CRISPR Has a Pro-Life Problem

The gene editing tech is encountering the same obstacles as stem cell research did in the 90s, but on a whole new level.


It’s hard to discuss CRISPR without discussing, even tangentially, the issue of abortion. The gene editing technology has now been applied to viable human embryos, opening up a door to editing genetic code in future humans. But there’s an age-old debate, especially in the United States, over using embryos for scientific research, that has higher stakes than ever.

We don’t have to look too far into the past to know how this might go. A decade ago, under the George W. Bush administration, the US government had to grapple with two very different views of stem cell research. On one end, anti-abortion activists and establishment conservatives like then-advisor Karl Rove wanted to outlaw research on cells derived from human embryos. On the other, scientists and research groups said these cells could help develop cures for illnesses like spinal cord injuries or neurological disorders.

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