"Ain't Gonna Study War No More"

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Right-To-Life Party, Christian, Anti-War, Pro-Life, Bible Fundamentalist, Egalitarian, Libertarian Left

Sunday, October 24, 2004

An Act of Betrayal: The Rape of 1st LT Jennifer Dyer

On August 8th 1st LT Jennifer Dyer was attacked and raped and has stated it was 1st LT Michael Hall of the 278th Regimental Combat Team at Camp Shelby , MS . This is where LT Dyer along with her unit, the 250th Signal Battalion, N.J. National Guard had been sent for pre-Iraq deployment training.

Jennifer could be your daughter; your sister; your fiancée; your wife; your neighbor. A degree in Political Science, working for a career in law enforcement and serving her country in uniform, she is without a doubt, the “all-American girl” so to speak. All of that has been turned up-side down because of an animal posing as a man, 1st LT Michael Hall, stands accused of her rape. Jennifer is as much a casualty of war as anyone can be—only she was “wounded” by what was supposed to be one of her own, someone wearing the same uniform.

After reporting the rape the Army took Jennifer to a civilian Hospital emergency room for treatment, after which she was held in seclusion by the Army for three days. During this time military CID agent Eric Barreras informed Jennifer of her Miranda rights and then proceeded to threaten her with criminal prosecution for filing a false report. Further victimize the victim, that’s the Army way. And this nation has the audacity to talk about the “rule of law.”

The Army took her to the Hospital and now the Hospital is billing her for the charges as the Army has refused to pay the bill according to Jennifer in a previous conversation. Additionally, the Army told Jennifer she was to take a lie detector test which she agreed to readily. When Michael Hall refused to take the same lie detector test, the Army told Jennifer her test would not be necessary, but, I’m getting ahead of myself.

It wasn’t until Jennifer’s fiancée, Edward, who is a New Jersey police officer, arrived at Camp Shelby on August 13th and took her off base was she finally able to get some semblance of counseling and additionally medical treatment. The Army had given her none and had not set any appointments for her even with the base medical people. And it’s a good thing Edward did get her some additional medical care—it turns out that her accused rapist, Michael Hall, is Herpes Type 2 positive, and unfortunately, now, too, is Jennifer.

Under pressure, the Army gave Jennifer two weeks leave to go home and “get over it.” In a phone conversation with Edward a couple of weeks ago, he told me how when Jennifer called Camp Shelby to request an extension of her leave, so she would be able to continue with the counseling and medical treatment she is now receiving, Lt Col. Powell, the base psychiatrist, she told Jennifer that “two weeks was a generous amount of time for leave” and that “it was enough time for the victim of such a crime to be recovered and returned to duty.”

Right now Jennifer is listed AWOL. Her attorney, Fredrick Klepp, klepplaw@aol.com, is being stonewalled by the Army about Jennifer. The Army has demanded Jennifer return to Camp Shelby , the place where she was not only raped but where her accused rapist, Michael Hall, is still running around as if nothing ever happened. There is something terribly wrong with this picture!

Everyone involved with her care all say the same thing, it would be an un-mitigated disaster for her to have to return to Camp Shelby . A compassionate transfer request by Jennifer was denied by the command of the 278th Regimental Combat Team, to which Jennifer is still attached. Anyone in their right mind and with just a modicum of compassion would understand that a transfer out of the 278th is warranted.

She should not be in this position in the first place as she had resigned her commission in October of 2003. But due to a failure on the Army’s part, her paperwork had not been completely processed and she was called back to active status in March of 2004.

What compounds this situation Jennifer now finds herself confronted with is the “Feres Doctrine” which VERPA—the Veterans Equal Rights Protection Advocacy, Inc.—has been fighting for over ten years. This has turned all military personnel into second class citizens as it prevents those in uniform, and veterans, from bringing action against the military for harm done—you may find detailed information on the Feres Doctrine at VERPA’s web site http://www.verpa.org/

According to Byron Holcomb, an Oregon attorney, it was his case “Buckmiller v. U.S. ” “in 1983 that first brought to the attention of the public the problem of rape in the military. The Army relied on [the] Feres [Doctrine] saying that rape was one of those incidents of military service. Until congress repeals Feres and particularly this abomination, rape will continue to be a significant problem of our military.” He goes on to say, “this will change when congress changes the laws and every congressman should be made aware of this.” I am in total agreement with Mr. Holcomb on this.

In the meantime we need to give our support to this young woman, we must become the “cavalry to the rescue.” We can help her by making calls and sending letters—actually as many as needed for as long as needed. What has happened to Jennifer is an outrage, what the Army is now doing to her is a complete act of betrayal. Something is terribly wrong when citizens have to try and force the military to treat a victim of a crime, rape, with the respect, compassion, and just treatment she deserves.

When considering this, ask yourself this, what if this were your wife, your sister, your fiancée, your daughter—what would you do to help her, to protect her, and then take it from there.

Below are some of the numbers that should be called. If and when calling be sure to be as polite and courteous as possible, but be firm in expressing your opinion at the treatment Jennifer is receiving. This is an opportunity to truly support the troops by rallying to Jennifer.

Also, as this is on-going, there will be updates made public on a continuous basis until this is resolved. I would start with Capt Price that is who Mr. Klepp has talked with to no avail. Col. Powell’s number is listed also. At the end of the list of names and numbers, is Jennifer’s statement about what happened and this whole sorry chain of events.

Capt Price, Staff Judge Advocate Office

Camp Shelby , MS


I gathered as many numbers as I could. If I am able to get any more, I will send them to you.

Thanks for your time and efforts, I hope this is helpful.

· Jen

278th Regimental Command:

Regimental Commander:

Colonel Adams
(Unable to get a direct extension, but can be contacted via administrative staff)


Regimental Executive Officer:

Lieutenant Colonel Honeycutt


278th Regimental Headquarters Headquarters Company:

Company Commander:

Captain Ray


Camp Shelby Medical Facility:

Colonel Sara Powell



Medical Deployment Officer:

Major Sullivan


Senator John H. Adler, Democrat
District Office: 1916 Route 70 East, Suite 3 , Cherry Hill , NJ 08003 (856)-489-3442

And here is a listing of New Jersey newspapers if you would care to write or call them as well.

The Star Ledger

1 Star Ledger Plaza

Newark , N.J. 07102


This is the paper of record in New Jersey

The Courier Post

301 Cuthbert Boulevard

Cherry Hill , N.J. 08002


The Burlington County Times

4284 North U.S. Highway 130

Willingboro , N.J. 08046

(609) 871-8000

The Gloucester County Times

309 South Broad Street

Woodbury , N.J. 08096

(856) 845-3300

Philadelphia Inquirer

53 Haddonfield Road

Cherry Hill , N.J. 08002

(856) 779-3840

New Jersey Office

The Press of Atlantic City

11 Devins Lane

Pleasantvill , N.J. 08232

(609) 292-4935

My name is Jennifer Dyer, and I am a 1st Lieutenant in the 250th Signal Battalion of the New Jersey Army National Guard. I am currently on mobilization orders and attached to the 278th Regimental Combat Team in Camp Shelby , Mississippi in preparation for deployment to Iraq .

In October of 2003, I had resigned my commission with the National Guard to further my career in law enforcement. However, in March of 2004, I received notification from the military that my resignation was not fully processed by my unit and that I needed to return to duty for deployment. The validity of this recall was highly questionable and I requested a Congressional inquiry through the office of Congressman Frank LoBiondo. Despite the promise of my unit and Battalion Commander, Lieutenant Colonel Loretta Thomas, to proceed with my resignation and separation, I was placed on mobilization orders and relocated to Camp Shelby , MS for training. The Congressional inquiry has yet to be successful in even receiving a valid response from the New Jersey Army National Guard in reference to my situation. Due to the lack of response and cooperation from the military in this matter, I had resolved to perform my duties with the military with little hope that a resolution would be reached prior to my deployment overseas.

My recent situation has become much more grave and cannot be ignored nor brushed aside as my initial complaint had been. On August 8, 2004 , a fellow Lieutenant at Camp Shelby sexually assaulted me. I immediately reported the incident and received emergency room treatment. Following my discharge from the hospital, I was secluded in a motel room on Camp Shelby where I was unable to make or receive phone calls for approximately two days. During this time, I endured an approximately 5 hour interview conducted by CID Agent Eric Barreras (334-763-0684). I was then told that I was not to speak about the incident to anyone until the investigation was complete. I was not told how long the investigation would last. I was able to secure my cellular phone on August 10th when I received a phone call from my fiancé who told me at that time that he had been notified of the details of the assault by the investigating authorities.

I spent the next two and a half days secluded in my room with no follow-up care or means of communication other than my personal cellular phone which receives spotty, at best, reception at Camp Shelby . I was not contacted by any medical or counseling services during this time. On August 12th, I was again contacted by Agent Barreras who read to me my Miranda rights before he proceeded to threaten me with charges of making a false police report. He berated me for approximately three hours as to whether or not my report was factual. I was made to feel as if I should have never reported the incident at all and that I was the offending party as opposed to the victim in this case.

Following this interview, I discovered, through unofficial channels, that the offender had a history of genital herpes. Extremely distraught and with no support to turn to, I then immediately proceeded to the Troop Medical Clinic on Camp Shelby to inquire about STD / pregnancy testing and treatment. I spoke with Lieutenant Colonel Powell (601-467-1107), the post psychiatrist. She stated that I would have to wait two weeks for a follow-up medical exam and inquired as to the progress of my counseling. When I informed her that no counseling had been scheduled by the hospital, only then did she provide me with an appointment to attend the local civilian operated counseling center in Hattiesburg , MS (601-264-7777).

On August 13th, my fiancé arrived at Camp Shelby and immediately took me to the local counseling session as well as assisted in arranging a medical exam through a civilian health provider, the Women’s Health Center in Hattiesburg , MS (601-544-4550), since the military was unwilling to promptly assist me in this matter. The blood test taken at this facility confirmed the presence of Herpes Type 2.

With the assistance of the 278th RCT chaplain, Major Cruz (601-467-2016), and the recommendation from Lt Colonel Powell, I was granted “at least two weeks” convalescent leave to begin on August 16th, but told that if I wanted to return home to my family for this time, that I would have to pay for the airline ticket. This leave was approved by Lieutenant Colonel Waddle, the Deputy Executive Officer of the 278th Regiment, and granted by Captain Ray (601-558-4513), 278th Regimental Headquarters Troop Commander with the stipulation that I telephonically check in every day.

I returned to New Jersey on the night of August 16th and was contacted on the afternoon of the 17th by a Camp Shelby medical official, Major Sullivan (601-297-4229), who began to question why I was not already in counseling in New Jersey and inquired as to “what took me so long” to begin the counseling. That afternoon, I had contacted the Atlantic County Women’s Center (609-646-6767) and was told that the earliest appointment available was on Monday, August 23rd. I had also contacted my local medical physician, Dr. Gewirtz (609-625-1600) and was able to receive an appointment for the 23rd. I attended the counseling and the doctor’s appointment. I am scheduled for a necessary medical follow-up for lab work and possible immediate treatment and was told to call again to schedule another appointment for counseling. I did so and was scheduled for the next available counseling session to be held on the following Monday, August 30 and the next available medical visit for Wednesday, September 1st. I explained to the doctor that my leave was scheduled to expire prior to that and he stated that it was only logical to extend the leave time and or transfer me to a local duty station or be discharged so that I may receive continued and appropriate care. He also annotated in my medical file the importance of continued emotional counseling.

I have since requested an extension of my convalescent leave to accommodate the scheduled treatment and inquired as to the possibility of a transfer from the unit and location in which the assault occurred. Both of these requests have been vehemently denied and I have been ordered to report to Camp Shelby for duty no later than Monday, August 30, 2004 . When contacted in reference to the need for an extension and my emotional and mental inability to return to the scene of the crime at this time, I was told by Lt. Colonel Powell that two weeks was a generous amount of time for leave and that it is enough time for a victim of such a crime to be recovered and returned to duty. She stated that within 2-6 weeks, I would be fine and that she could not extend my leave beyond the two weeks. I then made it very clear that I would not be able to perform my duties in my current condition and inquired as to the possibility of a separation from the military. Lt. Colonel Powell then told me that my situation did not warrant a separation and that I needed to contact Major Sullivan in reference to my status for deployment.

Upon contacting Major Sullivan, I was told that I had no options other than to return to duty at Camp Shelby and that they had no flexibility in this matter. She stated that she is a medical doctor and that I am fine. She also told me that if I did not return to Camp Shelby by Monday, she would have the Military Police arrest me and place me in prison. She then referred me to my Commander and stated that any further decisions would have to be made by the command. I then contacted the Regimental Headquarters Troop Commander, Captain Ray who stated that he was only able to follow the recommendations of Lt. Colonel Powell and that he did not have the authority to extend my leave.

Following my conversation with Captain Ray, I received a phone call back from Major Sullivan who continued to address me in a very rude and uncaring manner and told me that if I did not accept the order to return to duty as usual at Camp Shelby that she could have me committed to the mental health hospital in Fort Gordon, Georgia. I felt that this was an unacceptable response from a doctor toward someone who is a rape victim and I told Major Sullivan that I felt it inappropriate that she insinuates that I need inpatient psychiatric care. At that time, Major Sullivan hung up on me and did not contact me again.

Later that same evening, I received a phone call from another Lieutenant Colonel who stated that he was the 3rd Squadron Commander and was filling in for the Regimental commander in his absence. He stated that he had been asked by the chaplain to call me. He then proceeded to tell me that there was to be no flexibility on the part of the command in reference to an extension of my leave time and that it was time that I “face my fear” and return to Camp Shelby . He continued to remind me that if I did not return to duty by August 30, that I would be carried as AWOL and that I would be prosecuted and possibly imprisoned. I again told him of my fear of returning to such an environment and the devastation that I felt about being forced to perform my duties in a location where I had been assaulted. He told me my only option was to return to duty.

On August 27, 2004 , I contacted the office of Senator Frank Lautenburg for assistance in this matter. His office contacted the National Guard Bureau, who stated that it was not their responsibility to deal with the matter and that any inquiries should be referred to the Department of the Army. It is my understanding that the Department of the Army referred his office back to the New Jersey Army National Guard. I have since contacted Major Brown (601-558-2190) from the Judge Advocates Office at Camp Shelby , MS who stated that he referred my situation to the 278th Regimental JAG office and that they would be in contact with Lt. Colonel Waddle in an attempt to at least extend my leave time to avoid being listed as AWOL. I have not yet received a response.

The Atlantic County Women’s Counseling Service has attempted to contact Maj. Sullivan in an attempt to lawfully resolve my continued needs but the negative response received from them prompted the counselor to advise me to seek outside legal assistance.

I am contacting you, requesting any assistance that you may be able to provide in this matter. I am currently receiving the medical and emotional care that is necessary for me to resume my life and return to a fully functional status without the nightmares, flashbacks and fears that I face on a daily basis. I have a very loving and supportive family that has made it possible for me to begin to pull my life back together. However, the military has made this struggle nothing short of horrifying. I initially received no medical or emotional support from them and continue on a daily basis to experience the cold and callous treatment of a group of individuals who care more about the number of boots that they can deploy than the best interests of the human beings that are affected.

I have been nothing but completely cooperative with the military in all matters for the past 8 years of my life, to include all that was required of me over the past three weeks, and I have recently been met with complete resistance and an unprecedented lack of caring and understanding. This experience has made me an emotional wreck and I shudder to think of what further damage the military is capable of inflicting upon me. Please assist me in regaining control of my life, emotions and sanity. I fear that a return to the military environment at this time will be the virtual end of my life. It will do nothing but crush what little progress and peace of mind I have been able to develop over the past two weeks. This whole situation holds the door open for the military to continue abusing me as they cold-heartedly disregard my status as a victim.

I do not think that my requests are excessive considering the current situation that the US Army has exposed me to. I would prefer to be discharged from the military so that I can attempt to salvage my life separated from an environment that I am now terrified by. If this is not acceptable to military authorities, I am prepared to finish my active duty status within the State of New Jersey where I can receive the treatment and support of people that I feel comfortable with, in an environment that does not make me relive the horror of this tragic event. I am fearful that any other option forced upon me is tantamount to a psychological death sentence. I did not ask to be raped. Why am I being treated this way?

Respectfully and desperately pleading for help,

Contact Jennifer and Ed at eottepka@comcast.net
Contact her attorney, Fredrick Klepp,at klepplaw@aol.com
Contact Jack Dalton at Jack_Dalton@ommp.org

After Terror, a Secret Rewriting of Military Law

In early November 2001, with Americans still staggered by the Sept. 11 attacks, a small group of White House officials worked in great secrecy to devise a new system of justice for the new war they had declared on terrorism.

Determined to deal aggressively with the terrorists they expected to capture, the officials bypassed the federal courts and their constitutional guarantees, giving the military the authority to detain foreign suspects indefinitely and prosecute them in tribunals not used since World War II.

The plan was considered so sensitive that senior White House officials kept its final details hidden from the president's national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, and the secretary of state, Colin L. Powell, officials said. It was so urgent, some of those involved said, that they hardly thought of consulting Congress.

White House officials said their use of extraordinary powers would allow the Pentagon to collect crucial intelligence and mete out swift, unmerciful justice. "We think it guarantees that we'll have the kind of treatment of these individuals that we believe they deserve," said Vice President Dick Cheney, who was a driving force behind the policy.

But three years later, not a single terrorist has been prosecuted. Of the roughly 560 men being held at the United States naval base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, only 4 have been formally charged. Preliminary hearings for those suspects brought such a barrage of procedural challenges and public criticism that verdicts could still be months away. And since a Supreme Court decision in June that gave the detainees the right to challenge their imprisonment in federal court, the Pentagon has stepped up efforts to send home hundreds of men whom it once branded as dangerous terrorists.

"We've cleared whole forests of paper developing procedures for these tribunals, and no one has been tried yet," said Richard L. Shiffrin, who worked on the issue as the Pentagon's deputy general counsel for intelligence matters. "They just ended up in this Kafkaesque sort of purgatory."

The story of how Guantánamo and the new military justice system became an intractable legacy of Sept. 11 has been largely hidden from public view.

But extensive interviews with current and former officials and a review of confidential documents reveal that the legal strategy took shape as the ambition of a small core of conservative administration officials whose political influence and bureaucratic skill gave them remarkable power in the aftermath of the attacks.

The strategy became a source of sharp conflict within the Bush administration, eventually pitting the highest-profile cabinet secretaries - including Ms. Rice and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld - against one another over issues of due process, intelligence-gathering and international law.

In fact, many officials contend, some of the most serious problems with the military justice system are rooted in the secretive and contentious process from which it emerged.

Military lawyers were largely excluded from that process in the days after Sept. 11. They have since waged a long struggle to ensure that terrorist prosecutions meet what they say are basic standards of fairness. Uniformed lawyers now assigned to defend Guantánamo detainees have become among the most forceful critics of the Pentagon's own system.

Foreign policy officials voiced concerns about the legal and diplomatic ramifications, but had little influence. Increasingly, the administration's plan has come under criticism even from close allies, complicating efforts to transfer scores of Guantánamo prisoners back to their home governments.

To the policy's architects, the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon represented a stinging challenge to American power and an imperative to consider measures that might have been unimaginable in less threatening times. Yet some officials said the strategy was also shaped by longstanding political agendas that had relatively little to do with fighting terrorism.

The administration's claim of authority to set up military commissions, as the tribunals are formally known, was guided by a desire to strengthen executive power, officials said. Its legal approach, including the decision not to apply the Geneva Conventions, reflected the determination of some influential officials to halt what they viewed as the United States' reflexive submission to international law.

In devising the new system, many officials said they had Osama bin Laden and other leaders of Al Qaeda in mind. But in picking through the hundreds of detainees at Guantánamo Bay, military investigators have struggled to find more than a dozen they can tie directly to significant terrorist acts, officials said. While important Qaeda figures have been captured and held by the C.I.A., administration officials said they were reluctant to bring those prisoners before tribunals they still consider unreliable.

Some administration officials involved in the policy declined to be interviewed, or would do so only on the condition they not be identified. Others defended it strongly, saying the administration had a responsibility to consider extraordinary measures to protect the country from a terrifying enemy.

"Everybody who was involved in this process had, in my mind, a white hat on," Timothy E. Flanigan, the former deputy White House counsel, said in an interview. "They were not out to be cowboys or create a radical new legal regime. What they wanted to do was to use existing legal models to assist in the process of saving lives, to get information. And the war on terror is all about information."

As the policy has faltered, other current and former officials have criticized it on pragmatic grounds, arguing that many of the problems could have been avoided. But some of the criticism also has a moral tone.

"What several of us were concerned about was due process," said John A. Gordon, a retired Air Force general and former deputy C.I.A. director who served as both the senior counterterrorism official and homeland security adviser on President Bush's National Security Council staff. "There was great concern that we were setting up a process that was contrary to our own ideals."

An Aggressive Approach

The administration's legal approach to terrorism began to emerge in the first turbulent days after Sept. 11, as the officials in charge of key agencies exhorted their aides to confront Al Qaeda's threat with bold imagination.

"Legally, the watchword became 'forward-leaning,' '' said a former associate White House counsel, Bradford Berenson, "by which everybody meant: 'We want to be aggressive. We want to take risks.' ''

That challenge resounded among young lawyers who were settling into important posts at the White House, the Justice Department and other agencies. Many of them were members of the Federalist Society, a conservative legal fraternity. Some had clerked for Supreme Court justices, Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia in particular. A striking number had clerked for a prominent Reagan appointee, Lawrence H. Silberman of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

One young lawyer recalled looking around the room during a meeting with Attorney General John Ashcroft. "Of 10 people, 7 of us were former Silberman clerks," he said.

Mr. Berenson, then 36, had been consumed with the nomination of federal judges until he was suddenly reassigned to terrorism issues and thrown into intense, 15-hour workdays, filled with competing urgencies and intermittent new alerts.

"All of a sudden, the curtain was lifted on this incredibly frightening world," he said. "You were spending every day looking at the dossiers of the world's leading terrorists. There was a palpable sense of threat."

As generals prepared for war in Afghanistan, lawyers scrambled to understand how the new campaign against terrorism could be waged within the confines of old laws.

Mr. Flanigan was at the center of the administration's legal counteroffensive. A personable, soft-spoken father of 14 children, his easy manner sometimes belied the force of his beliefs. He had arrived at the White House after distinguishing himself as an agile legal thinker and a Republican stalwart: During the Clinton scandals, he defended the independent counsel, Kenneth W. Starr, saying he had conducted his investigation "in a moderate and appropriate fashion." In 2000, he played an important role on the Bush campaign's legal team in the Florida recount.

In the days after the Sept. 11 attacks, Mr. Flanigan sought advice from the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel on "the legality of the use of military force to prevent or deter terrorist activity inside the United States,'' according to a previously undisclosed department memorandum that was reviewed by The New York Times.

The 20-page response came from John C. Yoo, a 34-year-old Bush appointee with a glittering résumé and a reputation as perhaps the most intellectually aggressive among a small group of legal scholars who had challenged what they saw as the United States' excessive deference to international law. On Sept. 21, 2001, Mr. Yoo wrote that the question was how the Constitution's Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable search and seizure might apply if the military used "deadly force in a manner that endangered the lives of United States citizens."

Mr. Yoo listed an inventory of possible operations: shooting down a civilian airliner hijacked by terrorists; setting up military checkpoints inside an American city; employing surveillance methods more sophisticated than those available to law enforcement; or using military forces "to raid or attack dwellings where terrorists were thought to be, despite risks that third parties could be killed or injured by exchanges of fire."

Mr. Yoo noted that those actions could raise constitutional issues, but said that in the face of devastating terrorist attacks, "the government may be justified in taking measures which in less troubled conditions could be seen as infringements of individual liberties." If the president decided the threat justified deploying the military inside the country, he wrote, then "we think that the Fourth Amendment should be no more relevant than it would be in cases of invasion or insurrection."

The prospect of such military action at home was mostly hypothetical at that point, but with the government taking the fight against terrorism to Afghanistan and elsewhere around the world, lawyers in the administration took the same "forward-leaning" approach to making plans for the terrorists they thought would be captured.

The idea of using military commissions to try suspected terrorists first came to Mr. Flanigan, he said, in a phone call a couple of days after the attacks from William P. Barr, the former attorney general under whom Mr. Flanigan had served as head of the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel during the first Bush administration.

Mr. Barr had first suggested the use of military tribunals a decade before, to try suspects in the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland. Although the idea made little headway at the time, Mr. Barr said he reminded Mr. Flanigan that the Legal Counsel's Office had done considerable research on the question. Mr. Flanigan had an aide call for the files.

"I thought it was a great idea," he recalled.

Military commissions, he thought, would give the government wide latitude to hold, interrogate and prosecute the sort of suspects who might be silenced by lawyers in criminal courts. They would also put the control over prosecutions squarely in the hands of the president.

The same ideas were taking hold in the office of Vice President Cheney, championed by his 44-year-old counsel, David S. Addington. At the time, Mr. Addington, a longtime Cheney aide with an indistinct portfolio and no real staff, was not well-known even in the government. But he would become legendary as a voraciously hard-working official with strongly conservative views, an unusually sharp pen and wide influence over military, intelligence and other matters. In a matter of months, he would make a mark as one of the most important architects of the administration's legal strategy against foreign terrorism.

Beyond the prosecutorial benefits of military commissions, the two lawyers saw a less tangible, but perhaps equally important advantage. "From a political standpoint," Mr. Flanigan said, "it communicated the message that we were at war, that this was not going to be business as usual."

Changing the Rules

In fact, very little about how the tribunal policy came about resembled business as usual. For half a century, since the end of World War II, most major national-security initiatives had been forged through interagency debate. But some senior Bush administration officials felt that process placed undue power in the hands of cautious, slow-moving foreign policy bureaucrats. The sense of urgency after Sept. 11 brought that attitude to the surface.

Little more than a week after the attacks, officials said, the White House counsel, Alberto F. Gonzales, set up an interagency group to draw up options for prosecuting terrorists. They came together with high expectations.

"We were going to go after the people responsible for the attacks, and the operating assumption was that we would capture a significant number of Al Qaeda operatives," said Pierre-Richard Prosper, the State Department official assigned to lead the group. "We were thinking hundreds."

Mr. Prosper, then 37, had just been sworn in as the department's ambassador-at-large for war crimes issues. As a prosecutor, he had taken on street gangs and drug Mafias and had won the first genocide conviction before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. Even so, some administration lawyers eyed him suspiciously - as more diplomat than crime-fighter.

Mr. Gonzales had made it clear that he wanted Mr. Prosper's group to put forward military commissions as a viable option, officials said. The group laid out three others - criminal trials, military courts-martial and tribunals with both civilian and military members, like those used for Nazi war criminals at Nuremberg.

Representatives of the Justice Department's criminal division, which had prosecuted a string of Qaeda defendants in federal district court over the previous decade, argued that the federal courts could do the job again. The option of toughening criminal laws or adapting the courts, as several European countries had done, was discussed, but only briefly, two officials said.

"The towers were still smoking, literally," Mr. Prosper said. "I remember asking: Can the federal courts in New York handle this? It wasn't a legal question so much as it was logistical. You had 300 Al Qaeda members, potentially. And did we want to put the judges and juries in harm's way?"

Lawyers at the White House saw criminal courts as a minefield, several officials said.

Much of the evidence against terror suspects would be classified intelligence that would be difficult to air in court or too sketchy to meet federal standards, the lawyers warned. Another issue was security: Was it safe to try Osama bin Laden in Manhattan, where he was facing federal charges for the 1998 bombings of American Embassies in East Africa?

Then there was a tactical question. To act pre-emptively against Al Qaeda, the authorities would need information that defense lawyers and due-process rules might discourage suspects from giving up.

Mr. Flanigan framed the choice starkly: "Are we going to go with a system that is really guaranteed to prevent us from getting information in every case or are we going to go another route?"

Military commissions had no statutory rules of their own. In past American wars, when such tribunals had been used to carry out battlefield justice against spies, saboteurs and others accused of violating the laws of war, they had generally hewed to prevailing standards of military justice. But the advocates for commissions in the Bush administration saw no reason they could not adapt the rules, officials said. Standards of proof could be lowered. Secrecy provisions could be expanded. The death penalty could be more liberally applied.

But some members of the interagency group saw it as more complicated. Terrorism had not been clearly established as a war crime under international law. Writing new law for a military tribunal might end up being more difficult than prosecuting terrorism cases in existing courts.

By late October 2001, the White House lawyers had grown impatient with what they saw as the dithering of Mr. Prosper's group and what one former official called the "cold feet" of some of its members. Mr. Flanigan said he thought the government needed to move urgently in case a major terrorist linked to the attacks was apprehended.

He gathered up the research that the Prosper group had completed on military commissions and took charge of the matter himself. Suddenly, the other options were off the table and the Prosper group was out of business.

"Prosper is a thoughtful, gentle, process-oriented guy," the former official said. "At that time, gentle was not an adjective that anybody wanted."

A Secretive Circle

With the White House in charge, officials said, the planning for tribunals moved forward more quickly, and more secretly. Whole agencies were left out of the discussion. So were most of the government's experts in military and international law.

The legal basis for the administration's approach was laid out on Nov. 6 in a confidential 35-page memorandum sent to Mr. Gonzales from Patrick F. Philbin, a deputy in the Legal Counsel's office. (Attorney General Ashcroft has refused recent Congressional requests for the document, but a copy was reviewed by The Times.)

The memorandum's plain legalese belied its bold assertions.

It said that the president, as commander in chief, has "inherent authority'' to establish military commissions without Congressional authorization. It concluded that the Sept. 11 attacks were "plainly sufficient" to warrant applying the laws of war.

Opening a debate that would later divide the administration, the memorandum also suggested that the White House could apply international law selectively. It stated specifically that trying terrorists under the laws of war "does not mean that terrorists will receive the protections of the Geneva Conventions or the rights that laws of war accord to lawful combatants."

The central legal precedent cited in the memorandum was a 1942 case in which the Supreme Court upheld President Franklin D. Roosevelt's use of a military commission to try eight Nazi saboteurs who had sneaked into the United States aboard submarines. Since that ruling, revolutions had taken place in both international and military law, with the adoption of the Geneva Conventions in 1949 and the Uniform Code of Military Justice in 1951. Even so, the Justice memorandum said the 1942 ruling had "set a clear constitutional analysis" under which due process rights do not apply to military commissions.

Roosevelt, too, created his military commission without new and explicit Congressional approval, and authorized the military to fashion its own procedural rules. He also established himself, rather than a military judge, as the "final reviewing authority'' for the case.

Mr. Addington seized on the Roosevelt precedent as a model, two people involved in the process said, despite vast differences. Roosevelt acted against enemy agents in a traditional war among nations. Mr. Bush would be asserting the same power to take on a shadowy network of adversaries with no geographic boundaries, in a conflict with no foreseeable end.

Mr. Addington, who drafted the order with Mr. Flanigan, was particularly influential, several officials said, because he represented Mr. Cheney and brought formidable experience in national-security law to a small circle of senior officials. Mr. Addington turned down several requests for interviews and a spokesman for the vice president's office declined to comment.

"He was probably the only one there who would know what an order would look like, what it would say," a former Justice Department official said, noting Mr. Addington's work at the Defense Department, the C.I.A., and Congressional intelligence committees. "He didn't have authority over anyone. But he's a persuasive guy."

To many officials outside the circle, the secrecy was remarkable.

While Mr. Ashcroft and his deputy, Larry D. Thompson, were closely consulted, the head of the Justice Department's criminal division, Michael Chertoff, who had argued for trying terror suspects in federal court, saw the military order only when it was published, officials said. Mr. Rumsfeld was kept informed of the plan mainly through his general counsel, William J. Haynes II, several Pentagon officials said.

Many of the Pentagon's experts on military justice, uniformed lawyers who had spent their careers working on such issues, were mostly kept in the dark. "I can't tell you how compartmented things were," said retired Rear Adm. Donald J. Guter, who was then the Navy's senior military lawyer, or judge advocate general. "This was a closed administration."

A group of experienced Army lawyers had been meeting with Mr. Haynes repeatedly on the process, but began to suspect that what they said did not resonate outside the Pentagon, several of them said.

On Friday, Nov. 9, Defense Department officials said, Mr. Haynes called the head of the team, Col. Lawrence J. Morris, into his office to review a draft of the presidential order. He was given 30 minutes to study it but was not allowed to keep a copy or even take notes.

The following day, the Army's judge advocate general, Maj. Gen. Thomas J. Romig, hurriedly convened a meeting of senior military lawyers to discuss a response. The group worked through the Veterans Day weekend to prepare suggestions that would have moved the tribunals closer to existing military justice. But when the final document was issued that Tuesday, it reflected none of the officers' ideas, several military officials said. "They hadn't changed a thing," one official said.

In fact, while the military lawyers were pulling together their response, they were unaware that senior administration officials were already at the White House putting finishing touches on the plan. At a meeting that Saturday in the Roosevelt Room, Mr. Cheney led a discussion among Attorney General Ashcroft, Mr. Haynes of the Defense Department, the White House lawyers and a few other aides.

Senior officials of the State Department and the National Security Council staff were excluded from final discussions of the policy, even at a time when they were meeting daily about Afghanistan with the officials who were drafting the order. According to two people involved in the process, Mr. Cheney advocated withholding the draft from Ms. Rice and Secretary Powell.

When the two cabinet members found out about the military order - upon its public release - Ms. Rice was particularly angry, several senior officials said. Spokesmen for both officials declined to comment.

Mr. Bush played only a modest role in the debate, senior administration officials said. In an initial discussion, he agreed that military commissions should be an option, the officials said. Later, Mr. Cheney discussed a draft of the order with Mr. Bush over lunch, one former official said. The president signed the three-page order on Nov. 13.

No ceremony accompanied the signing, and the order was released to the public that day without so much as a press briefing. But its historic significance was unmistakable.

The military could detain and prosecute any foreigner whom the president or his representative determined to have "engaged in, aided or abetted, or conspired to commit" terrorism. Echoing the Roosevelt order, the Bush document promised "free and fair" tribunals but offered few guarantees: There was no promise of public trials, no right to remain silent, no presumption of innocence. As in 1942, guilt did not necessarily have to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt and a death sentence could be imposed even with a divided verdict.

Despite those similarities, some military and international lawyers were struck by the differences.

"The Roosevelt order referred specifically to eight people, the eight Nazi saboteurs," said Mr. Shiffrin, who was then the Defense Department's deputy general counsel for intelligence matters and had studied the Nazi saboteurs' case. "Here we were putting in place a parallel system of justice for a universe of people who we had no idea about - who they would be, how many of them there would be. It was a very dramatic measure."

Mounting Criticism

The White House did its best to play down the drama, but criticism of the order was immediate and widespread.

Civil libertarians and some Congressional leaders saw an attempt to supplant the criminal justice system. Critics also worried about the concentration of power: The president or his proxies would define the crimes (often after an act had been committed); set the rules for trial; and choose the judges, juries and appellate panels.

Senator Patrick J. Leahy, the Vermont Democrat who was then chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, was among a handful of legislators who argued that the administration's plan required explicit Congressional authorization. The Congress had just passed the Patriot Act by a huge margin, and Mr. Leahy proposed authorizing military commissions, but with some important changes, including a presumption of innocence for defendants and appellate review by the Supreme Court.

Critics seized on complaints from abroad, including an announcement from the Spanish authorities that they would not extradite some terrorist suspects to the United States if they would face the tribunals. "We are the most powerful nation on earth," Mr. Leahy said. "But in the struggle against terrorism, we don't have the option of going it alone. Would these military tribunals be worth jeopardizing the cooperation we expect and need from our allies?"

Senators called for Mr. Rumsfeld and Mr. Ashcroft to testify about the tribunals plan. Instead, the administration sent Mr. Prosper from the State Department and Mr. Chertoff of the Justice Department - both of whom had questioned the use of commissions and were later excluded from the administration's final deliberations.

But the Congressional opposition melted in the face of opinion polls showing strong support for the president's measures against terrorism.

There was another reason fears were allayed. With the order signed, the Pentagon was writing rules for exactly how the commissions would be conducted, and an early draft that was leaked to the news media suggested defendants' rights would be expanded. Mr. Rumsfeld, who assembled a group of outside legal experts - including some who had worked on World War II-era tribunals - to consult on the rules, said critics' concerns would be taken into account.

But all of the critics were not outside the administration.

Many of the Pentagon's uniformed lawyers were angered by the implication that the military would be used to deliver "rough justice" for the terrorists. The Uniform Code of Military Justice had moved steadily into line with the due-process standards of the federal courts, and senior military lawyers were proud and protective of their system. They generally supported using commissions for terrorists, but argued that the system would not be fair without greater rights for defendants.

"The military lawyers would from time to time remind the civilians that there was a Constitution that we had to pay attention to," said Admiral Guter, who, after retiring as the Navy judge advocate general, signed a "friend of the court" brief on behalf of plaintiffs in the Guantánamo Supreme Court case.

Even as uniformed lawyers were given a greater role in writing rules for the commissions, they still felt out of the loop.

In early 2002, Admiral Guter said, during a weekly lunch with Mr. Haynes and the top lawyers for the military branches, he raised the issue with Mr. Haynes directly: "We need more information."

Mr. Haynes looked at him coldly. "No, you don't," he quoted Mr. Haynes as saying.

Mr. Haynes declined to comment on the exchange.

Lt. Col. William K. Lietzau, a Yale-trained Marine lawyer on Mr. Haynes's staff, often found himself in the middle. "I could see how the JAGs were frustrated that the task of setting up the commissions hadn't been delegated to them,'' he said, referring to the senior military lawyers. "On the other hand, I could see how some of their recommendations frustrated the leadership because they didn't always appear to embrace the paradigm shift needed to deal with terrorism."

Some Justice Department officials also urged changes in the commission rules, current and former officials said. While Attorney General Ashcroft staunchly defended the policy in public, in a private meeting with Pentagon officials, he said some of the proposed commission rules would be seen as "draconian," two officials said.

On nearly every issue, interviews and documents show, the harder line was staked out by White House lawyers: Mr. Addington, Mr. Gonzales and Mr. Flanigan. They opposed allowing civilian lawyers to assist the tribunal defendants, as military courts-martial permit, or allowing civilians to serve on the appellate panel that would oversee the commissions. They also opposed granting defendants a presumption of innocence.

In the end, Mr. Rumsfeld compromised. He granted defendants a presumption of innocence and set "beyond a reasonable doubt" as a standard for proving guilt. He also allowed the defendants to hire civilian lawyers, but restricted the lawyers' access to case information. And he gave the presiding officer at a tribunal license to admit any evidence he thought might be convincing to a "reasonable person.''

One right the administration sought to deny the prisoners was the ability to appeal the legality of their detentions in federal court. The administration had done its best to decide the question when searching for a place to detain hundreds of prisoners captured in Afghanistan. Every location it seriously considered - including an American military base in Germany and islands in the South Pacific - was outside the United States and, the administration believed, beyond the reach of the federal judiciary.

On Dec. 28, 2001, after officials settled on Guantánamo Bay, Mr. Philbin and Mr. Yoo told the Pentagon in a memorandum that it could make a "very strong" claim that prisoners there would be outside the purview of American courts. But the memorandum cautioned that a reasonable argument could also be made that Guantánamo "while not part of the sovereign territory of the United States, is within the territorial jurisdiction of a federal court." That warning would come back to haunt the administration.

A Shift in Power

Some of the officials who helped design the new system of justice would later explain the influence they exercised in the chaotic days after Sept. 11 as a response to a crisis. But a more enduring shift of power within the administration was taking place - one that became apparent in a decision that would have significant consequences for how terror suspects were interrogated and detained.

At issue was whether the administration would apply the Geneva Conventions to the conflicts with Al Qaeda and the Taliban and whether those enemies would be treated as prisoners of war.

Based on the advice of White House and Justice Department lawyers, Mr. Bush initially decided on Jan. 18, 2002, that the conventions would not apply to either conflict. But at a meeting of senior national security officials several days later, Secretary of State Powell asked him to reconsider.

Mr. Powell agreed that the conventions did not apply to the global fight against Al Qaeda. But he said troops could be put at risk if the United States disavowed the conventions in dealing with the Taliban - the de facto government of Afghanistan. Both Mr. Rumsfeld and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Richard B. Myers, supported his position, Pentagon officials said.

In a debate that included the administration's most experienced national-security officials, a voice heard belonged to Mr. Yoo, only a deputy in the Office of Legal Counsel. He cast Afghanistan as a "failed state," and said its fighters should not be considered a real army but a "militant, terrorist-like group." In a Jan. 25 memorandum, the White House counsel, Mr. Gonzales, characterized that opinion as "definitive," although it was not the final basis for the president's decision.

The Gonzales memorandum suggested that the "new kind of war" Mr. Bush wanted to fight could hardly be reconciled with the "quaint" privileges that the Geneva Conventions gave to prisoners of war, or the "strict limitations" they imposed on interrogations.

Military lawyers disputed the idea that applying the conventions would necessarily limit interrogators to the name, rank and serial number of their captives. "There were very good reasons not to designate the detainees as prisoners of war, but the claim that they couldn't be interrogated was not one of them," Colonel Lietzau said. Again, though, such questions were scarcely heard, officials involved in the discussions said.

Mr. Yoo's rise reflected a different approach by the Bush administration to sensitive legal questions concerning foreign affairs, defense and intelligence.

In past administrations, officials said, the Office of Legal Counsel usually weighed in with opinions on questions that had already been deliberated by the legal staffs of the agencies involved. Under Mr. Bush, the office frequently had a first and final say. "O.L.C. was definitely running the show legally, and John Yoo in particular," a former Pentagon lawyer said. "He's kind of fun to be around, and he has an opinion on everything. Even though he was quite young, he exercised disproportionate authority because of his personality and his strong opinions."

Mr. Yoo's influence was amplified by friendships he developed not just with Mr. Addington and Mr. Flanigan, but also Mr. Haynes, with whom he played squash as often as three or four times a week at the Pentagon Officers Athletic Club.

If the Geneva Conventions debate raised Mr. Yoo's stature, it had the opposite effect on lawyers at the State Department, who were later excluded from sensitive discussions on matters like the interrogation of detainees, officials from several agencies said.

"State was cut out of a lot of this activity from February of 2002 on," one senior administration official said. "These were treaties that we were dealing with; they are meant to know about that."

The State Department legal adviser, William H. Taft IV, was shunned by the lawyers who dominated the detainee policy, officials said. Although Mr. Taft had served as the deputy secretary of defense during the Reagan administration, more conservative colleagues whispered that he lacked the constitution to fight terrorists.

"He was seen as ideologically squishy and suspect," a former White House official said. "People did not take him very seriously."

Through a State Department spokesman, Richard A. Boucher, Mr. Taft declined to comment.

The rivalries could be almost adolescent. When field trips to Guantánamo Bay were arranged for administration lawyers, the invitations were sometimes relayed last to the State Department and National Security Council, officials said, in the hope that lawyers there would not be able to go on short notice.

It was on the first field trip, 10 days after detainees began to arrive there on Jan. 11, 2002, that White House lawyers made clear their intention to move forward quickly with military commissions.

On the flight home, several officials said, Mr. Addington urged Mr. Gonzales to seek a blanket designation of all the detainees being sent to Guantánamo as eligible for trial under the president's order. Mr. Gonzales agreed.

The next day, the Pentagon instructed military intelligence officers at the base to start filling out one-page forms for each detainee, describing their alleged offenses. Weeks later, Mr. Haynes issued an urgent call to the military services, asking them to submit nominations for a chief prosecutor.

The first trials, many military and administration officials believed, were just around the corner.Next: A Policy Unravels

N.Y. Times
October 24, 2004
Jack Begg contributed research for this article.

Destructive Embryonic Stem Cell Research

Destructive Embryonic Stem Cell Research

The stem cell debate is about the value of human life at its beginning. Stem cells are “blank” cells which can become all 210 different kinds of human tissue. Researchers hope that someday these cells could provide cures for all kinds of serious diseases, even repairing vital organs. We have stem cells throughout our bodies, but they are most abundant in human embryos. To get embryonic stem cells, however, requires killing those human beings. A raging debate is going on in our nation now, over whether taxes should support killing human embryos in order to harvest their stem cells for experimentation.

Many influential groups have taken sides in the debate. You can guess where the pro-abortion groups stand (to find a positive justification for abortion is their dream come true!). Drug and research companies also defend destructive embryonic stem cell research. Pro-life groups, of course, are against it. The Vatican condemned research using human embryos as "gravely immoral," because removing cells kills an unborn child. The Associated Press reported, “The Roman Catholic church teaches that life begins at conception and must be safeguarded from that point. It encouraged the use of cells from adults instead of embryos, which it called `the more reasonable and humane step.’” U.S. Senator Sam Brownback debated on the floor of the senate: “For the first time in our history, it is acceptable for medical researchers to kill one human being to help save another. Ultimately, what lies at the heart of this debate is our view of the human embryo. The central question in this debate is simple: Is the human embryo a person or a piece of property? If unborn persons are living beings, they have dignity and worth, and they deserve protection under the law from harm and destruction. If, however, unborn persons are a piece of property, then they can be destroyed with the consent of their owner.”

The one, holy, catholic and apostolic Orthodox Church has spoken, too. The position of the Orthodox Church on embryonic stem cell research, according to this newspaper, is, “In light of the fact that Orthodox Christianity accepts the fact that human life begins at conception, the extraction of stem cells from embryos, which involves the willful taking of human life --the embryo is human life and not just a `clump of cells’-- is considered morally and ethically wrong in every instance.”

In this article, we will look at why the Orthodox Church has taken such a stand, how the Church has always stood uncompromisingly for the personhood of the human embryo, and what moral alternatives exist for stem cell research.

Legally, research on human embryos is allowed because of a faulty Supreme Court definition of "personhood" at "viability" (when a baby can live outside his/her mother) as worthy of state interest for legal protection. In fact, the whole pro-abortion argument hinges on the lie that there is such a thing as human life which is less than a person, hence unworthy of legal protection. Conversely, Orthodox Christians affirm the image of God from the beginning of human life, and we do not say at any time of development that one human being is of less value or less of a person than another human being.


Stem cells can be “harvested” from human embryos only by killing them, while the Church has always denounced any such killing and championed the sanctity of human life. The earliest extra-biblical document we have, The Didache, commands, "Do not murder a child by abortion,” and warns that "the Way of Death is filled with people who are...murderers of children and abortionists of God's creatures" (5:1-2). The Epistle of Barnabas, another very early document, was equally clear: "You shall not destroy your conceptions before they are brought forth." Both call the embryo a "child." The Epistle to Diognetus (second century) stated, "Christians...like everyone else, begat children, but they do not cast away fetuses." The Apocalypse of Peter (given canonical status by St. Clement of Alexandria) prophesied the damnation of men and women involved in abortion: "Those who slew them will be tortured forever." It included a vision of hell including the torment of "those who procured abortions." St. Athenagoras, to refute the charge of murder, wrote, "What reason would we have to commit murder when we say that women who induce abortions are murderers, and will have to give account of it to God? For the same person would not regard a fetus in the womb as a living thing and therefore an object of God's care, and at the same time slay it." St. Clement of Alexandria, in the third century, used Luke 1:41 (where John the Baptist leaped in Elizabeth's womb) to prove that an embryo is a living person. He calls the earliest conceived embryos “human beings who are given birth by Divine Providence,” and he condemns “those who use abortifacient medicines..., causing the outright destruction, together with the fetus, of the whole human race." Hippolytus wrote how concubines "gird themselves round, so as to expel what was being conceived... Behold, into how great impiety that lawless one has proceeded, by inculcating adultery and murder at the same time!" St. John Chrysostom called abortion "murder before birth," exhorting, "Why do you abuse the gift of God, and fight with His laws...and make the chamber of procreation a chamber for murder, and arm the woman that was given for childbearing for slaughter?" So also so many others, in fact all Fathers and all Councils of the Church unanimously condemn abortion at any stage of development, acknowledging that life begins at conception. The basis of the Church's fervent opposition to abortion was that the preborn are God-created human beings. The distinguishing mark of the Christian position was concern for the fetus as a person.

It is sometimes said that the Bible is silent on abortion, but that's not true. While the word "abortion" isn't in the Bible (neither is the word, "Trinity"), the New Testament forbids pharmakeia, the use of potions or poisons which cause abortion (in Sorano's Gynecology, pharmakeia refers exclusively to abortifacients).
Galatians 5:20 condemns pharmakeia along with fornication, impurity, licentiousness (promiscuity) "and the like." The context makes clear that abortion is what is being prohibited. Pharmakeia is one of the wicked deeds of Babylon, deceiving the nations (Rev 18:23). It is an activity of unrepentant evildoers (Rev 9:21). The lot of those who participate in pharmakeia is, along with fornicating murderers, "in the lake that burns with fire and sulphur, which is the second death" (Rev 21:8). Revelation 22:15 says that outside the Heavenly city are "pharmakos and fornicators and murderers and idolaters, and every one who loves and practices falsehood."

Today the Church continues to decry abortion, no matter how soon after conception. Protopresbyter John Meyendorff, of blessed memory, insisted: "The fact that [an abortion] takes place at an initial stage of the human life process...does not change the nature of the act of abortion, being killing... The hundreds of thousands of legal abortions performed in New York hospitals are a case of mass killing." In 1973, Metropolitan IRENY lamented: "The very moral foundations of society are being subjected to doubt... As a horrible symbol of this moral decay, I cite the legalization of abortion, this frightening transgression of the most sacred of all commandments." The Twenty-Third Clergy-Lay Congress of the Greek Archdiocese of North and South America (1976) issued this statement: "The Orthodox Church has a definite, formal, and intended attitude toward abortion. It condemns all procedures purporting to abort the embryo or fetus, whether by surgical or medical means. The Orthodox Church brands abortion as murder, that is, the premeditated termination of the life of a human being. Decisions of the Supreme Court and State Legislatures by which abortion is allowed, with or without restrictions, should be viewed by practicing Christians as an affront to their beliefs in the sanctity of life."

The Church has always resoundly affirmed that human life --and She does not distinguish human life from human personhood--begins at conception. This is most obvious in our Feasts celebrating the conception of Christ at Annunciation, the conception of the Theotokos, and the conception of John the Baptist, all of which have hymns proclaiming the personhood of Jesus, Mary, and John. At his conception, the Church proclaims: "From a barren womb buds forth today the fruit of prayer, John the Forerunner... For, behold, the Herald of repentance begins to take flesh in his mother's womb." And to Elizabeth, the Church sings: "Rejoice, O Woman who before was barren! For, behold, you have conceived the Lamp of the Sun, who will illumine the whole universe which is suffering in blindness." The idea that what is conceived is a "potential" entity that sometime later becomes a person is completely foreign and antithetical to Orthodox Tradition. John himself was conceived, not a "conceptus" with only potential for personhood. The whole amazement of the Annunciation is that in Mary's womb was a Person, not just a "fertilized egg." At the Feast of the Annunciation, the Church sings about Mary: "She conceived You, the pre-eternal God, who was pleased to become man for the salvation of our souls." We marvel with the angels, that "He who cannot be contained is contained in a womb." This is the mystery of the Christian Faith, and it teaches us that the womb holds persons, not things. At Great Compline for the Annunciation we sing, "God empties Himself, takes flesh, and is fashioned as a creature, when the angel tells the pure Virgin of her conception." The Church teaches us that a pregnant woman is a mother; she has a person growing inside her.

It is important to note in all this that the point at which the baby can live outside his mother (“viability”) is utterly irrelevant. A human embryo may be totally dependent on his mother for nutrition and protection, but he is still a person. Bishop John Zizioulas teaches that "person is prior to being." Just as we can’t speak of “divinity” without personhood (there is no impersonal “Force,” but a Tri-Personal God), so also we can’t speak of a human existence which is less than personal. If a human exists, s/he is a person. Also irrelevant is the Latin debate over “ensoulment.” In the West, St. Augustine fluctuated on the question of the soul's origin, and St. Jerome made a distinction between formed and unformed, but both unequivocally condemned abortion at any gestational stage. Fr. Stanley Harakas teaches, "The Roman Catholic theological tradition has long involved itself in the dispute regarding when the soul enters the body, and how this takes place, thus giving credence to the 'quickening theory.' The Orthodox Christian Tradition has never done so. In fact, St. Basil, in his second canon, makes a point in ruling out this kind of discussion: ...`Among us there is no exact definition of that which is formed and that which is unformed.' He goes on to indicate that...destruction of the embryo is murder."

St. Basil the Great repeatedly affirmed, "Those who give potions for the destruction of the child conceived in the womb are murderers... The hairsplitting difference between formed and unformed makes no difference to us. A woman who deliberately destroys a fetus is answerable for murder." Father John Kowalczyk comments, "This demonstrates that Basil was aware that a fetus passed through several stages of development. But he also held that during this whole process...to destroy a fetus is to go against the will of the Creator.” Significantly, St. Gregory of Nyssa affirmed that the fetus possessed a soul from conception: “There is no question about that which is bred in the uterus... The point of commencement of existence is one and the same for body and soul.” St. Gregory considers there no difference, in terms of human personhood, between a newborn and the developing baby in the womb. He writes that an infant has “no advantage over the embryo in the womb except that he has seen the air.” He takes great pains to prove that from the baby’s earliest beginning, the child is not only alive but endowed with a personal, human soul. "No one with good sense would imagine that the origin of the soul is later and younger than the formation of the bodies... Soul and body have one and the same beginning... We understand that a common transition into being takes place for the compound constituted from both soul and body. The one does not go before, nor the other come later." Tertullian, while a leading apologist in the Church, wrote that "Abortion is a precipitation of murder, nor does it matter whether or not one takes a life when formed, or drives it away when forming," and he simply and clearly states, "We acknowledge that life begins with conception."

Holy Scripture calls pregnancy --from the moment of conception--"to be with child" (Isaiah 7:14). King David wrote, "You formed my inward parts, You knit me together in my mother's womb... You know me right well; my frame was not hidden from You, when I was being made in secret... Your eyes beheld my unformed substance" (Ps 139:13-17). At the earliest stage of development, not yet visibly recognizable in their "unformed substance," the tiniest individuals are the subjects of God's love as persons. This is seen many other times, such as in the cases of Jeremiah (Jere 1:4-5), Isaiah (Is 44:32; 49:1), Job (Job 10:8-12), St Paul (Gal 1:15), and John the Baptist (Lk 1:15, 41-44 --note the preborn child is a brephos, literally, "baby"). Exodus 21 gives the penalty for domestic violence causing a premature but healthy birth ("yatza," a live birth, not a "shakol," miscarriage) of a normal child ("yeled," child, not "golem," fetus, or "nefel," stillborn). If “no harm follows" (the Hebrew refers to the mother, the child, or both), a lesser penalty is exacted. If there is harm to either the mother or the child, the penalty is "life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe." Clearly, the baby in the womb is of equal value to human life outside the womb. In fact, this passage shows that life in the womb is of greater value, in the sense of being worthy of greater protection, because the punishment for accidental harm to a pregnant woman or her child is more strict than that for accidental death in general (Ex 21:13).

ANY abortifacient --no matter how immediately applied after conception– is absolutely condemned by holy Scripture, the Fathers, and the Councils of the Church. Categories of development (“zygote,” “embryo,” “fetus”) are modern inventions for more technical description of the developing child, not Church-sanctioned divisions in stages of value. (Even the Latin word "fetus" simply means "unborn baby," at any stage after conception.) Dr. Wanda Franz explains, "Each level of development is directly dependent on the earlier level for the form it takes... The entire life of a human being is continuously evolving from conception. No one level of functioning is superior to any other, since each one depends on and evolves out of lower, less functional forms, and is the basis for the next, higher form... Nothing is added to what he is (at fertilization) except nutrition, time and oxygen, which simply cause him to grow... A human being does not come from an embryo or fetus; he once was one. These terms are nothing more than stages of human development." The Church unanimously affirms human life starts at the very beginning, conception, not at a later stage. Modern medicine affirms what Orthodoxy has always known: Dr. Jerome Lyeume, geneticist who discovered the genetic basis for Downs Syndrome, writes, "Life has a very long history, but each human being has a very neat beginning: the moment of conception."

At no time in gestation is there a change, going from being "lifeless" to being "alive," or from a "vegetable" to a "human." Dr. E. Blechschmidt explains, "A human being does not become a human being, but rather is a human being from the instant of its fertilization." The preborn child does not develop human organs and limbs in anticipation of life, which do not begin functioning until birth. He is never just "there," formed but without life, as was mistakenly thought by some in the past. Rather, the preborn child is already a functioning human being whose development becomes more and more complex. The Supreme Court in 1973 made up the "trimester" divisions of pregnancy, based on the earliest stage of "viability" then possible, but according to Orthodox truth, "viability" has nothing to do with human personhood, or when human life begins. Dr. David Prentice, professor of life sciences at Indiana State University and adjunct professor of medical and molecular genetics at the Indiana University School of Medicine, writes, “Scientifically there is no disputing that we are a human being even at the one-cell stage.”

The Orthodox Faith proclaims that we are created in the image of God (Gen 9:6). Although the image of God in us has been made hard to see because of sin, it is indelible. It cannot be lost (we are not Calvinists). We are unique and distinct from animals, angels, and all the created universe because God personally formed us in His likeness and breathed His Spirit in us. The child born severely deformed or retarded is created in the image and likeness of God just as we are, and to the same degree that we are. Our degree of biological development is irrelevant to the fact of our being created in God's image. We affirm that life begins at conception.


In the mid-90's, Congress passed a law banning the use of tax dollars for research in which human embryos are harmed or killed. Richard Doerflinger of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops explains what then happened, under the Clinton administration: “Based on a legal opinion by Health and Human Services attorney Marcy Wilder (former legal director of the National Abortion Rights Action League), the National Institutes of Health proposed funding research that uses stem cells from `spare’ embryos at fertility clinics.” The National Right to Life Committee responded to the Clinton administration’s averting the law: "If a law said no taxes may fund research in which porpoises are destroyed,' and a federal agency then told its grantees to arrange for porpoises to be caught and killed for use in federally approved experiments, everyone would recognize this as illegal." Detroit's Roman Catholic Cardinal, Adam Maida, summarized, "By appropriating taxpayers' money for such experiments with human life, our elected officials would make all of us unwitting partners along the way."

“Harvesting” stem cells kills human embryos. Though the hope is to someday help people, if we harm others in the process, we have done wrong. The Church opposes embryonic stem cell research because there is no way, at least today, to take stem cells from human embryos –preborn children-- without killing them. Dr. J. Wilke of Life Issues Institute writes, "You can't have it both ways. You can't profess to be pro-life and support experimentation on these tiny children that will result in their deaths. As physicians we first pledge to do no harm. (Embryonic stem cell research) flies in the face of a doctor's primary responsibility."

Some say the possible benefits justify destructive embryonic stem cell research. This "noble use" argument is simple: the end justifies the means. But the intentional harm of a human being for the benefit of another is wrong. Stem cell research’s ultimate goal may be to heal, but countless human beings have to be killed first.
Fr. Frank Pavone, Roman Catholic president of Priests For Life, explains, "This is not a debate about whether or not we should do research to assist the perennial fight against disease. The Church does not oppose research. But the task of research, the efforts to cure disease, and the ability to manipulate nature has certain moral parameters." The 14,000-member Christian Medical Association states, "Defining the value of lives by how we use them is the grossest violation of human worth."

Others, including President Bush, agree that killing humans for experimentation is wrong, but feel it should be allowed on embryos “already slated to die,” such as victims of abortion or “spare” human embryos frozen in fertility clinics. This is faulty thinking, since two wrongs don’t make a right. In cases of abortion, it is wrong to benefit from an immoral act. This is a universally accepted ethical principle. Ken Connor, president of the Family Research Council, explains, "The law has long recognized that you may incur moral and legal responsibility for your response to someone else's prior criminal act, even though you weren't a participant in the original wrongdoing. For example, the law holds that you may be punished for knowingly receiving stolen goods even though you didn't participate in the original act of larceny. To hold otherwise would provide thieves with an incentive to keep on stealing. And, it is no defense to the crime that the one who knowingly received the stolen goods gave them to a church in an attempt to ennoble an otherwise ignoble act. Even an innocent party (i.e., the church that received the goods without knowledge that they were stolen) is required to cough up the ill-gotten gains." In cases of conceived human beings frozen in fertility clinics, again the Church opposes the killing of these little ones for experimentation. Human life is human life, whether conceived in the fallopian tubes or in a petri dish. Pro-life couples going through in-vitro fertilization can (and Orthodox faithful do) specify that no “extras” be conceived than will be implanted in the mother. Deacon Dr. Mark Studebaker explains, “Each one is conceived with the hope that it will become implanted in the mother's womb and survive, even though some often do not. This is no different than what happens in a natural setting through a couple with normal fertility.” (Here in Lima, Ohio, I personally know a previously infertile Roman Catholic couple who has become a family in just this way.) Even in cases of non-Christian in-vitro fertilization where more embryos are conceived than implanted, “spare” embryos are not necessarily destroyed. Parents can preserve "excess" embryos for future pregnancies as well as donate them to other couples. The New England Journal of Medicine reports that in a recent study, 59% of parents who initially planned to discard their embryos after three years later changed their minds, choosing another pregnancy or donation to infertile couples. The U.S. Conference of (Roman) Bishops argues, “What's more, we now know that the scientists calling for federal funds have themselves moved on to creating human embryos solely to destroy them for stem cells. So much for the "discarded anyway" argument.” Kevin Fitzgerald of Georgetown University testified before Congress, "We do not consider it appropriate to take organs from dying patients or prisoners on death row before they have died in order to increase someone else's chances for healing or cure. Neither, then, should we consider any embryos 'spare' so that we may destroy them for their stem cells." Albert Schweitzer once wrote, “If a man loses reverence for any part of life, he will lose his reverence for all of life.”

Advocate Gary Bauer summarizes, “Common sense tells us that no one has the right to kill another human being, no matter how much good they claim will come from that act. Most people instinctively reject the notion that doctors are qualified to decide who should live and who should die `for the greater good.’ That is why doctors have for centuries taken an oath declaring their first duty not to harm, let alone kill, anyone in their care. The consequences of this terrible new power are already apparent. The British Parliament recently announced that it would allow the cloning of human beings so long as the people created are quickly destroyed for their stem cells.” (In yet another fulfilled slippery slope, research has now become the justification for human cloning. Embryologist Jonathan Van Blerkom of University of Colorado clarifies, “To claim that an embryo produced by cloning is not really an embryo, in order to justify destructive experimentation on it, is arbitrary and self-serving." Princeton University Professor Lee Silver agrees: "Cloned children will be full-fledged human beings, indistinguishable in biological terms from all other members of the species. Thus, the notion of a soulless clone has no basis in reality.")

Even if there were a way to experiment on human embryos without killing them (which there isn’t), such use of preborn children would, I believe, constitute abuse. Remember, according to Holy Tradition, we’re talking about people here! It would be equal to experimenting on you or me, alive, and without our consent. “Human beings, no matter how small, weak, or dependent, possess inherent dignity and intrinsic worth by virtue of their humanity... Of all human beings, pre-born human life is most vulnerable to abuse and exploitation.” The president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Joseph A. Fiorenza, describes destructive embryonic research as "treating some lives as nothing more than objects to be manipulated and destroyed for research purposes." Attorney and consumer advocate Wesley J. Smith says it turns “human life (into) a mere natural resource... A crop to be harvested."

Some say embryonic stem cell research is acceptable if done on miscarried children. Since they will die anyway, this is equated with transplanting needed organs from someone newly dead. There may be room for this view in our Church, but personally I would argue against it. First of all, it differs from transplantation in that experimentation is done without the donor’s permission or consent –an important legal requirement for all “protected” human life. (This is especially important for Orthodox, who respect our bodies as Temples of the Holy Spirit and do not want unnecessary experimentation, embalming, etc. legally allowed on human beings without consent.) Secondly, if this is upheld as a moral act, then abuse will follow and quickly escalate. Haven’t we seen enough proof in the last century that prophetic “slippery slopes” come true? Finally, I would argue that using is abusing. It would require artificially keeping the child alive (or at least part of him or her alive) long enough to harvest her stem cells, thereby killing her. Such manipulation of life has no humility, no reverence, no place for God. William Saunders of the Family Research Council explains, "Too often, we think of an embryo as a thing that can be donated or thrown away, the way someone donates unwanted clothes to charity or throws them in the trash. Yet a human embryo is a living human being-a being with a human destiny and a purpose.” History has proven “the greater good” type of utilitarian logic to lead to horrible abuses, whether on mentally ill patients in Nazi Germany, or on minorities injected with syphilis at Tuskegee, or on soldiers exposed with radiation during World War II. Applying the logic that aborted-babies-are-dead-anyway-so-why-not-use-them, Ken Connor writes, "look for using victims of partial birth abortion as the next objects of medical research... What about death row prisoners and victims of homicide and auto accidents?" Clearly, this is not the road we wish to go on. Thanks be to God, there are stem cells useable for research from countless sources other than embryos, some of which are beginning to prove more valuable than embryonic stem cells.


The Coalition of Americans for Research Ethics (including former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop) has pointed out that real, viable alternatives exist. William Saunders writes, "Experiments conducted on stem cells taken from deliberately destroyed embryonic humans is always unethical and always unnecessary."
Dr. David Prentice of Indiana State University and the Indiana University School of Medicine comments, “There are several excellent alternatives to embryos, and they are actually better potential sources of stem cells for numerous reasons. The best sources are from our own organs... Another excellent source is cord blood; the small amount of blood left in an umbilical cord after it is detached from a newborn is rich in stem cells.” Indeed, Wesley J. Smith reports that stem cells from umbilical cord blood have restored the immune systems of children whose cancer had previously destroyed their abilities to fight infection and disease.

In England, research has shown adult stem cells can help stroke victims regain movement, senses and understanding. They also show that the adult cells were more effective than cells from aborted babies. The Institute of Psychiatry in London and a biotechnology company, showed that transplanted adult stem cells made their way to whichever area of the damaged brain needed repair. The movement of adult stem cells to the damaged area of the brain differs from the behavior of fetal stem cells, which they say remain in one place when transplanted.

Besides umbilical cord stem cells, there are many other kinds of adult stem cells, all of which can be used in research without harming anyone, and which are already proven to have dramatic healing effects. The Toronto Globe and Mail reported that a young woman rendered paraplegic by a car accident can move her toes and legs after injection of her own immune-system cells into her severed spinal cord. The New England Journal of Medicine reports that several legally blind people can now see more clearly after their corneas were reconstructed with adult corneal stem cells. The scientific medical journal, Blood, found (adult) blood stem cells could be "maintained for prolonged periods, and sufficient numbers were generated for adult transplantation," something previously thought only possible with embryonic stem cells. In the last year, adult neural stem cells have been converted into heart, liver, muscle and blood cells. The Associated Press concluded that such findings “may eliminate the ethical dilemma blocking stem-cell studies that use human fetal tissues."

The National Institute for Neurological Disorders and Stroke has confirmed that patients' own bone marrow stem cells can be directed to generate nerve cells for brain repair. "The studies suggest that bone marrow may be a readily available source of neural cells with potential for treating such neurological disorders as Parkinson's disease and traumatic brain injury... Bone marrow cells taken from a patient's own body would not be rejected by the body's immune system." Use of bone marrow stem cells to repair damaged bone and cartilage is already in human clinical trials at Osiris Therapeutics in Baltimore and elsewhere. The New England Journal of Medicine reports on successful efforts by Italian and Russian researchers to repair "large bone defects" using these cells. The Washington Post also ran a story about two children born without immune systems, who have left their sterile environment and lead normal lives after bone marrow stem cell treatment. The Los Angeles Times has reported that The Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in New Jersey found stem cells from adult bone marrow can convert into neurons quickly and can be grown in almost unlimited supply. Experiments prove these cells can be successfully transplanted into the spinal cord and brain, where they survive and connect to other neurons. The Washington Post published reports that bone marrow cells “might provide a nearly limitless supply of replacement neurons for patients with Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease and spinal cord injuries." G. Vogel, in Science (the journal of the American Association for the Advancement of Science), announced results proving bone marrow stem cells from children and adults can "become brain cells and liver cell precursors, plus all three kinds of muscle... Besides skirting the ethical dilemmas surrounding research on embryonic and fetal stem cells, adult cells...might have another advantage: They may be easier to manage." Science journal (which supported destructive embryo stem cell research), admitted that "easily accessible cells from bone marrow might someday be used to treat a wide range of neurological diseases --without raising the ethical concerns that accompany the use of embryonic cells."

Skin has been discovered as a source of stem cells. The (Toronto) National Post reported that researchers at the Montreal Neurological Institute found stem cells in skin which can morph into neurons, bone, muscle, blood and other kinds of cells. A finger cut heals by means of skin, blood, and neural stem cells in the finger itself, restoring not only the outer finger but also the sense of touch. The discovery could lead to cures for diabetes and other degenerative illnesses by providing new cells to replace damaged or dead ones. Independent laboratory experiments indicate that neural cells can be grown from scalp tissue.

Fat contains stem cells. Reuters documents results from the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, where researchers created bone cells out of stem cells harvested from abdominal fat. In another study, scientists grew cartilage cells from fat stem cells taken from liposuction samples. Dr. Prosper Benhaim of the University of California at Los Angeles comments, “In the future, liposuction may provide an abundant source of stem cells that are easily obtained.”

The British Medical Journal reports that even people recently deceased can provide stem cells: "Early results suggest that ductal tissue taken from human cadavers can be grown in culture to form functioning (pancreatic) islet cells. Such a source of tissue... could prove better than relying on fetal tissue, and may even lead eventually to autologous pancreatic transplants." The American Diabetes Association reports that fifteen people with juvenile diabetes became "insulin free" after adult pancreatic islet cell transplants; nine still need no insulin injections. Researchers at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies grew neural cells from human tissue donated after death from people up to 72 years old.

The list of proven alternatives to embryonic stem cells goes on. As Senator Sam Brownback puts it, “We cannot secure a good life by ending the lives of others. There are other paths available--let us take them.”

The Wall Street Journal reports Harvard Medical School researcher Evan Y. Snyder, “Scientists used to think that such potential for cellular regeneration was present only in embryos--that, for example, humans had made their lifetime supply of brain cells by age 17. But that canon is steadily eroding... I think we will find these stem cells in any organ that we look.” Science journal columnist E. Marshall: “Once thought to be less versatile than (embryonic) stem cells because they have already made a commitment to become particular cell types, these (adult stem) cells are now turning out to have greater than expected capabilities. What's more, they pose fewer ethical problems because they can be obtained from sources other than embryos or aborted fetuses. And the companies using them argue that it may require less work to transform them into specialized cells for transplantation."

In their zeal to justify abortion, some have distorted the facts to favor destructive embryo research. Dr. Prentice explains, “Knowledgeable people do not always perpetuate the truth... Celebrities are unfortunately ill-informed or deliberately misled... For example, the letter sent to President Bush says that "insulin-secreting cells have normalized blood glucose in diabetic mice." These experiments were done with ADULT stem cells from mice, NOT embryonic stem cells. In fact, there are as yet no reports of anyone being able to produce insulin-secreting cells from human embryonic stem cells, but human ADULT stem cells that secrete insulin HAVE been isolated. Studies done with adult stem cells DO show that adult stem cells have the capacity to form essentially any tissue.”

The United States Conference of (Roman) Catholic Bishops states flatly the fact that “Embryonic stem cells have not helped a single human patient, or demonstrated any therapeutic benefit. By contrast, adult stem cells and other ethically acceptable alternatives have helped hundreds of thousands of patients, and new clinical uses expand almost weekly.” Dr. Marcus Grompe of the Department of Molecular and Medical Genetics at Oregon Health Sciences University (an expert in cell transplantation to repair damaged livers), admits, "There is no evidence of therapeutic benefit from embryonic stem cells." Bert Vogelstein, Professor of Oncology and Pathology at Johns Hopkins University and Chairman of the Institute of Medicine's committee studying stem cell research, described all claims of benefit from embryonic stem cells as "conjectural": "There is no experience with embryonic stem cells in humans, and very little in mice."

Do No Harm, the Coalition of Americans for Research Ethics (http://www.stemcellresearch.org), has a wealth of articles about the alternatives on their website, plus links to other sources. For information on advances in stem cell research that do not require killing human embryos, visit http://www.nccbuscc.org/prolife/issues/bioethic/factsheets.htm.


Embryo stem cells are beginning to prove more harmful than helpful. Wesley J. Smith explains, “Alternative sources of stem cells offer at least equivalent potential to embryonic cells... Yes, embryonic stem cells seem more active, but that may actually make them less desirable for use in human medical therapy since this aspect of their biology may be impossible to control and could lead to embryonic stem cell therapy causing tumors.” Science journal reports that “The human embryonic stem cells and fetal germ cells that made headlines in November 1998 because they can, in theory, develop into any cell type...did not readily differentiate.” Instead, "they stayed in a disorganized cluster, and brain cells near them began to die." In other words, they became a cancer-like tumor. Richard Doerflinger of the National Conference of (Roman) Catholic Bishops writes, “Human embryonic cells have proved harder to grow in culture than once thought... The leading corporation funding embryonic stem cell research in the United States has confirmed these reports... Now adult stem cells are proving easier to grow than many thought, and embryonic cells proving far more difficult.”

Cybercast News Service reports that scientists in the United States have been injecting cells from aborted babies into the brains of Parkinson's patients, but it was reported in early March that the experiment was being abandoned after “absolutely devastating” side-effects were observed. Lead researcher Dr. Helen Hodges concluded, "We expect that (adult) stem cells will prove far safer and more flexible for repair of brain damage than primary fetal cells." The Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York came to similar conclusions, as did the Institute for Stem Cell Research in Milan, Italy. Dr. David Prentice: “Use of embryonic stem cells will require lifelong use of drugs to prevent rejection of the tissue. Adult stem cells have shown success at forming many specific tissues so far, certainly more than human embryonic stem cells in the laboratory. [Embryonic] stem cells can produce tumors. No such problems exist with adult stem cells.”

Even pro-abortionists are beginning to indirectly admit problems with embryo stem cells. Dr. John Gearhart of Johns Hopkins University, after pleading on television for tax dollars based on his insistence that adult stem cells are no substitute for embryos, later decided to "extend work into adult stem cells as a source of tissue," because, in his own words, adult cells "offer the best hope for patients." The Allliance for Aging Research (a political group demanding tax dollars for embryo stem cells because “adult stem cells hold little promise”), commented on news that scientists have cured diabetes in mice using adult pancreatic stem cells, saying it was "the most promising sign to date that stem cell research might yield remarkable treatments for currently incurable diseases." (As far as tax dollars are concerned, there is plenty of private monies for embryonic research. One Johns Hopkins donor recently gave an unrestricted $58.5 million cash grant for stem cell research.)

Embryonic stem cells are unstable, making them harder to manage. They can fail to differentiate into the needed cells, and can even cause harmful tumors. They can be rejected by the patient (who has to take drugs just to attempt accepting them), and they can transmit diseases. Michel Levesque, director of neurofunctional surgery at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, confirms that using adult stem cells, “we don't have to harvest 12 or 15 fetuses, we don't have to give immunosuppressant therapy, and we don't have to worry about viral disease transmission."

It is obvious who benefits most from destructive embryonic stem cell experimentation. The market for cell lines and tissue cultures made nearly half a billion dollars for corporations worldwide in 1996 alone, and the market has since skyrocketed. Fr. Andrew Morbey writes, “There is no need at all to use fetuses for stem cell research! So why use them? Who profits? Those with fetuses and fetal tissue certainly do. Abortion clinics and fertility clinics will make a bundle from the 'by-products' of their 'services' --probably even more than they make from abortions and in-vitro fertilization... In fact these `services’ will, from a business point of view, simply be the means of harvesting the raw materials for the new mega bio-industry. Waste turns into gold... Those sad people grasping at stem-cell research to enhance their lives are the dupes of the abortion and in-vitro fertility industry. Their perceived needs could be met with cells other, uncontroversial tissues... There is, it would seem, no need to enhance or extend one's life by devouring one's children.”


To the ungodly, the issue is clear. Outspoken pro-abortionist John Fletcher of the University of Virginia stated, "Obviously, whether you approve of fetal tissue research using abortion victims will depend on whether you approve of abortion." Newsweek columnist Anna Quindlen, an ardent pro-abortionist, argues that embryonic stem cell research should be tax funded because it will change people’s attitude toward abortion. Destructive embryo experimentation, she writes, "might bring a certain long-overdue relativism to discussions of abortion across the board... Real live loved ones trump the imagined unborn..., a small price to pay for the health and welfare of millions." (Ramesh Ponuru of The National Review asks, “Doesn't The Brothers Karamazov have something to say about this kind of bargain?”)

To Orthodox Christians, the issue is equally clear. We defend the life of preborn children, from the earliest, smallest and most fragile stages of development. We oppose killing innocent human life for experimentation, or for any other reason. As citizens, we call upon our government to sponsor only research which does not harm human life, “research we all can live with.” As Orthodox faithful, alongside our holy Fathers, our Councils and our holy Scriptures, we continue and maintain Holy Tradition unchanged, which affirms the miracle of life begins at conception.

Fr. Mark Hodges
St. Stephen the First Martyr Orthodox Church, Lima, Ohio
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