Newt Gingrich on the Wrong Side of Stem Cell Research

I have long thought that Newt Gingrich would never survive front-runner scrutiny were he ever to lead the pack. He has a checkered political past, and the media and his critics are not going to have any difficulty reminding everyone about it.

Ramesh Ponnuru has a brief report about Gingrich’s record on embryonic stem cell research, and it is not good. On July 10, 2001, Gingrich called for President Bush to allow federal funding for this research. In Gingrich’s own words:

My hope is that [President Bush] will draw a sharp distinction between research on fetuses, which I think would be abhorrent and anti-human, and research on cells that are in fertility clinics that have never been in anyone’s body, in terms of being — becoming a person, and which, frankly, are currently unregulated and will disappear. And I think that’s a different kind of question. These are not prehuman cells in the sense they’re going to be implanted. . . . I have a 100 percent pro-life voting record, but I’ve always drawn a distinction at implantation. And I think there’s a real difference in the two kinds of cells. I notice that former senator Connie Mack, who is himself is a Catholic, takes the same position. And I think people who’ve looked at this issue can honorably disagree. But for many of us, there’s a very, very real distinction between doing something with an unborn child, a fetus that is implanted, and doing something with cells in a fertility clinic that are otherwise going to be destroyed.

There is much to criticize here, but the thing that jumps out to me is Gingrich’s definition of “prehuman.” Gingrich revealed that he does not believe that life begins at conception but at “implantation.” That is not a pro-life view of the matter. The pro-life position is that human life should be protected in law from conception to natural death. By denying personhood before implantation, Gingrich has removed any ethical basis for treating pre-implanted life as human life worthy of protection in law.

So here’s the question: Is this still Gingrich’s view? If it is, then how can he be trusted to advance pro-life policies when he is not consistent in his “pro-life” views? If it is not his view anymore, then when and why did his views change? These are questions that I want to know the answer to, and I bet I’m not the only one.

21 Responses to Newt Gingrich on the Wrong Side of Stem Cell Research

  1. Christiane November 22, 2011 at 2:09 am #

    So, is the choice now back to Perry ?
    or Cain?
    or Michelle Bachmann ?

    who do you turn to, if the choice isn’t a Mormon ?

    Gingrich is not a serious candidate, no.

    And today, Obama was VERY presidential.

    Time is running out.

  2. BDW November 22, 2011 at 2:24 am #

    Gingrich’s position and reasoning raises the question of what does it mean to be “pro-life”?

    Clearly, Gingrich had a different understanding of what it means to be pro-life. I think the recent personhood efforts reveal that Gingrich is not alone.

    Based on data from Gallup polls and Pew studies, one can conclude that many many self-identified pro-lifers treat “life begins at conception” as just a slogan. It’s a creed that is affirmed but not always completely believed (same as any creed).

    As to what understanding of pro-life Gingrich currently HAS, who knows? He backed the personhood efforts over the weekend, stating life begins at conception and claimed that Congress could “undo Roe v. Wade for the entire country in one legislative action.”

  3. Kamilla November 22, 2011 at 5:14 am #

    That is worse than bad.

    Trouble is, Gingrich is now RC himself. While I’ve not heard him repent of this view, I think he is most certainly not a Pelosi-style Catholic. I think he would hold the catholic party line on this. If not, a huge great swathe of the Catholic media are going to find themselves mightily embarrassed – including the good folks at EWTN who promoted his JPII biopic.

    Of course, Gingrich the serial adulterer should never have reached this point in the race. Even granting his repentance and embrace of his new faith are genuine, why would you put a guy back into precisely the sort of position in which he has proven himself prone to sin?

    The hypocrisy of the man who was having an affair while prosecuting the president for lying about same is too great to bear. And the media would never let us forget it.

    • Christiane November 22, 2011 at 9:48 am #

      Kamilla, don’t worry. Catholics are too social-justice conscious to vote for Gingrich.

  4. Michael November 22, 2011 at 9:34 am #

    First, let me say that I hope and pray that Newt has changed his position on this issue. I pray that God has truly touched him, not only on this issue, but on many others as well. Second, I am amazed at how so called Christians are so quick to continue to throw stones at Newt for his past. Yes, he did some bad things and yes he was a hypocrite on many levels much like the people who keep calling him out on it. Let me say that while I certainly do not know Newt’s heart but the man has said that he has repented and sought God for forgiveness. He has acknowledged his wrong and has not (to my knowledge) continued to engage in the sinful behavior. I am not sure what else he needs to do on this issue so that “Christians” will stop beating him up over it. I sure am glad God does not keep throwing my sin up in my face like many are doing to Newt.

    Thirdly, Kamilla, I find your rather harsh commits rather interesting if not hypocritical. Of course I see you could not resist calling Newt out on his past sin (“serial adulterer”) which is nice, but then you say, “Why would you put a guy back into precisely the sort of position in which he has proven himself prone to sin?” I would hope you have examined your own life and seen if this standard you apply to Newt applies to you as well. Maybe you have sinned by breaking the speed laws, but I bet you still drive. Maybe you have lusted from watching a TV show or movie, but I bet you still watch them. Maybe you’re a glutton, but I bet you still eat. Maybe you should not be so quick to throw stones at others. Newt has plenty of other things we can look at and the issue Denny brings up is a perfect example. Let’s extend Newt the grace that we too want for our lives. Remember, it could happen to any of us

  5. yankeegospelgirl November 22, 2011 at 10:07 am #

    Gingrich has presented himself very well in the debates. He’s excellent at taking loaded questions on foreign policy and economics and turning them back on the left instead of playing their game with them. Unfortunately, he’s not a man of honor, and that’s going to cost him.

  6. Justin F November 22, 2011 at 11:27 am #

    So then do we need to ban in vitro fertilization? As Newt Gingrich points out, the process destroys most of the fertilized eggs.

  7. Kamilla November 22, 2011 at 12:49 pm #

    Justin,

    That isn’t necessarily so. A pro-life couple can direct the doctor to fertilize only those eggs that will be implanted. In that way, there will be no abortion by laboratory procedure.

    Kamilla

  8. Kamilla November 22, 2011 at 1:34 pm #

    There is a difference between saying a glutton should not eat (that wouldn’t last long in any case, would it?) and not driving because you have a lead foot (not a necessary activity for life but also a largely individual one) and . . .

    Asking lots and lots of other people to trust that not only is your repentance genuine but that you have effectively pursued discipline and holiness such that continued sin in that area is not likely.

    To propose more comparable situations, would you accept:

    A repentant embezzler as church treasurer?

    A repentant pedophile as Cub Scout leader?

    A repentant jury-tamperer in an elected judicial position

    Would you even hire a glutton to work in a candy factory?

    Sure, sin is ugly and many of us shouldnt have televisions, perhaps some of us shouldn’t drive or ever eat alone. But there is a difference in kind, nit simply degree, between how we deal with personal sin on our own and seeking a position of public trust which is precisely the sort of position in which we have proven ourselves weak.

    • Michael November 22, 2011 at 7:25 pm #

      You make an interesting statement when you say, “Asking lots and lots of other people to trust that not only is your repentance genuine but that you have effectively pursued discipline and holiness such that continued sin in that area is not likely.” I agree that this is important; however, your comments seem to indicate that you are sure that Newt has not done these things. I guess you are aware that he is lying about his repentance and that he has not pursued the proper discipline. I guess my point is that we should not be too quick to judge the level of ones repentance. I can see that Newt has not met your standard and that is fine, but we both know that it is God’s standard that really matters not yours or mine. I just find it very…..disturbing when people carry the title Christian and they can so easily continue to beat someone up over sins that the person has said numerous times that he was sorry for. You do not have to vote for him, but you do not need to continue the personal attacks either. Of all people, we as believers should know the depth to which sin can take us and we should rejoice when someone repents. By the way, Newt’s sin was a personal sin. I am not sure that Newt being in office is what caused him to do what he done. People do it all the time for a lot of different reason.

  9. Don Johnson November 22, 2011 at 3:16 pm #

    IVF does not work like that. Life is truly a miracle and many things can and do go wrong. There are many steps and die off can and does occur at each one. The reality is that not every fertilized egg grows to be a born baby. So there are a lot of judgment calls and hoping for the best. In round numbers, the cost for a single full cycle attempt is over $20K, altho there can be package deals of (say) 3 full cycles.

    What often happens in IVF is the woman spends 2 months prepping for egg harvesting by taking fertility drugs. Then all the resulting eggs are harvested. Then the eggs are mixed with the man’s sperm, many not fertilizing. If any harvested eggs were NOT fertilized, then they just die. Of those fertilized eggs, they typically want to get to blastocyst stage, where the number of cells is too many to easily count after 5 days. They then implant a certain number into the woman, here is where the couple can make a choice, as the chance of multiple births increases as more eggs are implanted. To avoid octomom, the max limit is often 3, but you can request less, as sometimes an egg will split to form twins. Just because you implant 3 does not mean triplets, far from it, as many embryos do not connect to the uterus.

    If they get fewer eggs, they will implant earlier, for example, if only 1 or 2 fertilized eggs are alive, they will implant those earlier than 5 days.

    Any remaining embryos are frozen and can be used in later cycles instead of doing the drug 2 month cycle again. Of course, some or all might die from being frozen. So this is by far the second choice. So they take the best looking embryos, the most advanced, to implant the first time, trying to give the best chance.

    The morality question comes into play when there are frozen embryos left over because the couple does not want more kids. This is where some Christians will implant anyway.

  10. donsands November 22, 2011 at 4:21 pm #

    “So, is the choice now back to Perry ?
    or Cain?
    or Michelle Bachmann ?”
    What about Ron Paul? This man is the same as he has always been. He IS for small government, with a small g. he is staunchly pro-life. He is the best man to be our next president, if people would check him out; and maybe they will.

  11. Kamilla November 22, 2011 at 5:19 pm #

    Don,

    It does work the way I mentioned if doc and patient agree. That is one way pro-life couples are choosing in order to avoid the dilemma of what to do with “surplus” embryos. Another is egg banking.

  12. Justin F November 22, 2011 at 10:44 pm #

    Kamilla,
    In vitro is a big game of probabilities, as Don described above in his detailed post. Unless you can provide more details about the method you are describing, it sounds cost prohibitive. There would be far too many attempts with a small pool of eggs to have any kind chance for success. Insurance would likely quit paying, and/or the average attempting couple would probably run out of cash. So it may work for a couple here and a couple there who are lucky or have large resources, but with the current IVF method it will not be a success.

    And btw, to improve the IVF method you need to research. And research will require trial and error using fertilized eggs. Otherwise it will never improve past the point we are at today. So that adds another twist to this discussion.

  13. Kamilla November 22, 2011 at 11:20 pm #

    Michael,

    It would be pointless for me to try to correct your wrongheaded reading of my argument if you won’t respond to the argument as a whole.

    Justin,

    With 25 years experience in the clinical laboratory, I am well aware of how in vitro works. What I outlined is one possible course of action for pro-life couples. The process of egg harvesting and fertilization are the same whether you attempt to fertilize three eggs or fifty (possible in exceptional cases). If you harvest more than three eggs it is entirely possible to bank the eggs for future rounds of in vitro fertilization and implantation. In this way, the ethical dilemma of what to do with “surplus” embryos.

    Cost is way down the list of concerns when how we treat human life is the subject. The same arguments you give here could be used to justify all manner of practices abhorrent to Christians, including the sort of experimentation on human beings you mention in your last paragraph.

  14. Kamilla November 22, 2011 at 11:22 pm #

    *ethical dilemma of what to do with “surplus” embryos is avoided.

  15. Justin F November 22, 2011 at 11:52 pm #

    Kamilla,
    I don’t discount your experience with this. But while the process for 3 or 50 is certainly the same, if extra iterations of implantation are required the process will be more expensive. The success rate is not yet 100%, correct? More time, more tests, more procedures, more money. So while I agree it’s despicable to reduce human life to a balance sheet calculation, we do live in a capitalistic society and it happens all the time. And if a profit is not made at the end, then it’s going to be very difficult for a procedure to be sustainable.

    And what is done with the banked eggs? If they can’t all be implanted then what is their fate? Do we keep them frozen in limbo forever? Is this really better than destroying them?

    And as to my last comment, without the research that has been done on embryos to date we wouldn’t have in vitro fertilization as an option at all. Right or wrong, that research is what has enabled the procedure. If we are to ever have 1 egg fertilized and successfully implanted with 100% success, it requires further research. I’m not making a moral judgement on the research, I’m just pointing this out.

  16. Kamilla November 23, 2011 at 12:04 am #

    Justin,

    Two things. First, whether the eggs are all fertilized and stored as embryos or stored as eggs to be fertilized later does not affect the number of implantation cycles required to establish pregnancy.

    Second, eggs are eggs. They are not human beings so storing them or destroying them is of little ethical concern. Embryos are human beings, so leaving them indefinitely in the deep freeze is of paramount ethical and moral concern.

    Kamilla

  17. Kamilla November 23, 2011 at 12:09 am #

    And yes, as to the research required to get us to this state of ART. Just one of the many reasons I take the Roman Catholic position on Contraception, birth control, ART, IVF, etc.

  18. Barry Applewhite November 23, 2011 at 9:29 pm #

    You question (“How can he [Newt] be trusted”?) is an interesting one. I suggest you ask his first two wives for the answer.

    -Barry

  19. donsands November 23, 2011 at 11:57 pm #

    Newt is the same old same old. he will sit in the leather chair in the Oval Room, and do whatever.

    Ron Paul would do what is right. (For the most part; which is the best any could do.) Ron is the same as has always been.
    Please get the word out. He is a fine candidate.

    Happy, happy Thanksgiving!

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