Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Huckabee and Stewart Debate Nicely, but Confuse, on Abortion

Mike Huckabee and Jon Stewart recently debated abortion on Comedy Central's The Daily Show. Huckabee is pro-life, while Stewart is pro-choice (though he expressed deep ambivalence about the issue at the end of the interview).

Huckabee and Stewart demonstrated that, even on this emotionally charged topic, the two sides can speak to each other in a respectful manner. I congratulate them. I wish more politicians and political activists would follow their example.

On the other hand, towards the end of the interview, both Huckabee and Stewart demonstrated ignorance on the issues of in vitro fertilization (IVF) and embryonic stem cell research. I fear that this part of the interview only served to further confuse a public that is already deeply ignorant about these topics.

Huckabee thought Stewart was asking about embryonic stem cell research after Stewart asked him about IVF, as if the two are the same thing. Then, Stewart said that IVF would not be possible without embryonic stem-cell research (to which Huckabee nodded as if he agreed). Neither of these are true.

For couples who have difficulty getting pregnant, IVF is a method used to create a human embryo outside the womb, which are then implanted in the womb. In the US, many embryos are created to increase the chances that a viable embryo is created. This leads to many leftover embryos that are not implanted, but are kept frozen.

Embryonic stem cell research uses the stem cells of these leftover embryos to try to find cures for disease. The embryos are destroyed when these stem cells are harvested. This research did not lead to IVF, as Stewart suggests. The only connection is that the embryos created from IVF are used in the research. IVF is not necessary for embryonic stem cell research, however. Conceivably, one could harvest eggs and sperm from donors to create human embryos for research, or clone a human embryo for research (sometimes called therapeutic cloning).

Here is the interview in three parts. The part where they get confusing is in the third video.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Mike Huckabee Extended Interview Pt. 1
thedailyshow.com
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorJason Jones in Iran


The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Mike Huckabee Extended Interview Pt. 2
thedailyshow.com
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorJason Jones in Iran


The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Mike Huckabee Extended Interview Pt. 3
thedailyshow.com
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorJason Jones in Iran

2 comments:

Stephen Maynard Caliendo said...

Excellent post (as always). The question that remains unanswered here, though, is what happens to the frozen embryos ultimately? Your suggestion is that they are only destroyed after the stem cells are harvested. But if they're never used, they are destroyed anyway, right? Do they stay frozen forever? Will other couples use them? This is where the argument falls apart for folks opposed to using embryos for stem cell research. One can certainly understand the ethical/moral dilemma of creating embryos solely for the purpose of harvesting cells, but what about embryos that will be destroyed anyway? It's hard to see an argument for destroying them without harvesting the cells.

Napp Nazworth said...

Good point, Dr. Caliendo. I would add that, "this is where the argument falls apart for those opposed to using embryos for stem cell research" AND in favor of creating surplus embryos for IVF, as many Americans are. Some, however, are more consistent in opposing both.

Interestingly, in many European countries this is less of an issue because they only create one embryo at a time. Not because of any moral objections. It is a cost issue. Insurance won't cover the creation of multiple embryos.