Bill Clinton to Gupta on CNN: Ok to research embryos if they’re not fertilized

UPDATE, 3/13 12a: Whoops, he said it before. Bill Clinton on Larry King Live February 17:
stork carrying baby.gif

But this stem cell research, if the stem cells are frozen embryonic stem cells, if they are never going to be used to be fertilized, to bring a life into being, then I think making them available for medical research is the pro-life position and I honestly don’t understand – I would understand it if we were going and raiding stem cell banks, where these stem cells were going to be used to actually fertilize eggs and have babies.

A couple commenters thought Clinton meant to say “implanted,” but never mind the fact he said “fertilized” 6x, the above interview makes clear he meant “fertilized,” which he defined as “to bring a life into being.”…

At any rate, substituting “implanted” would render Clinton’s statements more nonsensical than they already are. As commenter Raving Theist wrote:

If so, did he mean:
(1) We shouldn’t carry on the research inside a woman’s uterus after implanting the embryo?
(2) We shouldn’t create the embryo through IVF, implant it, and then take it out and use it for ESCR?
(3) We shouldn’t remove naturally conceived and implanted embryos for ESCR?

So when Clinton is properly educated on how babies are made, will he change his position on embryonic stem cell research? Sorry, can’t resist another one, from

You’d think that if anybody would know the rules of the fertilization process, it would be Bill Clinton. Sperm on egg = embryo. Sperm on dress = impeachment, no embryo.

Also spotted: Gupta was on with Anderson Cooper after his Clinton interview, replayed a section of the tape where Clinton erroneously defined embryos as unfertilized eggs, and still didn’t correct Clinton!
[HT for February 17 CNN quote: reader Valerie]
3/12, 7:02a: Can it be that both these men are so ignorant?
Last night on Larry King Live, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN’s chief medical correspondent and former candidate for President Barack Abortion’s surgeon general, interviewed former President Bill Clinton on embryonic stem cell research among other things.
gupta clinton.jpgAfter first presenting Clinton as some sort of expert on ESCR, Gupta stood by as Clinton repeatedly, and I mean repeatedly, misstated it is morally acceptable to experiment on embryos as long as they’re not fertilized!
Clinton’s ignorance is staggering, particularly given the fact he was president of the United States when this issue first came to the fore. He must have been off smoking cigars with interns when the White House primer on embryos was given. (Sorry, couldn’t resist.)
And where in the world was Gupta? Shame on him for letting that gross misrepresentation of embryos go uncorrected. Or, I wonder, does he even know embryos can only be embryos if fertilized?
This was not some slip. Bill Clinton thinks human embryos are unfertilized eggs. Does this mean when he realizes they are fertilized, he’ll oppose embryonic stem cell research?
Watch for yourself…

Here’s the transcript:

Gupta: Let’s talk about something you talked a lot about in the early part of your presidency, stem cells. There was an order today providing federal money for embryonic stem cell research. First of all, let me just ask you, as someone who studied this, is this going to always be as divisive an issue as it is now? Is this going to be the abortion of the next generation? Or are people going to come around?
Clinton: I think – the answer is I think that we’ll work it through. If – particularly if it’s done right. If it’s obvious that we’re not taking embryos that can – that under any conceivable scenario would be used for a process that would allow them to be fertilized and become little babies, and I think if it’s obvious that we’re not talking about some science fiction cloning of human beings, then I think the American people will support this….
Gupta: Any reservations?
Clinton: I don’t know that I have any reservations, but I was – he has apparently decided to leave to the relevant professional committees the definition of which frozen embryos are basically going to be discarded, because they’re not going to be fertilized. I believe the American people believe it’s a pro-life decision to use an embryo that’s frozen and never going to be fertilized for embryonic stem cell research….
But those committees need to be really careful to make sure if they don’t want a big storm to be stirred up here, that any of the embryos that are used clearly have been placed beyond the pale of being fertilized before their use. There are a large number of embryos that we know are never going to be fertilized, where the people who are in control of them have made that clear. The research ought to be confined to those….
But there are values involved that we all ought to feel free to discuss in all scientific research. And that is the one thing that I think these committees need to make it clear that they’re not going to fool with any embryos where there’s any possibility, even if it’s somewhat remote, that they could be fertilized and become human beings.

[HT: reader Milehimama]

14 thoughts on “Bill Clinton to Gupta on CNN: Ok to research embryos if they’re not fertilized”

  1. Astounding! What’s Mr. Clinton’s paygrade? He seems to have no understanding of sexual reproduction. I like his compliment about President Obama’s dedication to science. And he ends with such a good, pro-life stance: we ought never to be experimenting with anything fertilized, something that can develop into a baby. Seriously, though, could President Obama simply have been thinking of one word but saying another? what other word?

  2. Oh…my … goodness! The ignorance is astounding! WOW!!!!!!
    But what gets me is…is Bill Clinton trying to make a pro-life statement? Does he believe that if the egg is fertilized it is in fact a human being?

  3. Yeah, pretty unaware – although I don’t think he actually meant the word fertilized. Judging from the transcript, I’ll bet he was thinking of something else and using the word fertilized. Everyone does that, though I’d expect more from a past-president.

  4. There is no such thing as a “fertilized egg”.
    Don’t pay attention to on-line or recent dictionaries either, they’ve all been polluted.
    The oocyte (egg) ceases to be once amphimixis (the DNA blending) is complete. In fact the moment the zona pellucida is penetrated major reactions occur, which transform both the egg and sperm.
    When the transformation is finished, there is no longer a sperm cell or an egg cell. Two individual cells have become one. It is a zygote – a single cell human being.
    Robert P. George lays it out clearly in his book with Christopher Tollefsen: Embryo: A Defense of Human Life
    He goes through the whole process and backs it with medical and scientific references.
    We lose when we continually refer to such a thing as a “fertilized egg” because that deceptively masks over what the zygote really is – a formed, existing human being at the most primary stage of life.
    It also glosses over the amazing fact that the conception process is unique and life-giving.

  5. From another blog I found that the word Mr. Clinton probably had in mind was implanted. I don’t know why Mr. Gupta said nothing.

  6. Jon,
    This is exactly what I was going to write; I’ll bet that is what he is thinking. Or….they’ve already tried to redefine “conception” to be implantation, so maybe now they are trying to redefine “fertilization” to be implantation. Anything to dehumanize the embryo.

  7. Clinton is not ignorant (imho). I think he’s trying to change terms. Because if he can change “fertilize” to mean “implanted” then this whole video seems like it’s reasonable to most Americans.

  8. Eileen and Carl, I think you may be right. Clinton is no dummy (though his past actions may speak otherwise).
    Either that, or he’s jaw-droppingly uneducated. And I don’t think he is.

  9. Some more clarification of what I mean, because others might say – yes – it’s okay to say “fertilized egg”.
    Fertilization is a process – a verb, it is not an adjective or an end state.
    If an egg is fertilized (undergoes that process) it is no longer an egg. It is transformed. It changes its state of being.
    ESCR proponents play word games, using a valid phrase “fertilized egg”, but reassigning a new meaning. Saying an egg has undergone that process is not the same as saying the process creates that result.
    Here’s an illustration to clarify:
    Someone is holding a glass of water. We could say – that’s a melted ice-cube, and understand that at some point prior to our immediate presence an ice-cube was in the glass.
    But would we talk about drinking a melted ice-cube as though the cube still existed?
    Now we’re going to extract a few drops from this “melted ice-cube”. Where’s the ice-cube? It’s not an ice-cube anymore. The ice-cube has ceased to be.
    Now let’s take our illustration one step further. Suppose while holding the glass of melted ice-cube, the melted ice-cube started to grow, filling up the glass on it’s own. Where’s the ice-cube now?
    Melting is a process that transforms the state of water from a solid to a liquid. At the end of melting, there is no identifiable object “ice-cube”. We can only understand it as having existed at the time of the transformation, but not after.
    The same thing applies to eggs and fertilization.

  10. This is the same man that said “I did not have sex with that woman, ms. Lewinski,”
    Lets take you back to Biology class, Mr. Clinton.

  11. Chris, do you refer to an unhatched chicken zygote as an egg? Indeed, given our Western appetites (some people in the East like to eat them), we are careful to distinguish them as fertilized eggs. Isn’t it okay to do the same for mammals? What’s the history of the term fertilized egg? Is it as recent as you imply Robert P. George has said it is?

  12. From another blog I found that the word Mr. Clinton probably had in mind was implanted.
    If so, did he mean:
    (1) We shouldn’t carry on the research inside a woman’s uterus after implanting the embryo?
    (2) We shouldn’t create the embryo through IVF, implant it, and then take it out and use it for ESCR?
    (3) We shouldn’t remove naturally conceived and implanted embryos for ESCR?

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