Anti-Choice Leaders Denounce The Ice Bucket Challenge Because An Embryo Died Once

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Aug. 22 2014 1:34 PM

Anti-Choice Leaders Denounce The Ice Bucket Challenge Because An Embryo Died Once

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Forget your grandmother. Here's a life that really matters.

Photo by Seoul National University/Getty Images

The exploding popularity of the "ice bucket challenge"—where people record themselves dumping ice water over their heads to raise money to fight the neurogenerative disorder ALS—has inevitably  attracted people who want to hijack the issue for their own ends. So it’s no big surprise to see  anti-abortion leaders trying to scare their followers off of joining in on the fun. As ThinkProgress reports, anti-choicers are arguing that it's not "pro-life" to try to save the lives of ALS sufferers, because doing so might involve the use of embryonic stem cells. Life, apparently, is at its most precious in the cellular form, as opposed to the your-beloved-grandmother-who-is-dying-of-ALS form. 

Lila Rose—the leader of Live Action who was last seen throwing a fit because sex educators at Planned Parenthood were caught answering direct questions asked by clients—complained that the ALS Association, which has been receiving donations via the ice bucket challenge, “chooses to support research that thrives from experimenting on and killing tiny, innocent human beings.” (Pictured here.) The Ohio Catholic Diocese agreed, discouraging its schools from participating. (The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, meanwhile, is demurring on this question.)

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Think Progress contacted the ALS Association about the issue, and it clarified that most of its research is performed with the aid of adult stem cells, not embryonic ones. As for the one exception: "Currently, The Association is funding one study using embryonic stem cells (ESC), and the stem cell line was established many years ago under ethical guidelines set by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS)." So anti-choice fanatics are discouraging people from fighting this horrible disease that causes much suffering to patients before they inevitably die because some embryo was used years ago to create a line of cells, none of which could actually develop into a human being. Got it. 

But even if the ALS Association was going hog wild with the embryonic stem cells, using multiple 4-day-old embryos (pictured here) a week to generate brand-new embryonic stem cell lines, so what? These embryos are taken from IVF clinics, where fertility doctors often make more embryos than they end up implanting so that they have back-ups if the first don't take. Embryos that aren't used for stem cell generation tend to end up in the trash. What anti-choice activists are really arguing is that we should cease intriguing research that could save many lives because there was once an embryo that was used to make stem cells instead of being thrown in the garbage. 

More human cells—mostly skin cells—probably die when you dump a bucket of ice water over your head than are actually in a four-day-old embryo (pictured here). If anti-choicers are really worried about cellular life, telling people to stop killing their skin cells for those greedy ALS sufferers would be the more direct approach.

Amanda Marcotte is a Brooklyn-based writer and DoubleX contributor. She also writes regularly for the Daily Beast, AlterNet, and USA Today. Follow her on Twitter.

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