March for Life, 38 years after Roe v. Wade

Yesterday was the annual March for Life in our nation’s capital:

Thousands of bundled-up abortion opponents rallied Monday on the Mall, encouraged by recent federal and state GOP wins and hopeful about proposed measures that would further tighten bans on federal funding for abortions.The Youth Rally and Mass for Life, hosted by the Archdiocese of Washington, marked the 38th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion. Annual events tend to focus on mobilizing the young, and Catholic high schools, youth groups and colleges were out in force Monday in Washington. . .  .

“The greatest difference between other civil rights movements and this one is that most of the people affected by Roe v. Wade can’t march on Washington,”[Rev. Mark] Ivany said. “They can’t give great speeches.”. . .

Advocates on both sides of the debate say that the number of governors and legislatures opposing abortion rights grew after last year’s elections. Abortion rights activists say that conservative candidates focused on their economic policies during campaigns and that the wins were not about the public wanting to limit access to abortion. Political experts say it’s unclear how central the issue of abortion will be for new lawmakers in Washington, particularly those with tea party backing.

Lawmakers cheered the crowds Monday in temperatures that hovered in the 20s. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said the new Republicans in Congress are the “biggest and the most pro-life freshman class in memory.”

via Thousands of abortion opponents rally in march on Mall.

What do you think the prospects are for the Pro-Life movement?  Don’t you think they are winning the debate?

Gestational carrier

Movie star Nicole Kidman and her husband, country singer Keith Urban, both of whom hail from Australia, had a baby.   They are the child’s biological parents, but their fertilized egg was implanted into another woman, thus farming out the  task of bearing the baby and giving birth.  I don’t know if some medical condition made this process necessary–if so, I’m not criticizing them, not being sure what I think of that.   Or if it is an example on another plane of the wealthy exploiting workers for their “labor.”

At any rate, what I want us to notice is a word that I haven’t heard before for the woman who had the baby.  Not “mother” but “gestational carrier.”  From the couple’s statement:

“Our family is truly blessed, and just so thankful, to have been given the gift of baby Faith Margaret. No words can adequately convey the incredible gratitude that we feel for everyone who was so supportive throughout this process, in particular our gestational carrier.”

via Nicole Kidman’s Baby — Kidman and Keith Urban Welcome New Baby through Surrogate | TMZ.com.

We may be hearing that term more and more as “reproductive engineering” proliferates.  Being a “gestational carrier”  may become a profession, with  women who can afford that service opting out of pregnancy altogether, while still getting to be moms.

So, all of you Solomons. . . .Does a “gestational carrier” have any claims to motherhood?  Do you see any ethical problems with this as a medical procedure for a woman who is unable to carry a child to term?  At least the married couple’s “one flesh union” is preserved and extended to the child, since no extra-marital semi-adulterous  egg donor or sperm donor were used.

Do you think this might catch on, not just with women who cannot carry a child, but with women who want a child but don’t want to go through pregnancy?  Mothers, would you have been open to this option if it were available and if you could afford it?

A pound of flesh

Mississippi governor and would-be GOP presidential candidate has released two sisters from prison, after they served 16 years of a life-sentence.  One condition, though, is that one of the sisters donate her kidney to the other.

The mandated organ donor says she’s glad to do it, that she was going to do it anyway, but still. . . .What are the medical ethics of imposing a condition like that?

Freedom’s cost? One kidney | hattiesburgamerican.com | Hattiesburg American.

Death is better than Taxes

The estate tax kicks back in on December 31, unless Bush’s tax cuts are extended.  Reportedly,  some elderly folks who want to give a big inheritance to their children planning to discontinue  life-saving medical treatments so as to die before that date.  So says Wyoming Congressional representative Cynthia Lummis, reporting that she is hearing this from some of her constituents, specifically, children of those who are planning their deaths.  See   Wyoming Rep. Lummis: Estate tax rise has some planning death.

If this is so, what would be the moral status of that action?   Does it matter that those who choose death would be doing it for the good of their children?

Maslow’s hierarchy has a new pinnacle of human achievement

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs has been a landmark of psychology, used in education and even church ministries.  Now some psychologists are revising his model, making the pinnacle not “self-actualization” but, in the words of a Christianity Today column by Elrena Evans, “something more self-giving”:

Psychologists are considering a shift to famed psychologist Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Long a fixture in the training of educators and workforce managers, Maslow’s pyramid argues that humans’ basic needs (food, water, air, sleep) must be met before they can begin to seek other, “higher” fulfillments. It makes sense: bereft of basic needs, people can’t concentrate on bigger goals. I saw this pyramid again and again when in college, minoring in education, used to stress that a child who feels hungry, tired, and unsafe is really not going to care about learning algebra, and with good reason.

Now, though, a team of four researchers headed by Arizona State University social psychology professor Douglas T. Kenrick is challenging the top tier of Maslow’s pyramid. They write in a paper recently published in Perspectives on Psychological Science that Maslow’s ultimate goal, the pinnacle of human achievement, is not “self-actualization” or the accomplishment of such higher-order functions as creativity, problem-solving, and morality. It is — wait for it — parenting.

via Her.meneutics: Why Parenting May Be Your ‘Highest’ Calling.

The reasoning is evolutionary:  Life’s biological goal cannot be self-focused, but has to be the perpetuation of the species.  Still, I think the re-focus is more in line with Christianity.   To get our moral thinking away from righteousness being just private conformity to rules and instead being an orientation to other people–loving and serving one’s neighbor– would be a big advance, and I’m glad if Maslow can help towards that end.

Indeed, the old hierarchy included “morality” but classified that as “self-actualization” rather than as loving and serving the neighbor.  Even non-parents can find the “pinnacle” of life in selfless service, since it  animates not just parenthood but all vocations.

Procreation without sex

British biologist Robert G. Edwards won the 2010 Nobel Prize for Medicine for developing the technique of in vitro fertilization.  Beginning in 1978, some 4 million children were born who were conceived outside the womb.

Robert G. Edwards’s breakthrough development of in vitro fertilization, which led to the birth of the first “test-tube baby,” Louise Brown, in 1978, gave humanity the power to do what previously was considered the province of God: create and manipulate human life.

In the ensuing decades, the pioneering techniques that won the British biologist a Nobel Prize on Monday have played a part in controversial scientific advances such as cloning and the creation of human embryonic stem cells while redefining fundamental social roles such as what it means to be a parent or a family.

“The impact on society has been profound,” said Lori B. Andrews of the Chicago-Kent College of Law, who studies reproductive technologies. “The creation of a child outside the body for the first time has had scientific and personal implications far, far beyond the 4 million children who have been born through in vitro fertilization.”

via Robert Edwards wins 2010 Nobel prize in medicine for in-vitro fertizilation.

I’m not saying that this technology is in itself wrong to use. The biggest problem with it is the engendering of “extra” embryos who are left frozen or killed for their stem cells.  But consider “the impact on society” and where we might go from here.

With birth control technology, people can have sex without procreation.  With in vitro technology, people can have procreation without sex.   Does this render the family technologically obsolete?  With no necessary natural function, is it reduced to just a companionship group?

Mental experiment:  An artificial womb is invented.  Will women  still want to go through pregnancy and labor?  (Would you?)  Or will society take advantage of the opportunity to manufacture whatever children are needed and no more?   Would we still take care of them in family units, or would this task fall to a state institution?   Or would everything just go along as it does today, with marriage and parenthood, but without the unpleasantness of childbearing?


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