So did many OB/GYNs who performed abortion on the side. They avoided violating their Hippocratic oath largely through never having taken the real thing.

Embryologists, the people whose life’s work is the study of very small children, were uniformly livid at the invention of the term. From their point of view, a bunch of nut-cases masquerading as medical professionals were perverting a solid century’s use of scientific terminology, the very terminology whose accurate definition was necessary for embryologists to do and discuss their own work. This was not acceptable. As a result of their protests, the term “pre-embryo” gradually fell out of favor, but the embryologists were never forgiven for their rashness in objecting to the politically correct takeover. From 1973 through to the present day, embryologists have never been consulted by any American court as it considers issues of human embryology, such as contraception and abortion, nor have embryologists been invited to sit on any of the major ethical boards that have discussed embryonic stem cell research, IVF embryology or abortion technology like the morning after pill. Their views are not welcome.

And what are the views of honest embryologists? Well, honest embryologists note how the people who used to promote talk about “pre-embryos” are the same medical idiots who now consistently mis-use the phrase “fertilized egg.” Honest embryologists point out that embryonic stem cell research has never healed a single disease, while morally acceptable adult stem cell research has already healed dozens of diseases.

A good embryologist points out that every attempt to treat diseases in real people using stem cells from embryos has met with failure, often catastrophic failure. Embryonic stem cells injected into the brains of Parkinson’s patients, for instance, make the symptoms radically worse. Autopsies of test subjects, both animals and people, who had embryonic cell injections reveal that these embryonic cells often begin to grow into fetal body parts inside the skull. This is fairly typical.

Honest embryologists point out that anyone can get perfectly good embryonic stem cells from umbilical cord blood: hundreds of children are delivered in maternity wards each day in America. All we have to do to get hundreds of unique, clean, usable embryonic cell lines is ask for the umbilical cords after each delivery. That’s it. Oddly, researchers argue that they should be able to dissect children left over from IVF treatment because “the embryos will just be thrown away”, yet they have never extended the principle to umbilical cords, even though the stem cells from umbilical cords are actual useful in treating disease, whereas the stem cells obtained from dissecting IVF embryos are not.

Honest embryologists point to the fact that both cord blood and adult stem cells are actually being used to treat dozens of different diseases, from cancer to diabetes, right now, and have been for several years. They ask why certain scientists pretend embryonic stem cells are useful when both moral theory and repeated hard experience shows these cells are trash when it comes to treatment. They ask why these same people pretend adult and cord blood stem cells are barely useable when, in fact, adult and cord blood stem cells have provided the only cures that stem cell therapy can claim. Not one person on either side of the debate argues that this will change anytime soon.

But worst of all, anyone who listens to an honest embryologist might discover that embryonic stem cell researchers tears apart very small boys and girls for one damned reason: it’s one hell of a lot of fun to rip apart small children.

That, in a nutshell, is why the media never interviews embryologists. We can’t let medical professionals use that kind of language in front of children.

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