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Philippa Taylor

Do you have just one minute spare to help defend the human embryo?

Philippa Taylor is Head of Public Policy at CMF. She has an MA in Bioethics from St Mary’s University College and a background in policy work on bioethics and family issues.
The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of CMF.

Thanks to a European Citizens Initiative (ECI) there is a new campaign across Europe which seeks to defend the right to life of the human embryo.

Called ‘One of Us’, the campaign aims to gather one million signatures from citizens from at least 7 out of the 27 member states in the European Union (with minimum targets for each country). With one million signatures, under the new ECI, the European Parliament is duty-bound to schedule a debate on the issue, which would provide the opportunity to raise legislation to end European funding of destructive work and research on embryos.

‘One of Us’ is one of the first registered ECIs in the European Union. It follows a European Court of Justice ruling in 2011, in a lawsuit brought by Greenpeace, that human life begins at conception and deserves legal protection.

It is a very simple and quick way for anyone concerned to help protect some of the most vulnerable lives that exist and to vote in defence of the humanity of embryos. In the UK we would need to collect 54,000 signatures.

The ‘One of Us’ initiative is a Europe wide one, with partners from a range of countries.  CARE, Christian Concern and CORE, in the UK, have all been encouraging supporters to sign up as well.

Why are we encouraging people to take just a minute to sign this online petition?

  1. Each of us was once an embryo! Christian teaching and historical ethical codes both assert that human beings deserve the utmost respect, and human embryos are the most vulnerable of human beings. We believe that human embryos are not just potential human beings but rather human beings with potential.
  2. From both an ethical and economic perspective, we want to see less money wasted on blind alley research by people with financial and ideological vested interests and more money being invested where it is really needed for the good of all – in adult stem cell and induced pluripotent stem cell (iPS) technology (see below).
  3. It will increase wider awareness of the need to respect embryos and could positively influence jurisdiction at the European Court of Human Rights, where many bioethical cases are pending.
  4. It only takes a moment to help make a difference!

During recent years some scientists have been working on techniques to derive human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) for research, a process which usually destroys the ‘donor’ embryos.  Although hESC have been widely used for experimentation, so far they have yielded no successful therapies for human conditions. Nevertheless there are huge economic interests behind the embryonic stem cells use.

However the use of adult stem cells, and the more recent technology of cell reprogramming to generate induced pluripotent stem-cells (iPS), both offer ethical alternatives for research and therapies. These do not involve destruction of a human embryonic life.

It seems that ethical stem cell research is opening more and more doors whilst unethical research using embryos is foundering.  Yet research on embryos continues, with the support of European funding.

It is not essential to carry out unethical research on embryos. Dr Shinya Yamanaka of Kyoto University won the Nobel Prize in medicine last year for his pioneering (and ethical) work on iPS from adult skin cells in mice. One of Dr Yamanaka’s original motivations when he set out to induce pluripotency in adult cells was to discover ethical avenues of research. His interesting story was reported in the New York Times a few years ago, when he was doing stem cell research himself:

He looked down the microscope at one of the human embryos stored at the clinic. The glimpse changed his scientific career.

‘When I saw the embryo, I suddenly realised there was such a small difference between it and my daughters,’ said Dr. Yamanaka, a father of two and a professor at the Institute for Integrated Cell-Material Sciences at Kyoto University. ‘I thought, we can’t keep destroying embryos for our research. There must be another way.’

In so doing Yamanaka laid the framework for an ethical alternative to using embryonic stem cells to provide treatments for conditions.

If you want to see a ban on funding of EU groups engaged in destroying human embryos please consider signing this petition. The deadline for signatures for the One of Us campaign is November 1, 2013. Signers must be EU citizens and old enough to vote in European Parliament elections.

 

To add your name:

• Click here

• Press the ‘Support’ button at the top left of the page

• Select country and fill in your details

• Press ‘Submit’ and it is done.

Posted by Philippa Taylor
CMF Head of Public Policy

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