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Smiley Face

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June 2009

If you were awake during the ’70s, you remember the yellow circle outlined in black, those two dot eyes, and that trademark wide grin: Smiley Face. It has become the universal symbol for “just keep smiling!” Thinking that it would keep me smiling, I hung a Smiley Face poster in my dorm room during senior year of college. Didn’t work. A paper smile could not hide the reality of a difficult year.

In March, President Obama signed his executive order authorizing taxpayer funding of “promising” embryonic stem cell research. The promise? Perhaps we’ll learn how to regenerate severed spinal cords and cure diabetes, Parkinson’s, cancer, and other diseases. But, he says, we are not realizing the promise because his predecessor forced “a false choice between sound science and moral values.” This president promises that under his watch scientific decisions will be based on facts, not “politics or ideology.” Who knows, we may yet see the day “when words like ‘terminal’ and ‘incurable’ are finally retired from our vocabulary.” What a reason to smile!

But it’s a paper smile hiding an ugly reality. Embryonic stem cell research is nothing new. And after years of research, we have nothing to show for it. No regenerated spines. No cures to Parkinson’s, cancer and diabetes. Not even a credible advance. The problem is that embryonic stem cells are undeveloped that can, and do, change in unintended ways. The only thing embryonic stem cells are really good at doing is producing cancerous tumors. The president didn’t mention that.

And he all but ignored adult stem cells. So far, scientists have made breakthroughs in treating about 100 ailments: Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, heart disease, paralysis, brain injuries, strokes, spinal cord injuries, blood diseases, lupus and other autoimmune diseases, liver and bladder diseases, arthritis, wound care, corneal repair, windpipe injury, and many more. With adult stem cells the “promise” is being realized, and in a moral way. Yet these advances did not even rate a mention.

As for the president’s comment on the moral issue, it was incomplete. He may oppose the creation of embryos solely for research purposes, but that’s only part of the issue. Many embryos already exist, and he supports their destruction for research. The unmentioned moral problem is that we may not kill those innocent human lives, or any others, even if the stated goal is to end another’s suffering. Even in its earliest stages, an embryo is packed with every genetic material needed to form an adult. An embryo is fully human, just not fully developed. We may not turn them into guinea pigs. Remember the shameful Tuskegee Experiment, when hundreds of black men were unknowingly injected with syphilis so scientists could study them. What’s the difference here? We don’t kill the terminally ill so we can use their body parts for research. But we kill embryos, probably because we can’t make eye contact as we do.

Yet with all this, embryonic stem cell research has been promoted for years as promising the greatest medical advances since disinfectant. Why, even Planned Parenthood’s “clergy board” strongly supports the research. Using “unneeded byproducts of in vitro fertilization,” takes the “higher moral ground” and is “consistent with God’s plan for our expansion of our understanding of God’s universe.” That seems strange, and not just because Planned Parenthood has a clergy board. Planned Parenthood deals in killing, not curing. It doesn’t have a dog in this fight. Or does it?

Actually, Planned Parenthood has a pit bull in this fight: legal abortion. It’s the reality behind the smiley face of embryo research. The last thing Planned Parenthood wants is for people to believe that an “unneeded byproduct” is actually a human being. For if a days-old embryo must be protected, what about a four-week or even a nine-month unborn? Embryo research pushes the lie that the unborn are not entitled to life, the foundation of the house of cards built by Planned Parenthood and every other abortion mill. Embryo research gives stealth to pro-abortion politicians like our president and to their pro-abortion supporters. And embryo research embeds the false message that something good can come out of killing the unborn. Just keep smiling. Embryo research is precisely about politics and ideology: abortion politics and ideology.

Who are the losers here? Certainly the unborn. Some may call them unneeded, even unwanted. God calls them as His children. Also losers are the victims of illness and diseases, people duped into believing that killing humans will prolong their lives. Embryo research preys on fear and desperation to secretly justify abortion.

But we are the biggest losers of all. Are we so desperate to live that we fall for the line that with research we may retire the words “terminal” and “incurable?” As if God planned that buses will hit us all. And are we so lacking in faith that we forget that God did not spare His own Son from suffering. For us. He wants us to help those who suffer, but not like this. Killing the unborn is never “consistent with God’s plan.” But then, what should we expect from an organization that has never met an abortion it didn’t like.

Just for the record, there is one breakthrough using embryonic stem cells: anti-aging cosmetics. Great, we’re now killing to keep ourselves looking younger.

Doesn’t that bring a smile to your face?

Paul V. Esposito is a Catholic lawyer who writes on a variety of pro-life topics. He and his wife Kathy live in Elmhurst, Illinois, where they raise their six kids.

© Paul V. Esposito 2009. Culture of Life. Permission to copy and distribute for pro-life purposes is granted. Visit us on the web at

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