Catholic Bioethicist Calls To End Ban on Reproductive Cloning
Posted October 17, 2011 - By Dianne N. Irving, M.A., Ph.D.

A PDF version of this article is available here.


Copyright September 25, 2011


In a recent article reporting on the efforts of Lancet to promote human embryonic stem cell research in their latest journal,[1] an astonishing statement by Catholic feminist bioethicist Dr. Carol Tauer in favor of reproductive cloning is highlighted:

American bioethicist, Carol Tauer, of the University of Minnesota, who is also an ethics consultant for the first company to clone a human embryo, Advanced Cell Technology, argues that a ban on “reproductive cloning” should not be linked to a ban on research cloning [“therapeutic cloning”]. ... She appears to believe that the ban on “reproductive cloning” ought to be temporary, as there may be well-founded reasons to lift it once it becomes safe.[2] (emphasis added)

I suppose it all depends on how one defines “safe”. Considering that just as IVF’s reproductive techniques have never been required to go through formal clinical trials for FDA approval or been regulated here, it is logical to assume that neither would reproductive cloning techniques. So how would they know if and when reproductive cloning is actually safe? Well, it might be prudent at least to consider that in all such cases, an “experimental” human embryo is implanted into a woman’s uterus.

A. From “ethics” to “bioethics”

One does wonder, however, how Catholic bioethicist Tauer “ethically” condones reproductive cloning, an activity that is condemned by the Church? I suppose that one could respond that “bioethics” is simply what the Church uses to determine the rightness or wrongness of such activities. Right? ...... Wrong. The fact is that “bioethics”, a purely secular endeavor, was created out of thin air fairly recently in 1978 by the U.S. Congress’ National Commission in their Belmont Report.[3] “Bioethics” determines the rightness or wrongness of human actions based on the secular bioethics principles of autonomy, justice and beneficence (each of which is oddly defined in the Belmont Report) that were invented by the members of the National Commission who issued the Belmont Report. In contrast, Catholic ethics, in this case medical ethics, is traditionally grounded in philosophical natural law ethics, using ethical principles and norms that have withstood inquiry and investigation for centuries.[4]

B. From “stem cell research” to “reproductive cloning”

And one also wonders how Tauer gets from “human embryonic stem cell research” to “reproductive cloning” in this article? The answer to that question is that it actually depends on how one defines a “human embryo”, a “stem cell”, and “reproductive cloning”.

Legitimate internationally documented science has acknowledged for over 100 years that even the unicellular human embryo is a human being.[5] It also acknowledges that a stem cell is just a cell – it is not an organism, a human being, or a human embryo. And “reproductive cloning” means implanting a new human embryo who is a human being into a woman for purposes of reproduction. Right? ...... Wrong, well at least not so for many proponents of destructive and reproductive research involving the early human embryo such as Dr. Tauer. They have redefined the scientific facts.

The short answer to the question as to how Tauer gets from “human embryonic stem cell research” to “reproductive cloning” is as follows. For those such as Advanced Cell Technolgies’ spokesperson Tauer, a human embryo is just a “cell” or a ‘ball of cells”; it is not a human embryo, a human organism, or a human being. Therefore they can claim that, for them, “reproductive cloning” simply entails the implanting of “a ball of cells” -- not unlike a ball of “stem cells”; it is not the implanting of a human embryo, a human being, or a human organism. What we really have here is just another version of a “pre-embryo substitute” (as explained in more detail below).

Given that the same article about Lancet notes the reproductive research work of Australian Alan Trouson, Tauer’s remarks and persuasions – and past professional work -- are not surprising. Trouson’s landmark techniques on in vitro fertilization were those used by Edwards and Steptoe in Great Britain to produce the first IVF baby. He is now out in California with “regenerative medicine” researchers Irving Weissman and Michael West (founder of Advanced Cell Technologies).

Despite frantic claims to the contrary, reproductive cloning has been going on for a long time now, under guise of various pseudo-names, or even blatantly out in the open (e.g. the use of the cloning technique of “twinning” to produce more embryos for “infertility treatments”). [See my article[6] listing reproductive cloning studies from various scientific journals, PubMed, etc.] So Tauer’s apparent non-sequiturs should elicit no surprise or shock.

The purpose of this article, therefore, is to use Tauer’s apparent “non-sequiturs” as representative of what has come to be an array of like-minded “scholars” who have promoted such erroneous and confusing “definitions” and “theories” for decades in order to justify their agendas. To briefly explain this, I will focus more on how Tauer gets from “human embryonic stem cell research” to “reproductive cloning”, as the shift involves serious malformations of both ethics and science that the public needs to understand. I will begin with a brief Tauer “bio”, including her collegial network over the years.


Tauer, like many other bioethicists at the time, originally came from fields other than ethics or science. And like many other early bioethicists, she soon adopted the new term “pre-embryo”.

A. From “embryo” to “pre-embryo”

Carol Tauer, formerly with the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, St. Paul, holds a PhD in mathematics from Massachusetts Institute of Technology [home of one of the “silent” founders of secular bioethics, Thomas Shannon]. She also holds a PhD in philosophy from Georgetown University with a concentration in bioethics,[7] being one of the very first “bioethics” students at the then-new Kennedy Institute of Ethics. While at Georgetown, Tauer studied directly under the infamous Jesuit theologian Fr. Richard McCormick [also a founder of secular bioethics], who along with frog embryologist Clifford Grobstein created the scientifically erroneous term “pre-embryo” several decades ago. The term “pre-embryo meant that there was no human “embryo” or “person” present until at least 14-days. Tauer’s dissertation on the human fetus under McCormick likewise adopted the McCormick “pre-embryo” to justify the use of early human “pre-embryos” in research, and to consider the “bioethics” of fetal research and fetal tissue transplant research. Note that the false scientific term “pre-embryo”, along with its related term “individuality”, was subsequently formally rejected as unscientific and misleading by the international nomenclature committee on human embryology, in concert with the Carnegie Stages of Early Human Embryonic Development (institutionalized and updated since 1942).[8]

If you stop and think about it, the term “pre-embryo” as defined by McCormick and Grobstein referred to the early human embryo before 14-days. Note that this is 7 days after the time of implantation which is usually 5-7 days post-fertilization. That means that there is no human embryo or human person until a full week after implantation. The term “pre-embryo” itself was also a non-sequitur, since it refers to the already existing human embryo while it is still traveling through the woman’s fallopian tube, and before it implants into a woman’s uterus (or womb) about 5-7 days during its early development. So the term “pre-embryo” implies that there is no “embryo” there yet (although there really is). Other ways to make the already existing human embryo disappear are what I call “pre-embryo substitutes”. That is, terms or phrases are used that don’t explicitly use the term “pre-embryo” but do use similar erroneous “science” or half-truths, e.g., “in the womb”, “prenatal”, “fertilization”, “conception”, and “implantation” (often defined legally and “professionally” as “conception”). Thus for McCormick et al, “personhood” would not have applied to the new embryo existing for up to a week or more in the woman’s fallopian tube before implantation, or even a week after implantation (14-days). Nor would “personhood” apply to any early human embryos already existing in petri dishes or frozen down in research laboratories and “infertility clinics”.

B. The Jesuitical “Doubt”

Tauer is not a scientist, much less a human embryologist. But as a secular “bioethicist” she has long been supportive of the use of the early human “pre-embryo” in research, considering works grounded in Jesuitical “probabilism”[9] such as those of Shannon and Wolter[10] as “master treatments” of the ethical issue.[11] Roughly defined, Jesuitical “probabilism” claims that if there is any “doubt”, then you can do it, contra the traditional rebuttal of the Dominicans (at least until lately) who claim that if there is any “doubt” you can’t do it. So what is needed is a “doubt”, and you can do it. Translation: If there is any doubt as to whether or not the product of sexual or asexual human reproduction is a human being or human person, then one can go ahead and use abortifacients or use it in destructive experimental and reproductive research.

By falsifying the accurate facts of human embryology, many of those following “probabilism” understood that they could thereby artificially manufacture a “doubt” that really wasn’t there at all. And it worked; and still does. The Granddaddy of fake Jesuitical “doubts” was surely Fr. Richard McCormick’s fake “pre-embryo”, repackaged and camouflaged over the last three decades in the form of dozens of various “pre-embryo substitutes”. If there is probably just a “pre-embryo” there before or even a week after implantation – and not a human embryo, a human being, or a human person – or if there is “disagreement” as to when a new human being begins to exist --, then it is OK to destroy that human “pre-embryo” for “the greater utilitarian good”. Such a “doubt” also “bioethically” justifies the use of abortifacients while the “pre-embryo” is still in the woman’s fallopian tube, embryo flushing, human embryo and fetal research, human embryonic stem cell research, human genetic engineering, human “regenerative medicine”, etc. The possibilities – and probabilities – are endless!

C. Tauer as professional secular bioethicist

Tauer is also professor of philosophy emerita at the College of St. Catherine in St. Paul, Minn., and a visiting professor at the Center for Bioethics of the University of Minnesota [started by secular bioethics founder Art Caplan]. According to “A Guide To Beginning of Life Issues”,[12]

Tauer served on the Committee on Ethics of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Note that both Fr. Richard McCormick and Dr. Clifford Grobstein were Ethics Chairmen of several professional medical associations, including the American College of ObGyn’s, most of whom still base their public policies explicitly on the McCormick/Grobstein “pre-embryo”.[13] Note too that the names on this list of “experts” on “the beginning of life issues”, including Tauer’s, represent the “Who’s Who” in four decades of Catholic dissidents and secular bioethicists and their use of false “facts” of human embryology – not a human embryologist among them. See Tauer’s full “bio” at University of Minnesota Center for Bioethics.[14] .

As also noted in her bios, Tauer served as Ethics Co-Chair (where “ethics” = secular “bioethics”) on the 1994 National Institutes of Health’s Human Embryo Research Panel.[15] This NIH Panel made “ethical” recommendations (based on secular bioethics principles) for federal funding of research on infertility, pre-implantation diagnosis and stem cell research. Speaking of manufacturing “doubt”, the entire NIH effort that Tauer was involved in was admittedly and explicitly grounded on the fake term “pre-embryo”. At the very first NIH meeting, Chairman Steven Muller blatantly stated that it was inappropriate to include on the Panel any member who wished to protect human embryos from experimentation that were outside the womb,[16] i.e., while the “pre-embryo” was still in the woman’s fallopian tube, or while the “pre-embryo” was reproduced in petri dishes in research laboratories and “infertility” clinics, etc. As many noted, including the panelists themselves, along with their invited “experts” on bioethical issues (including the Ethics Co-Chair Dr.Tauer), the artificial and arbitrary biological marker event of “14-days” used by the Panel were mere "pragmatic" lines, used as political "compromises", with no agreed-upon basis in fact. (For example: see Tauer’s remarks about therefore “the necessity to compromise”].[17] Gosh, we just don’t know when human beings begin to exist; it’s a mystery; only God knows for sure; “experts” (none of whom were human embryologists) disagree; we’re just so confused! Therefore, the NIH Panel concluded by “consensus”, we can kill those “pre-embryos” -- as long as it is done “respectfully”.

I guess none of these “experts” bothered to find out about the Carnegie Stages of Early Human Embryonic Development (based on international research since the 1880’s) that had been around since 1942 and updated since then by the international nomenclature committee on human embryology, consisting of 20-24 Ph.D.’s in human embryology from around the world – or take a peek into any of a dozen internationally acclaimed textbooks on human embryology, etc. I guess NIH must have a very limited library. But why would they look it up? You see, they just needed a Doubt.

And this was nothing compared to the Jesuitical “doubt” soon to come – which will explain how Tauer can now get from “human embryonic stem cell research” to “reproductive cloning” – and condone both as “ethical”. As Tauer responded to the news in 2001 that the biotechnology firm Advanced Cell Technology had cloned a human embryo:

Carol Tauer, an ethicist with the Minnesota Center for Health Care Ethics, which is affiliated with the College of St. Catherine and the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, was a member of Advanced Cell's ethics advisory board. She said that she sides with theologians such as Karl Rahner and Bernard Haring in doubting that an early stage embryo is fully human. Tauer, who served on panels advising the Clinton administration on human embryo research and embryonic stem-cell research, also suggested that because Advanced Cell's technique did not involve fertilization, the entities produced weren't human life. “It's just an egg that started dividing. … It doesn't have the potential to become a fetus, as far as we know.”[18] (emphases added)

Note that both Jesuit Karl Rahner and Redemptorist Bernard Haring were German theologians involved in developing the “new theology” of Vatican II.

III. WEISSMAN AND WEST: The product of fertilization and human cloning is “just a bunch of stem cells”

Question: When are sexually and asexually reproduced (cloned) human embryos just a “bunch of stem cells”? Answer: When Irving Weissman and Michael West say so.

Although early on Tauer considered the early human embryo just a “pre-embryo”, once the term was formally rejected by the international nomenclature on human embryology she and many others soon found that they had to modify that position. McCormick and Grobstein at least considered the product of fertilization and cloning to be a “genetic individual” (i.e., a human being, a human organism), although not yet a “developmental individual” (i.e., a human embryo, a human person). For them, only after 14-days was there a veritable human “embryo and “person” present. What to do?

Well, about that time Irving Weissman and Michael West stepped up to the block with even weirder “scientific” claims, and Tauer, like so many others, soon adopted their new inventive “pre-embryo substitute”. The products of both fertilization and of human cloning were “just a bunch of stem cells”.

A. Enter Irving Weissman

California physician cloning and stem cell researcher Irving Weissman, became famous for his false distinction between “therapeutic” cloning (or, “research cloning”) and “reproductive cloning” – a distinction surely without a difference. For Weissman, the product of both fertilization and cloning is “just a bunch of stem cells”, a “ball of cells”, his version of the “pre-embryo”. That is, the products of both fertilization and of human cloning was not a new living human embryo, human being, or human organism! Before implantation, there is no embryo OR human being there! So there is surely no “ethical” problem with using these mere “stem cells” in research, or what he calls “stem cell research”, aka “regenerative medicine”.

Weissman, architect and promoter of the contentious California Stem Cell Research Initiative (among other things), claims in his Stanford Report:

“In normal development, the fertilized egg undergoes 7-9 cell divisions to make the blastocyst, a ball of cells that has minimal specialization. ... For many the blastocyst is a ball of cells like many other cell lines from other tissues, and it would be a violation of their medical oaths not to use these cells to gain valuable medical knowledge that could translate to therapies.”[19] (emphases added)

So for Weissman, even in normal sexual human reproduction there is no organism reproduced, just mere “cells”, similar, he says, to “cells” in many other “cell lines” (i.e., “stem cells”). The human organism has now entirely disappeared. According to Weissman there is no full-fledged human being present until after implantation and birth; before that it is just a “ball of cells”, and tissues and organs composed of “cells”. Think of the implications of that for human embryonic and human fetal research issues – not to mention “reproductive cloning”!

Weissman does indeed apply the same deconstructed “science” to the product of cloning:

“Technically, one should not use the term embryo to describe a blastocyst produced by nuclear transfer as an embryo ...”[20] (emphases added)

Thus either way you look at it, in both sexual and asexual reproduction, for Weissman there is just a “cell” or a “ball of cells” or “stem cells” – but no human embryo, no human being, no human organism – and certainly no human person.

In fact, Weissman’s inspiration for this verbal deconstruction of human embryology is derived from the ole McCormick/Grobstein “pre-embryo”. Note Weissman’s own statement in his California Cloning Report (for which he was the chairman):

“We define non-reproductive human cloning as the transfer of human cell nuclei into enucleated oocytes to produce human pre-embryos without implanting the preembryos to produce a human child. Such a process would likely be used to create early pre-embryos to be used as sources of embryonic stem cells. As set out below, we would limit the use of such pre-embryos to the period before the appearance in the pre-embryo of the so-called primitive streak, which occurs 14 to 18 days after the pre-embryo’s creation. This developmental stage has also been termed the blastocyst or pre-embryo. ... Various committees, in the United States [[that Weissman chaired!]] and elsewhere [[such as the NIH conferences]], that have studied embryo research have concluded that the appearance of the primitive streak marks an important step in the moral status of the pre-embryo, and hence, the ethical arguments concerning pre-embryo research. ... Before the appearance of the primitive streak, the pre-embryo is not necessarily one individual --- it could lead to identical twins.” [21] (emphases added)

Voila! The new “pre-embryo substitute” – even echoing the McCormick/Grobstein scientifically false argument about “twinning”! “Pre-embryos” or “cells” – they don’t see much difference. Neither “pre-embryos” nor “cells” are real human embryos, real human beings, or real human organisms. This is all simply imaginative variations on the old “pre-embryo” myth, rendering the real living human being as having just a “reduced moral status” for the purpose of “bioethical” analyses.

Of even more concern is Weissman’s leadership role in both the National Science Foundation and the National Research Council/National Academy of Sciences. Under Weissman, both of the formal reports on human cloning and on human embryonic stem cell research of the NAS contain very serious scientific flaws, condoning “therapeutic” cloning as just “stem cell research” as well.

B. Enter Michael West

Soon Michael West of Advanced Cell Technology (ACT), whose spokesperson is Carol Tauer, joined the bandwagon. Weissman and West have often actually testified to this incredible scientific babble before Congress (so much for the accuracy and dependability – or “ethics” -- of Congressional testimonies). Michael West (Advanced Cell Technologies) makes the following remarkable claim in one of his many “expert” testimonies before Congress:

“The fertilization of the egg cell by a sperm leads to a single cell called the “zygote”. From this first cell, multiple rounds of cell division over the first week result in a microscopic ball of cells with very unusual properties. This early embryo, called the “preimplantation embryo”, has not implanted in the uterus to begin a pregnancy ... Should the embryo implant in the uterus, the embryo, at approximately 14 days post fertilization will form what is called the primitive streak, this is the first definition that these ‘seed cells’ will form an individual human being ... .” [22] (emphases added)

So for West, although there is an “embryo” present before 14-days, that embryo is not yet a human being; it is just a bunch of “seed cells” that will become a human being! And even in normal fertilization, “pregnancy” doesn’t begin until implantation!

Here West fails to mention that the “zygote” is not just a single “cell”; it is a single-cell human embryo, a human being, a human organism. And West defines the “human embryo” here as just a “microscopic ball of cells”, rather than as a whole human organism, a human being. Then we are “taught” that: “Seed cells will form ... . ” What? There is no human embryology textbook that refers to the totipotent cells of the human blastocyst as “seeds” or as “seed cells”. None. And these “seed cells” will form an “individual human being”? Sounds curiously like the old McCormick/Grobstein “pre-embryo” argument on “individuality”, although draped in different “language”.

The objective scientific fact is that the human being who is always simultaneously a human individual was already formed back at the beginning of fertilization. There is no “will form” about it. Already done! How is it that “expert” West doesn’t know his basic Human Embryology 101, or is he reading from a different manual?

Incidentally, West is now in California with Weissman pursuing their California dream of human “regenerative medicine” (as is Alan Trouson, also noted in the Lancet article).


And this is the longer answer to the question as to how and why Catholic bioethicist Tauer can be included in an article about human embryonic stem cell research and call for “reproductive cloning” to be allowed. For Tauer, as for Weissman, West, and dozens more “scientists” and bioethicists, there is no human embryo there involving either “therapeutic” (i.e., “research” cloning), or involving “reproductive” cloning. And if there is an “embryo”, it is just a “ball of cells” – a ball of “stem cells” to be exact. The term “embryo” for them does not mean a “human being”.

Nor is there any human embryo there after normal in vivo fertilization, or after artificial in vitro fertilization during IVF. Not there! The only thing that is there is “a bunch of stem cells”.

And so we have historically and chronologically moved from “embryo” to “pre-embryo” to “stem cells”. Neither a “pre-embryo” nor a bunch of “stem cells” is a human being, a human organism.

Therefore, a ban on “therapeutic” or on “reproductive” cloning is absurd for them, since all that one is doing research on or implanting in a woman’s uterus is “just a bunch of stem cells”. It’s just a stem cell, stupid, not a human being! Not to worry.

Would you buy a used car from these people?


[1] “The Lancet launches embryo stem cell campaign” (Sept. 25, 2011), BioEdge, at: http://www.bioedge.org/index.php/bioethics/bioethics_article/the_lancet_launches_embryo_stem_cell_campaign.

[2] Ibid.

[3] See Irving: "What is 'bioethics'?" (June 3, 2000), UFL Proceedings of the Conference 2000, in Joseph W. Koterski (ed.), Life and Learning X: Proceedings of the Tenth University Faculty For Life Conference (Washington, D.C.: University Faculty For Life, 2002), pp. 1-84, at:

http://www.lifeissues.net/writers/irv/irv_36whatisbioethics01.html; "The bioethics mess", Crisis Magazine, Vol. 19, No. 5, May 2001, at:


[4] See Irving, "Which ethics for the 21st century? A comparison of 'secular bioethics' and Roman Catholic medical ethics" (March 14, 1999), Linacre Quarterly (in press), at: http://www.lifeissues.net/writers/irv/irv_02ethics1.html; "Which ethics for science and public policy?", Accountability in Research 1993, 3(2-3):77-99, at: http://www.lifeissues.net/writers/irv/irv_42whichethics1.html. See also Irving, “Human Embryology and Church Teachings” (September 15, 2008), at: http://www.lifeissues.net/writers/irv/em/em_132embryologychurch1.html; also published in The New Catholic Encyclopedia, 2nd ed., Supplement 2009, (Detroit: Gayle), pp. 287-312, as “Embryology, Human”; see http://www.gale.cengage.com/NCE/; also at: http://www.personhood.ca/pdfs/embryology_human.pdf.

[5] See, Carnegie Stages of Early Human Embryonic Development, Stage 1:

“Embryonic life commences with fertilization, and hence the beginning of that process may be taken as the point de depart of stage 1. Despite the small size and weight of the organism at fertilization, the embryo is “schon ein individual-spezifischer Mensch” [definitely and specifically a human person] (Blechschmidt, 1972). ... Fertilization is the procession of events that begins when a spermatozoon makes contact with an oocyte or its investments and ends with the intermingling of maternal and paternal chromosomes at metaphase of the first mitotic division of the zygote (Brackett et al, 1972). ... Fertilization, which takes place normally in the ampulla of the uterine tube i.e., fallopian tube – not the uterus], includes (a) contact of spermatozoa with the zona pellucida of an oocyte, penetration of one or more spermatozoa through the zona pellucida and the ooplasm, swelling of the spermatozoal head and extrusion of the second polar body, (b) the formation of the male and female pronuclei, and (c) the beginning of the first mitotic division, or cleavage, of the zygote. ... The three phases (a, b, and c) referred to above will be included here under stage 1, the characteristic feature of which is unicellularity. ... The term “ovum”, which has been used for such disparate structures as an oocyte and a 3-week embryo, has no scientific usefulness and is not used here. Indeed, strictly speaking, “the existence of the ovum ... is impossible” (Franchi, 1970). The term “egg” is best reserved for a nutritive object frequently seen on the breakfast table [Carnegie Stages of Early Human Embryonic Development, Stage One, at: http://nmhm.washingtondc.museum/collections/hdac/stage1.pdf]

(emphases added)

See also Irving: "iPhone APP for the Carnegie Stages, and Natural Monozygotic (Identical) Twins" (Sept. 4 2011), at: http://www.lifeissues.net/writers/irv/irv_191iPhone.html; “Reliable URLs for Human Embryology: The Carnegie Stages of Early Human Embryonic Development” (April 20, 2011), at: http://www.lifeissues.net/writers/irv/irv_186carnegiestages.html; "Exciting News - Current Up-Dated Internationally Documented Human Embryology Now Online to Public" (February 24, 2011), at: http://www.lifeissues.net/writers/irv/irv_183currentupdate.html.

[6] Irving, “So You Think That ‘Reproductive Cloning’ Isn’t Done Yet? Guess Again” (July 18, 2008), at: http://www.lifeissues.net/writers/irv/irv_130reproductivecloning.html.

[7] Investing Businessweek, at:


[8] For example, this international nomenclature committee formally rejected the false scientific term “pre-embryo”. As succinctly put by O’Rahilly (one of the originators of the Carnegie Stages) and Muller:

“The term 'pre-embryo' is not used here for the following reasons: (1) it is ill-defined because it is said to end with the appearance of the primitive streak or to include neurulation; (2) it is inaccurate because purely embryonic cells can already be distinguished after a few days, as can also the embryonic (not pre-embryonic!) disc; (3) it is unjustified because the accepted meaning of the word embryo includes all of the first 8 weeks; (4) it is equivocal because it may convey the erroneous idea that a new human organism is formed at only some considerable time after fertilization; and (5) it was [used] in 1986 'largely for public policy reasons' (Biggers). ... Just as postnatal age begins at birth, prenatal age begins at fertilization." (O’Rahilly and Muller 2001, p. 88) ... The ill-defined and inaccurate term pre-embryo, which includes the embryonic disc, is said either to end with the appearance of the primitive streak or to include neurulation. The term is not used in this book.. (O'Rahilly and Muller 1994, p. 55) ... The term conception, however, may refer either to fertilization or to implantation and hence (like gestation) is best avoided.” (O’Rahilly and Muller 2001, p. 19). (emphases added)

Likewise, the old now-defunct but still used “Biogenetic Law” is also scientifically inaccurate and rejected:

“Recapitulation, the So-Called Biogenetic Law. The theory that successive stages of individual development (ontogeny) correspond with (‘recapitulate’) successive adult ancestors in the line of evolutionary descent (phylogeny) became popular in the nineteenth century as the so-called biogenetic law. This theory of recapitulation, however, has had a regrettable influence on the progress of embryology (G. de Beer). ... According to the ‘laws’ of von Baer, general characters (e.g., brain, notochord) appear in development earlier than special characters (e.g., limbs, hair). Furthermore, during its development an animal departs more and more from the form of other animals. Indeed, the early stages in the development of an animal are not like the adult stages of other forms but resemble only the early stages of those animals. The pharyngeal clefts of vertebrate embryos, for example, are neither gills nor slits. Although a fish elaborates this region into gill slits, in reptiles, birds, and mammals it is converted into such structures as the tonsils and the thymus.” (O’Rahilly and Muller 2001, p. 16) (emphases added)

[9] “Probabilism is the moral system which holds that, when there is question solely of the lawfulness or unlawfulness of an action, it is permissible to follow a solidly probable opinion in favour of liberty even though the opposing view is more probable.”, in Catholic Encyclopedia Online, at: www.catholic.org/encyclopedia/view.php?id=9651

[10] Thomas Shannon and Allan Wolter, “Reflections on the Moral Status the Pre-Embryo,” Theological Studies 51 [1990].

[11] Carol Tauer, "The Tradition of Probabilism and the Moral Status of the Early Embryo," Theological Studies 45 (1984) 3-33.

[12] See “A Guide To Beginning of Life Issues”, at: http://www.religionlink.com/tip_080218.php.

[13] See Irving, “American Medical Association’s “Narrow Definitions”, Legal “Re-definitions” ... and Reproductive Cloning” (October 9, 2009), at: http://www.lifeissues.net/writers/irv/irv_170ama1.html.

[14] See Tauer’s full “bio” at University of Minnesota Center for Bioethics, at:


[15] National Institutes of Health: Report of the NIH Human Embryo Research Panel (Washington, D.C.: National Institutes of Health, 1994). See Irving analysis of this Panel in Irving, "What is 'bioethics'?" (June 3, 2000), UFL Proceedings of the Conference 2000, in Joseph W. Koterski (ed.), Life and Learning X: Proceedings of the Tenth University Faculty For Life Conference (Washington, D.C.: University Faculty For Life, 2002), pp. 30-31, at:


[16] NIH Human Embryo Research Panel, Transcript, 2/3/94, pp. 97-8 (Steven Muller).

[17] Ibid., (Tauer) pg. 60; other examples, p. 27.

[18] John Burger, “U.S. Clone: Human Being or Clump Of Cells?”, National Catholic Register, December 9, 2001, at: http://www.ncregister.com/site/article/10952.

[19] Irving Weissman, M.D., “A Message from the Director of the Institute of Cancer/Stem Cell Biology and Medicine at Stanford”, in The Stanford Report (Jan. 22, 2003), at: http://newsservice.stanford.edu/news/2003/january22/message.html..

[20] Ibid.

[21] “Report of the California Advisory Committee on Human Cloning” (Jan. 11, 2002), Sacramento, CA, at http://scbe.stanford.edu/conference/cloning_cali.pdf.

[22] “Testimony of Michael D. West, Ph.D., President & CEO, Advanced Cell Technology, Inc.” (July 18, 2001), at: http://www.advancedcell.com/testimony-2001-07-18.htm.



A PDF version of this article is available here.

Kortney Blythe Gordon: REST IN PEACE
Posted October 11, 2011 - By Judie Brown

All of us at American Life League mourn the loss of our former Rock for Life staff member, Kortney.  She was an inspiring speaker, outstanding writer and bullish apologist for the babies.  Kortney excelled in every aspect of her life and we were blessed to have had her on our team. 

Kortney, recently married and carrying her daughter, Sophy, who was five months old, had joined Students for Life after her departure from American Life League.  She was an asset to SFLA’s ongoing field work. http://studentsforlife.org/2011/10/10/tragic-news-for-sfla    Kortney will forever be a friend and fellow Christian devotee to all that it means to follow Christ.  She will be missed.

Our hearts go out to her husband, Benjamin, and to her family. 

Lord, we ask that Kortney’s soul rest in peace and the souls of all the faithful departed rest in peace.. 


Stop Planned Parenthood's assault on women's health and conscience rights
Posted August 15, 2011 - By Rita Diller

Planned Parenthood CEO Cecile Richards is trumpeting the Obama administration’s mandate for free birth control in all new insurance plans as a huge victory:

Huge, wonderful, important news: Today, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced that it will require all new insurance plans to cover birth control without co-pays under the new health reform law.

This is one of the biggest victories for women's health in a generation-and you helped make it happen. It took years for us to get to this point.

The free birth control she rightfully claims as a huge victory for Planned Parenthood is, in fact, a huge assault on women's health and the conscience rights of millions of Americans.

The HHS ruling requires provision of free Group 1 carcinogens for women in the form of oral contraceptives. The International Agency for Research on Cancer, an arm of the World Health Organization, lists estrogen-progestogen oral contraceptives among 106 other deadly substances like arsenic, asbestos, and tobacco on its most dangerous list of substances-those classified as "carcinogenic to humans."

The deadly effects of contraception on babies, women, the environment, and marriages are well documented. See our website www.thepillkills.com for more information.

As predicted by American Life League, the vehicle used to require the coverage of abortifacient birth control-and eventually surgical abortion-under the guise of preventive medicine is a Trojan horse. Obamacare provided the Trojan horse in the form of a health benefits advisory committee established in the Affordable Care Act. The Institute of Medicine's (IOM) Committee on the Determination of Essential Health Benefits is today charged with making recommendations to the secretary of HHS, Kathleen Sebelius, on the criteria for determining what constitutes essential health benefits for insurance plans sold in exchanges.

Secretary Sebelius, former governor of Kansas, gives credit to Planned Parenthood for raising substantial funds for her gubernatorial bid. And Planned Parenthood's encroachment upon the rights of individuals and religious institutions multiplies under her watch as secretary of HHS.

The religious exemption crafted in connection with the mandate is so narrow that it applies only to nonprofit organizations, and limits the definition of a religious employer to "one that: (1) has the inculcation of religious values as its purpose; (2) primarily employs persons who share its religious tenets; (3) primarily serves persons who share its religious tenets; and (4) is a nonprofit organization."

Thus, millions of Catholics would be required to provide and/or participate in insurance plans with free birth control coverage. It also appears it would force Catholic health care institutions to either provide the coverage, or cease employing and serving non-Catholics.

You can read the guidelines and the exemption in full here.

Action Alert: Tell HHS you object to the contraceptive free-for-all

HHS must accept public comments on its ruling over the next 60 days. It is critical that people of good will contact HHS and register their disgust with this mandate that we must pay for other people's birth control-against morality, against our will, and against our religious convictions.

Please go to our action center today and let HHS and other government agencies involved know that this rule is unacceptable and must be repealed.

The 2011 NPLTWeekend winner is . . .
Posted August 10, 2011 - By Thomas Mon

Congratulations to Elizabeth Medina of California on earning 2,158 points and thus taking home 1st place in the first ever NPLTWeekend photo contest! For her efforts, she is being rewarded with a brand new iPad 2!

Second place was taken by James Valentino of Pennsylvania. His sister, Amanda, was the winner of the NPLTW photo contest earlier this year in April. Nice work, James!

Third place is being shared by William Petry and Samuel Eldridge.

Official standings have been posted on the leaderboard.

Over the course of four days, almost 1,200 photo submissions for the contest were received. There was a noticeable contingent from California that seemed determined to dominate the leader board. This opens an East/West competition for 2012. Will the East Coast fight back and reclaim the NPLTW winner bragging rights?

We are very proud of everyone that participated and for those of you who spent the time with us on Facebook over the weekend cheering everyone on. We had a very good, consistent following of the contest throughout the entire weekend and are excited that more people will be joining us for the competition in 2012.

The staff at American Life League has have picked some of the more interesting photos to share.  You can find these highlighted photos on the NPLTW website.

Station of the Cross
Posted July 25, 2011 - By Leslie Tignor

During the mid 1990s, while visiting the monastery at EWTN, Mother Angelica, foundress of EWTN, asked Jim and Joanne Wright to return home to Buffalo, New York, and start a Catholic radio apostolate. Neither Jim nor Joanne had any radio or media experience but, after prayerful discernment, they started The Station of the Cross with the goal of bringing Catholic radio to Western New York.

After overcoming a number of challenges, The Station of the Cross was dedicated to Our Lady of Fatima and began broadcasting as WLOF 101.7 FM Buffalo on August 15, 1999. Soon, affiliate stations were founded. An AM station, WHIC, was dedicated to Our Lady’s Holy and Immaculate Conception and began broadcasting on July 1, 2003. A third station, WQOM 1060 AM Boston, was dedicated to Our Lady Queen of Martyrs and began broadcasting Nov. 1, 2010. The newest addition is WMTQ 88.1FM Elmira/Corning which began broadcasting February 7, 2011. Of course, The Station of the Cross can be heard all over the world as well via its iPhone and Android application, iCatholicradio!

The Station of the Cross is a nonprofit Catholic Radio Network that exists in order to effectively evangelize through radio programming and community action. Staff at the station strive to proclaim the truth revealed in the person of Jesus Christ, handed on by the power of the Holy Spirit through the Magisterium of the Catholic Church for the past 2,000 years, and now laid out for us in the Catechism.

In addition to their dedication to spreading the Gospel, staff at the station are also heartily committed to the pro-life cause. Every Saturday, employees and supporters of the station lead a prayerful protest outside 2500 Main Street—the site of the most active abortion clinic in Buffalo. Between 20-40 prayer warriors stand outside the clinic and recite the mysteries of the rosary as well as sing a Divine Mercy chaplet. Their large banner facing the passing traffic says it all: "Love will end abortion."