The Streges, John and Marlene, were the first family in the United States to adopt embryos from another family and have their daughter, Hannah, but little did they know that this act would result in their family becoming one of the most public voices against the embryonic stem cell research movement.
Hannah was born on December 31, 1998, which, coincidentally, was just months after a scientist had isolated the first embryonic stem cell. The scientific community hailed this as a breakthrough that could lead to cures or treatments for such complex conditions as Parkinson’s, Huntington’s, paralysis, diabetes and others.
But there was a problem with this discovery. In order to extract the embryonic stem cells, the researchers had to destroy an embryo. This would result in the loss of a preborn child who was frozen and waiting for implantation.
It wasn’t difficult for the Streges to see a connection between their child and these embryos. After all, the embryos were mostly donated from couples that had completed their families after going through the fertility process. The idea of someone destroying others like Hannah spurred them into action.
With the support of Focus on the Family, the Streges testified about their experience and became one of the faces against the pursuit of embryonic stem cell research, which was the focus of the John’s recent book, A Snowflake Named Hannah. Marlene and Hannah were even able to meet President George W. Bush in the White House when he signed a veto, the first of his presidency, that prevented federal funding from being used to support research that destroyed embryonic stem cells.
Unfortunately, President Barack Obama reversed the life saving measure and signed an executive order early in his presidency allowing the research to go ahead.
Of course, despite the media frenzy that consumed the country during those years of debate in the early 2000s, which John lays out in his book, scientists have yet to save a single life by using embryonic stem cells. In fact, it eventually came out that the use of embryonic stem cells could actually do more harm than good by causing conditions like cancer.
Ironically, it’s adult stem cells taken from willing donors that are remarkably effective with about one million people being successfully treated.
For the Streges, this outcome was vindication.
“I think it was terrific,” John Strege said in an interview with The Daily Citizen. “People like Charles Krauthammer, the terrific Washington Post columnist, who was for embryonic stem cell research in the beginning wrote a column saying that President Bush was right for vetoing the federal funding of embryonic stem cell research. We don’t celebrate it, though it is vindication, there’s still a lot of embryos that need a chance at life and a lot of people with these debilitating diseases that still need cures.”
“We want cures for everything, but what you’re asking us to do is to sacrifice our daughter’s life for somebody else,” Marlene added. “That’s what we’re against, and we also saved Hannah’s umbilical cord with its stem cells when she was born. So those stem cells are there for when she may need them.”
The battle over embryonic stem cell research is a cautionary tale of what can happen when the ethics of the situation are ignored in pursuit of a scientific breakthrough that may not even exist.
All embryos are preborn babies that are waiting for thawing and implantation; they’re not property nor should they be the subjects of unverified scientific experiments. After all, many of those preborn babies that have been adopted as embryos are planning on spending their lives giving back to others.
“You look at these Snowflake children (embryos that have been adopted) today and Hannah wants to be a social worker, Luke is a United States Marine and Mark in the United States Coast Guard. You have Snowflakes one, two and three serving God and their fellow man. Isn’t that such an amazing end to that story, though it’s not really the end but just the beginning.”
Hopefully, as the embryonic adoption movement grows more and more babies can be saved.
Read more about the Streges story in “Part One: The Story of a Snowflake Named Hannah – The Origin of Embryo Adoption” and through their book, A Snowflake Named Hannah.
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