In the U.S., the debate about embryonic stem cell research has centered on whether human embryos should be used for research. It has left nearly untouched a number of important social, political and ethical issues unrelated to the moral status of embryos. Among these are: (1) ensuring the health and safety of research subjects, including women who provide eggs for research; (2) preventing the emergence of a commercial market in women’s eggs; (3) establishing appropriate oversight and regulation of stem cell research.
Currently, most researchers working to produce human embryonic stem cells use embryos that were created but not used during vitro fertilization procedures. Some scientists are attempting to use another technique, known as research cloning or somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT). SCNT involves merging an adult body cell with an egg whose nuclei has been removed to create specialized stem cell lines. The process requires a large number of women’s eggs. In order to procure eggs, researchers typically give women hormonal treatments to first “shut down” and then “hyper-stimulate” their ovaries, followed by surgical extraction of multiple eggs....