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Pro-life world debating Nobel Prize for adult stem cell breakthrough

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October 22, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Pro-life advocates are debating the awarding of the Nobel Prize for medicine to Dr. Shinya Yamanaka, the discoverer of induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells, with some outright condemning the work and others calling it a boon that will advance ethical medical technology.

In 2007, Yamanaka, a researcher at Kyoto University, published a paper in the journals Nature and Stem Cell announcing that his team had created embryo-like stem cells from the skin cells of mice. The process he developed, using a set of four genes to re-program the cells, was hailed around the world as a possible solution to the unethical use of living human embryos to obtain “pluripotent stem cells” – i.e. cells that can be induced to become any type of tissue in the body.

Until this discovery, the scientific world was largely convinced that adult stem cells were limited and only embryonic stem cells could be malleable enough to produce the many different tissue types needed for medical applications. 

At the news of the announcement from the Swedish Nobel Prize committee, on October 8th, American Life League (ALL) were quick off the mark with a press release condemning the award. The pro-life organization touted the virtues of adult stem cells, while raising concerns about the source of the genes that are being used to re-program the cells. Some pro-life critics have observed that Yamanaka’s team used the now infamous HEK 293 cell line, which was cultured from the kidney cells of a child aborted in 1971, in their research.

“With such complex subject matter, we call for vigilance,” said ALL. “Technical language and prestigious prizes will not hide the truth. To encourage the murder of preborn human beings in order to facilitate scientific research is unethical and criminal.”

Pro-life opinion, however, appears to remain divided, and with Yamanaka’s work being the most cutting-edge of the day, is likely to remain so for some time. While American Life League was condemning the work, E. Christian Brugger, the Stafford Chair of Moral Theology at St. John Vianney Theological Seminary in Denver, wrote in the National Catholic Register, “Most any science can be used wrongly, especially if it’s used in ways that harm or destroy human life.

“But since the production of pluripotent stem cells from somatic cells by reprogramming need not involve bringing into existence, experimenting upon or destroying human embryos, iPSC research in itself seems to me to be morally unproblematic.”

Dr. David Prentice, a senior fellow at the Family Research Council, and former professor of Life Sciences at Indiana State University, also came out in support of Yamanaka’s research, while adding the caveat that the “gold standard” is still adult stem cell research, with adult stem cells already being successfully used in a variety of treatments.

Meanwhile, some pro-life bloggers strongly criticized Yamanaka for using HEK 293, a stem cell line sold by biomedical suppliers and used widely in the field of biotechnological research. Although the use of the cells in medical research is condemned as unethical by pro-life ethicists, some have argued that the principle of “remote cooperation with evil” by can be applied to the use of treatments and vaccines developed with HEK 293 cells. In February 2009, Bishop Robert Vasa, a strongly pro-life Catholic bishop in Oregon, issued a statement saying that the use of vaccines developed with HEK 293 can be permissible for Catholics to use with the right intention, given the distance in time, or “remoteness,” between their development and the abortion of the child.

Rebecca Taylor, a Technologist in Molecular Biology MB(ASCP), who writes the pro-life Mary Meets Dolly bioethics blog, condemned the use of HEK 293 in Yamanka’s research, but added that she believes “iPSCs themselves are not inherently immoral.”

“Cell lines of illicit origin have been used in developing this technology (and unfortunately are used ubiquitously in many areas of research), and it is the use of those cell line to which we should object, not the iPSCs themselves,” she said.

Dr. Yamanaka’s work has long been welcomed in the broader scientific community as both a major scientific advance, and a way to move beyond the contentious debate over embryonic stem cells. Dr. Ian Wilmut, the cloning expert who created Dolly the world’s first cloned sheep, told British media in 2007 that the discovery would put an end to attempts to create cloned embryos to obtain stem cells which had been problematic for both ethical and practical reasons. He said he would be giving up cloning experiments and instead following up on Dr. Yamanaka’s work

Some pro-life experts were cautiously supportive at the time, saying that more time was needed to examine Dr. Yamanaka’s methods to ensure that unforseen problems did not develop. Dr. Dianne Irving, a bioethics expert at Georgetown University, told LifeSiteNews.com in 2009, “If it can be shown that the research is truly accurately performed and does not involve the use of embryo DNA or foetal material at any stage, then it should be at least given a chance.”

Further examination of the techniques, she said, was required to ensure that the iPS technique does not result in the creation of totipotent stem cells, that is, those that can develop into an embryo. She also was cautious about the use of HEK cells.

Yamanaka’s own explanations of his motives have apparently been mixed. At the time his discovery was published in the journals Nature and Stem Cell, Yamanaka urged other researchers not to stop using embryos for research. However, at the same time, he told the London Times in an interview, “Neither eggs nor embryos are necessary. I’ve never worked with either.”

In a New York Times interview in 2007, he described looking at an embryo through a microscope at a fertility clinic, “When I saw the embryo, I suddenly realized there was such a small difference between it and my daughters. I thought, we can’t keep destroying embryos for our research. There must be another way.”

Professor Yamanaka said in 2006 that it was the ethical question that most motivated him to discover the secret to creating pluripotent stem cells from a differentiated cell coming from a patient, a technique that also resolved the immune response problem.

His achievement was hailed this month by Julian Savulescu, director of Oxford University’s Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics and a utilitarian bioethicist who has vehemently supported the use of living human embryos for research. Savulescu told National Public Radio in the US, “Yamanaka has taken people’s ethical concerns seriously about embryo research and modified the trajectory of research into a path that is acceptable for all.”

“He deserves not only a Nobel Prize for Medicine, but a Nobel Prize for Ethics.”



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Princeton Professor Robert George speaks at the Legatus conference. Steve Jalsevac / LifeSiteNews
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Princeton’s Robert George: Are you ready to pay the price? The days of socially acceptable Christianity are over

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ORLANDO, February 4, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) -- “It is no longer easy to be a faithful Christian, a good Catholic, an authentic witness to the truths of the Gospel,” said Princeton Professor Robert George to a large crowd at the Legatus Summit in Orlando, Florida last weekend. Professor George added that people can still safely identify as “Catholic” as long as they don’t believe, or will at least be completely silent about, “what the Church teaches on issues such as marriage and sexual morality and the sanctity of human life.”

He said “the guardians of those norms of cultural orthodoxy that we have come to call ‘political correctness,’” will still grant a comfort to a Catholic ashamed of the Gospel, “or who is willing to act publicly as if he or she were ashamed.”

The Princeton professor, who has been a leader in the fight for life and marriage, reminded his audience of Christ’s words: “If anyone wants to be my disciple, let him take up his cross and follow me.” “We American Catholics, having become comfortable, had forgotten, or ignored, that timeless Gospel truth. There will be no ignoring it now,” he remarked.

Are we “prepared to give public witness to the massively politically incorrect truths of the Gospel, truths that the mandarins of an elite culture shaped by the dogmas of expressive individualism and me-generation liberalism do not wish to hear spoken?” he asked.

For Catholics, and Evangelicals in America, he said, “it is now Good Friday.”  To a rousing standing ovation Professor George concluded:

The memory of Jesus’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem has faded.  Yes, he had been greeted—and not long ago—by throngs of people waving palm branches and shouting ‘Hosanna to the Son of David.’  He rode into the Jerusalem of Europe and the Jerusalem of the Americas and was proclaimed Lord and King.  But all that is now in the past.  Friday has come. The love affair with Jesus and his Gospel and his Church is over.

Fearing to place in jeopardy the wealth we have piled up, the businesses we have built, the professional and social standing we have earned, the security and tranquility we enjoy, the opportunities for worldly advancement we cherish, the connections we have cultivated, the relationships we treasure, will we silently acquiesce to the destruction of innocent human lives or the demolition of marriage? Will we seek to ‘fit in,’ to be accepted, to live comfortably in the new Babylon? If so, our silence will speak.  Its words will be the words of Peter, warming himself by the fire:  ‘Jesus the Nazorean? I tell you, I do not know the man.’

The saving message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ includes, integrally, the teachings of His church on the profound and inherent dignity of the human person and the nature of marriage as a conjugal bond—a one-flesh union….

The question of faith and fidelity that is put to us today is not in the form it was put to Peter—“surely you are you this man’s disciple”—it is, rather, do you stand for the sanctity of human life and the dignity of marriage as the union of husband and wife?  These teachings are not the whole Gospel—Christianity requires much more than their affirmation.  But they are integral to the Gospel—they are not optional or dispensable.  To be an authentic witness to the Gospel is to proclaim these truths among the rest. The Gospel is, as St. John Paul the Great said, a Gospel of Life.  And it is a Gospel of family life, too.  And it is these integral dimensions of the Gospel that powerful cultural forces and currents today demand that we deny or suppress.

One day we will give an account of all we have done and failed to do. …

One thing alone will matter: let me say this with maximum clarity—whether we stood up for the truth, speaking it out loud and in public, bearing the costs of discipleship that are inevitably imposed on faithful witnesses to truth by cultures that turn away from God and his law. Or were we ashamed of the Gospel?

If we deny truths of the Gospel, we really are like Peter, avowing that “I do not know the man.”  If we go silent about them, we really are like the other apostles, fleeing in fear. But when we proclaim the truths of the Gospel, we really do stand at the foot of the cross with Mary the Mother of Jesus and John the disciple whom Jesus loved. We show by our faithfulness that we are not ashamed of the Gospel. We prove that we are truly Jesus’s disciples, willing to take up his cross and follow him—even to Calvary.

But lest we fail the test, as perhaps many will do, let us remember that Easter is coming.  Jesus will vanquish sin and death. We will experience fear, just as the apostles did—that is inevitable. Like Jesus himself in Gethsemane, we would prefer not to drink this cup.  We would much rather be acceptable Christians, comfortable Catholics. But our trust in him, our hope in his resurrection, our faith in the sovereignty of his heavenly Father can conquer fear.  By the grace of Almighty God, Easter is indeed coming. Do not be ashamed of the Gospel.  Never be ashamed of the Gospel.



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Planned Parenthood investigator Daleiden refuses plea deal: ‘What we really want is an apology’

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URGENT: Sign the petition to Harris County urging them to drop the charges against David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt. Click here.

HOUSTON, February 4, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) - This morning, Harris County prosecutor's office offered David Daleiden a plea deal. His legal team, in turn, made a counter-offer.

"The only thing we're going to accept right now is an apology," said Terry Yates, one of four attorneys who flanked Daleiden down the corridors of the courthouse as he visited two court rooms to face felony and misdemeanor charges.

He confirmed an offer had been made but was unlikely to be accepted.

Instead, Yates said that a hearing before Judge Brock Thomas of Texas District 338 had been scheduled for March 28. "At that time, we anticipate filing a couple of motions" asking that all charges be dismissed at once. "We believe the indictments are factually and legally insufficient."

"The old Texas expression 'all hat and no cattle' - that's what we believe these indictments are. There's not much to them," he said.

Peter Breen of the Thomas More Society reiterated that stance during a press conference co-hosted by LifeSiteNews at 11 a.m. local time.

When asked if Daleiden would plead guilty to lesser charges offered by Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson, Breen replied, "At this point, no."

"What we really want is an apology," Breen said, standing next to fellow counsel Briscoe Cain, Texas attorney for Operation Rescue. "He deserves an apology...He is innocent."

His legal team felt certain he would prevail on the substance of the charges without admitting guilt to any of them.

"The reality is David is a modern day hero," Jared Woodfill, another Daleiden attorney, told LifeSiteNews inside the courthouse. "He has exposed the wrongdoing that has been occurring at abortion clinics all across this country. And the fact that he's here today is a miscarriage of justice."

"He will be vindicated," he said.

The 27-year-old Daleiden appeared unflappable - smiling, well-groomed, wearing a black jacket, blue shirt, and black tie as he spoke briefly with reporters, including LifeSiteNews.

"I'm very grateful for all the support from the public, especially from the people of Houston," he said, some of whom held handmade signs that said "I Stand with Sandra and David" as he presented himself for booking and paid bail this morning.

Attorneys did not disclose the terms of the agreement prosecutors had offered. If convicted, Daleiden and fellow pro-life investigative journalist Sandra Merritt face up to 20 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

However, the charges could be dismissed at any time. LifeSiteNews delivered the first batch of signatures, more than 106,000, on its petition to the DA's office asking that all charges against Daleiden be dropped at once.

If that fails? "We're ready to go to trial," Woodfill told LifeSiteNews.

URGENT: Sign the petition to Harris County urging them to drop the charges against David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt. Click here.



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First 100K petitions to drop charges against Daleiden delivered: ‘let’s double that’

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LifeSiteNews reporter Lisa Bourne and the Christian Defense Coalition's Patrick Mahoney deliver LifeSiteNews' petition to the Houston DA's office.
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URGENT: Sign the petition to Harris County urging them to drop the charges against David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt. Click here.

HOUSTON, February 4, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) - Pro-life leaders have presented more than 106,000 signatures to the Harris County district attorney's office, demanding that charges be dropped against David Daleiden.

It was the first batch of signatures to be dropped off in LifeSiteNews' ongoing petition. It asks prosecutor Devon Anderson to dismiss the charges facing Daleiden and his fellow investigator Sandra Merritt, which could result in 20 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

"Houston, we do have a problem," said Rev. Patrick Mahoney of the Christian Defense Coalition at a press conference at 11 a.m. local time.

"We are standing in solidarity and say, 'When you attack David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt, you are attacking us and our community,'" Rev. Mahoney continued. "Do not proceed with these unjust indictments."

Congressman Kevin Brady, a Texas Republican, sent a statement to the gathering saying, "Instead of society persecuting the truth tellers, Planned Parenthood needs to answer for their gruesome practices," as well as apologizing to adoptive families like his own, which the abortion provider has "prevented from being whole."

The local indictment, made by the Houston-area grand jury last Monday, has drawn national coverage as the first skirmish in a war between Planned Parenthood and those who sought to expose their practices.

"In delivering these petitions, I am representing more than 100,000 people who demand that these charges against this 27-year-old man and his fellow investigator be dropped at once," said LifeSiteNews reporter Lisa Bourne.

"The next move is up to the Harris County DA's office," she said, reading a statement prepared by LifeSiteNews. "These petitions prove that the world is watching."

"The indictment is another example of Planned Parenthood's bare-fisted intimidation tactics," she added, similar to campaigns taken against former Kansas Attorney General Phill Kline and the Susan G. Komen Foundation.

Andy Parrish, PR director for LifeSiteNews, who was in Houston with Bourne, said he was honored to tell David of the 106,000 LifeSite petition signers who were standing with him. "These signatures are just the beginning. The coalition standing behind David is growing. We've got 100,000, but let's double that."

David Daleiden addressed the crowd alongside two of his attorneys, Peter Breen and Briscoe Cain, and thanked all those who showed their support for him during his latest legal showdown.

"I just want to say thank you to everyone at LifeSiteNews and everyone who shared the petition, who signed it, and made it possible to deliver that today," Daleiden told LifeSiteNews. "It means a lot to me, and to Sandra, and to the Center for Medical Progress. Thank you for your faithfulness and for standing up for us."

URGENT: Sign the petition to Harris County urging them to drop the charges against David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt. Click here.

He hoped everyone would remain united in demanding justice be done - and, like Cheryl Sullenger of Operation Rescue, hopes that Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast be indicted.

"I firmly believe that if we stay the course, if we stay together, we will bring about a day when there is no longer a price tag on human life," Daleiden said.

During the windy 45-minute-long press conference, speakers at the rostrum defended Daleiden's undercover journalism tactics in the face of sometimes hostile questions from the established press.

"No one can deny that this was the number one investigative journalism story of 2015," Rev. Mahoney said, citing statistics of the story's impact on the mainstream media.

In the new media environment of 2016, someone does not need a degree from Northwestern or Columbia to be a journalist, he said.

"He broke one of the biggest stories of the year," agreed John Hawkins of Right-Wing News, who sent in a written statement to the conference. Pressing charges against him sends a message to conservatives and Christians: "Sit down and shut up, or this just might happen to you."

"If this were a meat-packing plant investigation, there would be no question about his integrity," said Alexandra Snyder, executive director of the Life Legal Defense Foundation. "He would be universally lauded as a hero. I think he's a hero...for getting the truth out."

"In the meantime, we're going to do everything we can do to stand with David," she said, "and see justice prevail."



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