IVF hypocrisy 2.0

Scientists with Advanced Cell Technology yesterday announced a minor breakthrough in stem-cell collection. The White House immediately seized this opportunity to announce its own major breakthrough in IVF hypocrisy.

The Seattle Times cobbles together a nice summary from reports by The Los Angeles Times and The Philadelphia Inquirer:

A biotech company has developed a way to generate human embryonic stem-cell colonies without intentionally destroying embryos in the process. …

But opponents of embryonic stem-cell research said the new approach still poses moral dilemmas. Proponents, meanwhile, said that going to extraordinary lengths to avoid destroying embryos during research is hypocritical, considering that embryos are created and discarded every day in infertility clinics. …

The method, described in the current issue of the journal Nature, involves taking a normal 3-day-old embryo with eight to 10 cells and removing a single cell, which is then biochemically coaxed into producing embryonic stem cells. The original embryo, despite missing one cell, is unharmed, thus avoiding concerns about destroying a potential life, the researchers say.
Stem cells from days-old human embryos can morph into virtually every kind of tissue, including nerves to replace those destroyed by spinal injuries and cardiac muscle to fill in for cells lost in a heart attack. Scientists see stem cells as the key to a new era of regenerative medicine.
Until now, however, the only way to get these cells was to destroy embryos — which, though smaller than the period at the end of this sentence, are deemed by some people as "the youngest members of the human family." …

Fertility clinics have been removing cells from embryos created in vitro since 1990 to screen them for genetic diseases and chromosomal abnormalities. Doctors estimate at least 2,500 children alive today had a cell or two removed when they were early embryos.

The Bush administration … said it was too soon to say whether the new approach could solve the ethical dilemma at the heart of the research.

President Bush offered little encouragement Wednesday and, if anything, raised the bar higher, suggesting he would not be comfortable unless embryos were not involved at all.

"Any use of human embryos for research purposes raises serious ethical concerns," a statement released by the White House said. "The president is hopeful that with time scientists can find ways of deriving cells like those now derived from human embryos but without the need for using embryos."

So, to review:

Unobjectionable: The discarding of uncounted thousands of embryos every year by fertility clinics. IVF clinics are popular, and therefore good. And therefore their discarding of thousands of embryos is unquestionably also good. Freeze, flush, repeat.

Unacceptable: The use of any of these destined-for-the-dustbin embryos for potentially life-saving research. Embryonic stem-cell research is something conducted by pointy-headed, intellectual blue staters and advocated by out-of-touch Hollywood types like Superman, Marty McFly and that actress who used to play the First Lady. It is therefore bad. And therefore the diverting of any of these clinically doomed embryos from their preordained disposal is a violation of the culture of life and constitutes the "murder" of "the youngest members of the human family."

Morally blessed: The removal of a single cell from an embryo for genetic testing ("pre-implantation genetic diagnosis") in a fertility clinic to separate the healthiest YMOTHF from those who may be prone to disease and which/who will therefore be discarded, as will that single cell used for PGD.

Depraved: Permitting the cell taken for PGD to divide and using the second cell for embryonic stem-cell research.

You can approve of both embryonic stem-cell research and IVF clinics, or you can disapprove of both. But you cannot, as President Bush does, condemn the former while embracing the latter. The logic of Bush's YMOTHF argument against stem-cell research demands an even stronger opposition to fertility clinics. The logic of Bush's sanguine acceptance of fertility clinics demands an even stronger affirmation of embryonic stem-cell research.

The president's circumstantially contradictory attitude toward the sanctity/disposability of the YMOTHF makes no sense. And it doesn't seem possible to even try to make sense of it without coming to some uncharitable conclusions about his intellect and/or his integrity, so I'll stop here.

  • Dave Lartigue

    Acceptable and Encouraged: Killing fully-formed humans because they’re criminals, Muslims, or both.
    Humorous: Mocking the criminals you’re about to kill.

  • cjmr’s husband

    I’ve been seeing too much “Snakes on a Plane” stuff online; it took me a couple minutes to decode YMOTHF into something printable.

  • Simon

    I want these gosh-darned embryos out of this this gosh-darned stem cell research?

  • none

    Hey Fred, you’d do well not to blatantly ignore counterarguments if you want to maintain your illusion of unbiased intellect.
    Doerflinger said the safety of the single-cell biopsy procedure had not been scientifically established.
    “Some embryos do not survive the process, and some survivors may have long-term effects later in life,” he said.
    Fertility specialists who perform the procedure acknowledge there have been no scientific efforts to study its effect on embryos or to track the children after they are born.
    Dr. James Battey, who chairs the Stem Cell Task Force at the National Institutes of Health, said that would make it difficult for the funding agency to approve grant money for cells like Lanza’s.
    “Can I reassure people who have put this language on our appropriation that not even one time in a thousand a single-cell biopsy won’t harm an embryo?” Battey said. “I can’t do that.”

  • coriolis

    Anonymous at 11:21:
    Maybe you should invest in a reading comprehension course. Fred was addressing hypocrisy not the safety of a particular procedure. This blog has a Christian perspective, for a biological perspective you may want to read PZ Meyers.

  • paradoxbomb

    Thanks for the link anonymous. Oh wait…
    Doerflinger isn’t a scientist or a doctor. He’s a Catholic bishop. You make it sound like he’s some kind of authority, when he’s just a layman when it comes to stem cells.
    All embryos flushed down the drain do not survive the process.
    Your quote, unhampered by context, is more of the same: misleading hypocrisy.

  • Ray

    I can decode YMOTHF into something printable, but I don’t understand where the Young Men Opposing Terrorists’ Holy Flags come into the debate. Oh wait, it actually means Yellow Moths Orbitting Tiny Hot Flowers.

  • Jesurgislac

    Ytterbium Mechanical Organism Trained for Hazardous Fighting

  • LL

    I don’t understand what you people don’t understand about this. Anything that creates new life is good (no matter what that entails), because having more babies is good, no matter what. According to some people, the white race needs to hurry up and get making with the love (within marriage, of course), because the brown and yellow people already outnumber us, and it is our duty to produce as many white babies as possible, by any means necessary, to try to catch up with them, because more babies are necessary to pay for our retirement in the future (or something like that). But anything that helps people who are already here is wrong if it contradicts what religious folks believe is good and proper, ie, “playing God.” So: Technology that messes with embryos that results in cute little babies is acceptable. Technology that messes with embryos that does not result in cute little babies is unacceptable.

  • tony

    maybe we can send a special team to extract embryos from IRaqi women just before we blow up their houses, since those embryos would haved died anyway.

  • Erick Oppeen

    I’d say that Shrub is pandering to the hardest-core anti-abortionists in his base. Even though he can’t run again, by now the GOP depends on the evangelical vote the way the Democrats do on the blacks and unions, so he’s doing his bit for the party.
    The thing is, I don’t think that most of the people who are against stem-cell research have any idea of what they’re opposing; all they have to hear is the word “fetus” or “embryo” and they’re flapping around in circles, hooting like chimpanzees sh*tting broken glass. I’ve never understood the anti-abortion argument myself. I tend to think, from listening to the antis talk (and talk and talk and talk and talk) that it’s not so much about the “babies” as it is about punishing women for having s*x outside of marriage, or wanting to keep their figures or careers.

  • straight

    One thing I still don’t understand: if scientists are right on the brink of curing all sorts of diseases if only the Bush Administration would give them money to experiment on embryonic stem cells, why do they need the government’s money? If this line of research is so promising, why aren’t the pharmacutical companies throwing money at it?
    I think expecting something coherent and non-hypocritcal out of Bush is kind of a straw man. Many people who oppose funding stem-cell research do oppose IVF. And some people who accept IVF worry that a line needs to be drawn somewhere, that maybe there is a slippery-slope somewhere that leads to creating human beings and using them as things rather than accepting them as people.
    At least with IVF, those embryos are being created for the purpose of human reproduction. Doesn’t the idea of creating human embryos for the purpose of scientific research raise ANY hairs on the back of your neck? Do you not see ANY way this could lead to something awful?
    It’s not even that the Bush Administration has banned this research. We’ve only slowed it down a bit by not throwing lots of money at it. Mabye slowed it down enought to think about the implications.

  • Beth

    So instead of extracting stem cells and destroying embryos in the process, US scientists will extract cells from the embryos and then destroy them. Yes, that’s much more respectful of human life. The Bush administration really has no choice but to claim there’s still an ethical dilemma with the new process. Otherwise they’d look like total idiots.
    Even though he can’t run again … he’s doing his bit for the party
    Not just for the party, but for himself. Through most of his tenure, Bush has had an remarkably docile Congress (remember the stem cell bill was his one and only veto). He certainly doesn’t want to have to deal with a Dem-controlled branch at this late date. I also suspect that there’s a lot the administration’s done that wouldn’t stand up very well to serious congressional investigation. Bush’s “legacy,” at least in the short-term, may well hinge on the 06 elections.
    I think expecting something coherent and non-hypocritcal out of Bush is kind of a straw man.
    What does that mean? Are you saying that nobody really expects anything coherent and non-hypocritcal out of Bush?

  • Jen R

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: it’s possible to oppose embryo-destructive research and support IVF (at least in theory) without being inconsistent. The method commonly used in the U.S. of creating more embryos than can be implanted and destroying the excess is not how IVF *has* to be done. In some other countries, clinics are not allowed to create more embryos than the parents intend to try to bring to term. I see nothing wrong with that from a pro-life point of view.
    Creating embryos, carefully extracting one cell for genetic testing or research, and then disposing of them is obviously no better than just destroying them to begin with. But people act like there’s some kind of immutable law that says IVF must result in embryos being flushed, and that’s not the case.

  • hf

    Jen, doesn’t that make W even more hypocritical for not taking these legal steps to prevent embryo deaths?
    Straight, can you name a plausible threat?

  • paradoxbomb

    One thing I still don’t understand: if scientists are right on the brink of curing all sorts of diseases if only the Bush Administration would give them money to experiment on embryonic stem cells, why do they need the government’s money?
    Stem cell researchers don’t need the government’s money. What they need is to be able to use more lines legally, which they cannot now do. They need this because the current lines are degrading, if not already contaminated.
    Doesn’t the idea of creating human embryos for the purpose of scientific research raise ANY hairs on the back of your neck? Do you not see ANY way this could lead to something awful?
    My commute to work in the morning could lead to something awful in lots of ways, yet I still do it because the benefits (money that I need to live) outweigh the risk. The hope of curing a huge list of currently incurable diseases and conditions outweighs the risk of a poorly defined “something awful”.

  • Jesurgislac

    Jen R: The method commonly used in the U.S. of creating more embryos than can be implanted and destroying the excess is not how IVF *has* to be done. In some other countries, clinics are not allowed to create more embryos than the parents intend to try to bring to term.
    Really? Can you link to them? The method commonly used in IVF of creating more embryos is fairly essential, as I understand, because of the risk of spontaneous abortion (miscarriage) of implanted fetuses.
    It’s a perfect example of the hypocrisy of “pro-lifers”: even though a woman seeking IVF is likely to “kill” more fetuses than a woman seeking an abortion, you never see “pro-lifers” picketing fertility clinics, yelling abuse at the women going in.

  • Jen R

    Germany is one country that does not allow the production of “excess” embryos:
    http://www.utexas.edu/law/news/colloquium/papers/Robertsonpaper2.doc
    (Here is the Google cache HTML version if you don’t want to download a .doc.)
    Italy is another:
    http://bmj.bmjjournals.com/cgi/content/full/328/7430/9-a
    I’m not sure if there are others; I thought I remembered reading something about Spain. I don’t have a comprehensive list of IVF laws (although I’m sure one must exist somewhere).

  • Jen R

    Jen, doesn’t that make W even more hypocritical for not taking these legal steps to prevent embryo deaths?
    Well, yes. He’s hypocritical in so very many ways. I suppose you could add “not calling for IVF reform” to the list.

  • jm

    Please note that in Germany, where I happen to be from, there is a law that prohibits the production of “excess” embryos for IVF, BUT, that doesn’t mean that IVF doesn’t require multiple embryos to be created to make sure that the procedure actually succeeds. In fact there is ongoing discussion between the Parliament and the German Research Foundation about the excess embryos that are created when the to-be parents decide that they don’t want the other embryos that were created for the procedure.
    The law tries to minimize the amount of discarded embryos. It seems to have no footing in actual science that there is an “alternative way” of performing in-vitro fertilization.
    That said, it is also a wholly different debate about the costitutionality of the discarding of embryos, as the first article of the German constitution “Human dignity shall be inviolable.” and: “Every person shall have the right to life and physical integrity.” has far-reaching implications and is subject to completely different arguments than the American debate in terms of the lawfulness of scientific research in this area.
    All of this does not invalidate the post’s assertion that opposing stem-cell research while NOT opposing fertilization techniques that create excess embryos is hypocritical.

  • Duane

    These pro-life/birth/abortion threads are creepy the way they always bring out our Catholic “minders”.

  • Duane

    “Human dignity shall be inviolable.” and: “Every person shall have the right to life and physical integrity.”
    There is a “jewvenile” joke here I can’t quite nail down.

  • Jen R

    jm, I think I am misunderstanding either you or the law. Your first paragraph says that the law prohibits the production of “excess” embryos, then you say that they are created anyway. Not that people don’t break laws, of course, but you seem to be getting at something different. Could you elaborate? Of course more embryos are created than anybody *expects* to come to term, because there is a high rate of failure of implantation, but my understanding was that all embryos created had to be transferred rather than destroyed or frozen.
    Duane: I’m sorry if a differing opinion has caused you discomfort, though I would point out that I for one am neither Catholic (atheist, actually) nor anyone’s “minder”.

  • bulbul

    jm: could you please provide the specifics as to the law (eg the number)?

  • bulbul

    Just FYI: Article 15, section 1 of the Slovak constitution reads (translation mine):
    “Every person shall have the right to life. Human life shall be worthy of protection even before birth.”
    Just what it means is anybody’s guess, since abortion (up to the 12th week in most cases, up to the 24th if the fetus is found to suffer from one of the defects named by the law) is legal in Slovakia.

  • jm

    I’m sorry, this became a very long post :-/.
    Duane: yes there would be a “jewvenile” joke there if the first paragraph of the German constitution was not the direct result of Nazi-Germany’s racism. Which is why it belongs to the few unchangeable articles.
    Jen: I’m sorry if I’m not entirely clear, my English is rather colloquial so it’s hard for me to discuss such issues with the needed precision. I’m under the impression that you cited Germany as an example of a country that does prohibit the creation of excess embryos as evidence for the existance of a method for IVF that does not create embryos that will be discarded later. I just tried to clarify that:
    a) the law exists to make sure that a clinic does not just create numerous embryos but takes care to minimize the number of embryos created primarily to compromise between the christian and the scientific community. Currently (ianal), three embryos may be created per fertility cycle (is that the right translation?).
    b) there still are situations where there’s a number of excess embryos as the law does not require all embryos to be implanted, so that the parents could decide that they don’t want or in case of, for example, an illness, have no use for the excess embryos. These cases are subject to any legislation, which has been criticized as an oversight by everybody because researchers now can’t rely on predictable court decisions and religious groups… well they criticize everything that doesn’t turn Germany into a theocracy. They exist in a grey zone where they might be available for scientific research.
    c) the laws concerning IVF and stemcell research were created because the legal questions arising from the structure of German constitutional law were pressing, but I tried to illustrate that the questions themselves are very different from the issues that are currently debated in the USA, as “physical integrity” is explicity mentioned in the very first article and in this context I don’t think it really can be used as an argument in the current discussion. With “Row vs. Wade”, the USA already has set a very different judicial standard from the situation in Germany.
    Bulbul (and Jen): There are two laws in Germany that directly apply to the question at hand, they were created at very different times but they interlock. In both cases I don’t have an english translation, sorry. The first one is the “law to protect human embryos” (“Embryonenschutzgesetz” or ESchG) from 1991, amended in 2001: http://bundesrecht.juris.de/eschg/index.html. The second one is the “law to ensure the protection of human embryos in connection to the import and usage of human stemcells” (“Stammzellgesetz” or StZG) from 2002, amended in 2003: http://bundesrecht.juris.de/stzg/index.html
    Google may help you to find adequate translations, if they exist.
    In both cases there are discussions to change them to match a new, less restricting, EU directive.
    In any case and this post is much too long already (my apologies to the owner of this blog), it’s still hypocritical to support in-vitro fertilization as long as excess embryos can be created (which can happen even if you control the number of excess embryos very tightly) and still summarily oppose stemcell research.

  • jm

    ah, crap, it should have read: “these cases are NOT subject”.. I’ll shut up now

  • Jen R

    the law does not require all embryos to be implanted
    This is what I was confused about; I believed that it did, since that was stated in the paper I linked to. Perhaps this is an aspect that was changed when the law was amended in 2001. Thank you for the clarification.

  • Dawn

    I was going to say that people who want children that badly should just adopt rather than opt for IVF with all of its various issues (including the fact that it’s so expensive), but I just thought of one: in the US, birth parents seem to win custody if they ever decide that they want their children back, regardless of the current age of the child in question and whether that child has ever known his birth parents. Perhaps that’s one of the first things that needs to change.
    As for the stem cell issue–I’m no fan of Dubya either, but I don’t see how this article in particular points out his hypocrisy on this issue. Do we have public statements by him about IVF and how good that supposedly is?

  • Jesurgislac

    Dawn, one of the first things Bush did when he became President was put the Global Gag Rule back into operation, ensuring that no health clinic receiving US funds to stay in operation was not only not permitted to provide women with access to safe abortion, but was not even permitted to provide women with information about abortion.
    Had the President actually been concerned about fetal lives – which of course no “pro-lifer” can really claim to be, they are all hypocrites in this respect – he would also have refused health clinics the ability to provide IVF to women who needed it, or to have any information about IVF on the premises. IVF also kills fetuses, and “pro-lifers” claim to believe that killing fetuses is murder.
    Bush has gone wistfully aggressive about fetuses with respect to abortion and with respect to stem-cell research many times in his tenure as President: but he has never, not once, said that he’s opposed to IVF fertility treatment and got wistful about the fetuses IVF kills and aggressive about the women IVF helps.
    Whether Bush is a “pro-lifer” or just echoing “pro-lifer” sentiments is impossible to tell: whether he is, like all “pro-lifers”, hypocritically claiming to care about fetuses while in fact only caring to punish women for having sex, or whether he is hypocritically pretending to be a “pro-lifer” for the sake of getting the “pro-lifer” vote, is really impossible to tell. Double or single hypocrisy? I go for double hypocrisy, but that’s mostly because I don’t think Bush is sincere about anything.

  • Mark

    One thing I still don’t understand: if scientists are right on the brink of curing all sorts of diseases if only the Bush Administration would give them money to experiment on embryonic stem cells, why do they need the government’s money?”
    Let’s be clear here. It is not illegal to use embryonic cell lines. However, you may not use government funds for research involving the use of embryonic stems cells, outside of the “60″ cell lines that were already in circulation when the law was put in place. Seeing as most of these cell lines are obsolete and/or unavailable, essentially it is a de facto ban. Labs that wish to make or use embryonic stem cells must do so from funds that are entirely separate from the government. Virtually all major labs in this country receive a good chunk of their operating budget from NIH (i.e., federal government) grants, so in essence, most labs cannot and will not do this research. Those that do research with these cells must be supported privately (a very small percentage have enough private funds to support the whole of their lab), and completely separate their work with embryonic stem cells from anything that was paid for by government funds. The one scientist I have heard from directly who does this has had to hire an accountant to ensure that the projects (ESC and non-ESC) are completely segregated. Most labs will not go to this trouble. The problem with this is that science moves by mass action. A handful of labs can only make so much headway in a new and developing field. Many labs working on a field allows for conversation, collaboration, and competition, all of which combine to push the field to a more advanced level. I wince a little at the claims that (often non-scientific) proponents make about embryonic stem cells, but we won’t achieve anything with a total ban.
    As for pharmaceutical companies, I suspect that they won’t get too involved. The initial expense is quite high (tissue culture is a money drain), and they really aren’t in the business of making cures. Ideally, they want products to be used over a lifetime, if possible. This is one of the reasons that vaccines can often be in short supply. The return just isn’t as good as cholesterol lowering drugs or the like.

  • none

    Slightly off topic, I do wish that we, the voting public or whoever, would talk more about IVF-esque procedures and their implications. Quite apart from “beginning of life” questions, I feel pretty damn squeamish about $20,000 procedures to conceive a child when there are so many children in need of parents.
    Also, has the Bush administration (or any other conservative individual or group) made any statement that would indicate that they found pre-implantation genetic diagnosis to be “morally blessed”?

  • Jesurgislac

    Also, has the Bush administration (or any other conservative individual or group) made any statement that would indicate that they found pre-implantation genetic diagnosis to be “morally blessed”?
    Has Bush done even as much to attack “pre-implantation genetic diagnosis” as he has done to attack same-sex couples marrying?
    Plainly, he could, if he thought (there was anything wrong with it)/(there were any significant votes in it) – depending which view your take of his motivations.

  • PepperjackCandy

    Isn’t this new line of research basically creating an identical twin (well, what would become an identical twin, if they left it alone long enough, which in the eyes of the pro-lifers is an identical twin) of the embryo and then destroying the twin?

  • none

    Pharmaceutical companies fund research that will result in drugs. Many aspects of stem-cell research are far too basic for pharma to invest. Also, the sheer amount of money required to do any kind of biomedical research is staggering.
    That separation of funds that Mark spoke of? That extends to the most trival aspects of doing research. Everything from machinery to test tubes to the computer used by the lab tech. It is not unheard of to be asked to quantify use of utilities. In order to guarantee one’s federal funds and do privately-funded stem-cell research, a PI basically has to establish a completely separate lab.

  • cm

    I didn’t realize until recently that the Catholic Church disapproves of IVF. While Fred says you can’t be for IVF and against stem-cell research, I wonder if you can be the reverse, as that seems to be where I stand and I’m not sure it’s logical.

  • none

    Actually, as far the beginning of life questions go, you could be in favor of IVF as long as embryos weren’t discarded. That’s where the inconsistency comes in.

  • none

    Had the President actually been concerned about fetal lives – which of course no “pro-lifer” can really claim to be, they are all hypocrites in this respect
    Sigh. Couldn’t we at least attempt to attribute to others the same respect and presumption of thoughtfulness that we generally give our own positions?

  • Jesurgislac

    Couldn’t we at least attempt to attribute to others the same respect and presumption of thoughtfulness that we generally give our own positions?
    Certainly as a starting presumption, yes. But “pro-lifers” as a movement have been around for a long time: long past the time anyone needs to give them respect and presumption of thoughtfulness. It would be like arguing that we need to attribute respect and the presumption of thoughtfulness to the arguments George W. Bush made for invading Iraq: we did when he first made them, but they have now been thoroughly debunked. Likewise, claims by “pro-lifers” that it’s all about saving fetal lives for them have been thoroughly debunked.

  • Duane

    Brilliant on the last, Jesurgislac. I’d quote but I’m using a handheld device at he beach.

  • none

    Hmm. I tend to think that when we stop thinking of people as individuals and just as faceless “movements,” we’ve started down a bad, bad road. I think I would consider that kind of presumptuous close-mindedness about other human beings a pretty unattractive characteristic in a person. (Though I do think that the ways that a “movement mentality” transforms individuals’ ideologies is an important thing to consider).
    But seriously, if you really can’t see that the statement that the individuals that comprise any group are “all hypocrites in that regard” is pretty ludicrous, then we’re probably just talking past one another. So I’ll just stop here.

  • Jesurgislac

    I tend to think that when we stop thinking of people as individuals and just as faceless “movements,” we’ve started down a bad, bad road.
    It’s very hard for me to think of you as an individual and not as a representative of a faceless “movement” when you keep commenting anonymously. I mention this for sarcasm’s sake. Seriously, pick a nom. Use it. It won’t take a minute more than commenting anonymously.
    But:
    When someone says they’re a pro-lifer, they are associating themselves with a movement that, in its extremist form, is given to terrorism, murder, and arson. They associating themselves with a movement that regularly and routinely pickets health clinics where abortion is provided in order to harass the women going in. They are associating themselves with a movement that denies contraception to women who need it, that denies safe legal abortion to women who need it, that in its extremist form would deny abortion to a 15-year-old girl who had been raped by her father. They are associating themselves with a movement which is against contraception and against any sex education but “abstinence education”. We are talking, you understand, about things pro-lifers in the US have done in the past fifteen years – not something long ago or far away. (The most recent act of arson against a health clinic providing abortions was July 4 2004.) This is what the pro-life movement in the US does.
    Pro-life organizations do not campaign for free health care for pregnant women and children, for employment safeguards to prevent a woman being fired because she’s pregnant, for paid maternity and paternity leave, for the right of working parents to take paid “child sick days”, for free day care for low-income parents, for the right of parents to work flexible “family-friendly” hours, for raising the minimum wage to a level where a person doesn’t have to work two jobs just to stay alive. Pro-life organizations don’t appear to give a damn about what happens to a “post-born” fetus, or to the incubator either while the fetus is inside or after the fetus comes out.
    If someone is claiming that a zygote or a fetus is exactly the same as a baby or a toddler, and that’s why they oppose abortion, then I want to know what they are doing to support babies and toddlers and parents: because if the answer is, as it certainly is for pro-life organizations and for pro-life politicians, “Less than nothing” then why should I believe they really care about fetuses, either?
    And I want to know what they are doing to prevent abortions, not what they’re doing to make legal/safe abortion either illegal or difficult/expensive to obtain: were they putting active pressure on the FDA to provide over-the-counter Plan B, which should stop tens of thousands of abortions? Do they campaign for health clinics which will provide contraception and contraceptive advice to teenagers, any age, without any parental notification? Do they campaign for health insurance plans to cover contraception for free, and for free contraception to be available to anyone without healh insurance? Or do they oppose this? Anyone who opposes free access to contraception is obviously not interested in preventing abortion, and not only are none of the pro-life organizations promoting contraception to prevent abortion, many actually actively campaign against contraception, promoting the false idea that the regular pill or emergency contraception are “abortifacients”.
    I could go on: one of the consistent reasons women give for needing an abortion is economic, they can’t afford a child or can’t afford another child. Yet pro-lifers tend to be associated with options that keep working parents poor, especially single mothers. If pro-lifers cared about preventing abortion, one obvious method would be campaigning to make people on a low income – often single mothers – better off; to guarantee legal protections for working parents. But if any pro-lifers are doing that, the politicians they vote for and the organizations that supposedly represent them are certainly not.

  • cjmr’s husband

    Jesurgislac: Nicely put.
    I avoid the abortion debate like the plague, and never comment, but I agree with you completely.
    Of course, what I agree with is that there are too many people in this debate that agree with each other completely…
    (shuffles off quietly to Mass, hides in back)

  • bulbul

    Yep, brilliant as always, Jesu.
    BTW, have you read this?

  • Amanda

    I don’t like this offhand condemnation and insult of anybody who identifies as pro-life, or perhaps even anybody who isn’t 100% pro-choice. What of those of us who struggle with the conflicting values, and don’t hold loyally to either side, and may be willing to compromise when it comes to public policy?
    The one thing I hate about the abortion debate is that both sides seem quick and eager to completely discount the other side’s concerns, and say that their values are worthless, when really what we have is an issue where two value of high importance with very high stakes are in direct conflict. I tend to think less of the people who can’t realize how complicated, and how very NOT simple and easy-to-draw-along-party-lines it is.

  • the opoponax

    regarding bulbul’s linked article.
    the morning after pill won’t render abortion completely obsolete. it’ll cut down on the need for thousands upon thousands (possibly cutting abortion rates by half or more). but it can’t entirely eliminate abortion for a number of reasons.
    number 1 is that the morning after pill is only effective if you know to take it. it’s great if the condom breaks, or if you know you forgot a few birth control pills. it works most obviously in situations where a woman is convinced to have unprotected sex or coerced/forced into sex in the first place. there are a lot of “i thought i was covered” situations that result in pregnancies. and those women should still have access to abortion.
    number 2 is that the morning after pill is only effective if you know about it and care enough to track it down. plenty of unwanted pregnancies (ESPECIALLY among teens, the very group who won’t have OTC access to the morning after pill) occur simply because the people having sex just don’t get around to using contraception. it’s unlikely that if you didn’t bother to use a condom that suddenly the next day you’re going to go find the morning after pill. as silly as those people are, they should still have access to abortion.
    number 3 is that the morning after pill isn’t available over the counter to women under 18. a group of women who are terribly undereducated about their contraception options in the first place. and if any group of women should have absolutely unconditional and open access to abortion, it’s teenaged girls.
    so, no, abortion isn’t obsolete. ideally it will be massively lessened. but there will still be abortions, and thus something for the pro-lifers to protest against. especially if we continue with the trend of abstinence education.
    also, i’ve attended FDA hearings on this issue over the past few years, and the anti-choicers are pretty upfront about being against pre-marital sex. i believe that one of those oh so demure and polite ladies of the Concerned Women for America had this rebuttal to one of my fellow activists’ speeches: “maybe if women would keep their legs closed, they wouldn’t need to worry about any of this.” they’re not quite ready to use that as a sound-bite (maybe after another 8 years of republican rule), but that’s a direct quote from an FDA hearing.

  • Jesurgislac

    Amanda: What of those of us who struggle with the conflicting values, and don’t hold loyally to either side, and may be willing to compromise when it comes to public policy?
    Compromise how? Only burn down a few health clinics? Only harass some women who need abortions? Only prevent some women from getting access to contraception?
    when really what we have is an issue where two value of high importance with very high stakes are in direct conflict.
    You think that the chief “pro-life” value of women being forced to “suffer the consequences” if they have hetero intercourse is of high importance? I disagree. Well, obviously it’s of high importance to “pro-lifers” that women shouldn’t be allowed to have sex and decide for themselves whether or not they want to be pregnant: but the point of being pro-choice is that other people don’t get to make that decision for anyone. Each woman gets to decide for herself.
    It’s a conflict between freedom and religious terrorism/despotism, basically. Those are conflicting values, but so conflicting that you basically have to decide which you’re going to support; you can’t be for both.

  • bulbul

    the opponax:
    the morning after pill won’t render abortion completely obsolete.
    I agree. The point of the article (and the one Jesurgislac has been making for some time now) is that the “pro-life” crowd just doesn’t care that stuff like Plan B will “cut down on the need for thousands upon thousands”.
    number 1 is that the morning after pill is only effective if you know to take it
    Forgive my bluntness, but… well duh! So is the Pill, so is the condom.
    and those women should still have access to abortion.
    You won’t here any argument from me.
    “maybe if women would keep their legs closed, they wouldn’t need to worry about any of this.” they’re not quite ready to use that as a sound-bite
    Well, maybe not that particular one. But this is what I’ve been hearing in these parts from the (mostly Catholic) “pro-life” crowd for some years now. The wording is a bit different, naturally, but the meaning is always the same.
    Amanda: The one thing I hate about the abortion debate is that both sides seem quick and eager to completely discount the other side’s concerns, and say that their values are worthless,
    Were you around for the Great Empathy Debate of 2006?
    What of those of us who struggle with the conflicting values, and don’t hold loyally to either side, and may be willing to compromise when it comes to public policy?
    I’m with Jesu on this one: what does “compromise” mean here? Only allow abortion in some cases? Only allow abortion up to, say, the 12th week?
    Also, the whole point of Fred’s point and Jesurgislac’s comments is the hypocrisy inherent to the “pro-life” movement (at least in the US), the degree of which simply astounds me. I mean, abstinence education? Gimme a motherlovin’ break.
    Jesu: When someone says they’re a pro-lifer, they are associating themselves with a movement that, in its extremist form, is given to terrorism, murder, and arson.
    No. When someone says they are a pro-lifer, it does not necessarily mean they condone, let alone take part in the terrorist activities of the extreme wing of the movement. To illustrate: Sinn Fein or Hizbullah voters are not terrorists. To say “I’m pro-life” may simply mean “I’m against abortions”. It might be a stupid way of putting it (in the light of the inherent hypocrisy mentioned above), but it’s such a good propaganda slogan I don’t expect it to die out anytime soon.

  • Jesurgislac

    Bulbul: When someone says they are a pro-lifer, it does not necessarily mean they condone, let alone take part in the terrorist activities of the extreme wing of the movement. To illustrate: Sinn Fein or Hizbullah voters are not terrorists.
    True, actually, and fair point: it is better when people try to get their way via politics than via terrorism, regardless of what I think of their goals.
    To say “I’m pro-life” may simply mean “I’m against abortions”.
    No, again. Because if pro-lifers were against abortions, we would expect to see this reflected in what pro-life politicians and pro-life organizations do. Simplistically: Sinn Fein is for the unification of Ireland, it’s the political arm of the IRA: and Sinn Fein’s policies reflect that. If pro-lifers are for preventing abortions, we’d expect to see pro-life organizations campaigning to prevent abortions, putting pressure on politicians to prevent abortions – and we don’t see that. Pro-lifers who want to prevent abortions appear to be a very small proportion – if they exist at all – of any pro-life organization.

  • Duane

    What of those of us who struggle with the conflicting values, and don’t hold loyally to either side, and may be willing to compromise when it comes to public policy?
    Like the Roe v. Wade compromise the “pro-life” movement is currently trying to overturn?
    THAT compromise?
    The compromise that only protects the right to an abortion in the first trimester?


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X