Article Title

The Ethics of Control


R. Alta Charo


In the beginning, there was the stem cell. While newspapers have primarily focused on this solitary cell, caught in a swirling debate about medical potential and research funding, others have come to recognize the larger struggle at hand-a struggle over the control of reproduction and human biological materials. Indeed, only days after the Bush Administration announced its support for limited federal funding for research on embryonic stem cells, legislators in Wisconsin, the epicenter of embryonic stem cell research, announced their intention to introduce legislation that looks more broadly at the infertility services that have led to the glut of "surplus" embryos destined for destruction and eyed with interest by stem cell researchers. And less than three months later, some U.S. senators found themselves trading their desire to increase federal embryonic stem cell funding for a withdrawal of a bill to criminalize reproductive and research cloning. This deal, however, was threatened when a Massachusetts company announced partial success at generating human embryos through cloning, triggering renewed calls for Senate action to ban research cloning. But if this debate is less about the ethics of research on stem cells and more about the ethics of the reproductive control that, among other things, yields the embryos from which the stem cells are obtained, then how can one understand the forces that shape public attitudes?