Ice-Bucket Challenge Supports Embryonic Stem Cell Research—And That’s a Good Thing

Whatever one thinks about the practice of dumping ice water over one’s head to bring attention to a charity, the Ice Bucket Challenge “has raised $79.7 million to combat Lou Gehrig’s Disease [ALS] since July 29,” Time reports. That’s an impressive fundraising campaign by any measure. So that’s good news, right? Not for anti-abortion conservatives, as the Heritage Foundation reports:

[S]ome pro-life organizations including the Family Research Council [FRC] have advised care before making an ALS donation. The concern: The ALS Association, a Washington-based nonprofit that funds global research to find treatments and a cure for ALS also supports some research using embryonic stem cells.

The FRC is an explicitly religious organization that wants to outlaw abortion for religious reasons. But, religious dogma notwithstanding, an embryo is not a human person and does not have rights; it is instead (at the stage usually used in research) a barely-visible grouping of mostly undifferentiated cells without any developed human organs.

FRC claims that adult stem cell research is more likely than embryonic stem cell research to produce the desired results. But that is not for FRC to dictate, and it is not the fundamental issue. What is the fundamental issue? If scientists rationally judge that they can make headway against ALS and other devastating diseases by engaging in embryonic stem cell research, that is what they should do—and those who voluntarily (and non-sacrificially) fund such research are morally virtuous in doing so.


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