No 5k for the biggest killer — so does anyone really believe it’s a killer?

October is a busy time of year for those who hit the streets for charity.

This month, in my area, there’s a 5k for multiple myeloma, a walk for breast cancer, a 5k AIDS run, a 5k for Lupus, a 5k for juvenile diabetes, a 5k for carcinoid, two separate 5ks for kids with cancer, a 10k for multiple sclerosis, a 5k for ALS and a 5k for children with physical disabilities.

Name a disease and there’s a charitable research foundation committed to finding a cure, and for just about every such foundation there’s a corresponding 5k race or walkathon, lemonade stand, bake sale, golf tournament, banquet, concert, gala or festival to raise funds.

But for the biggest killer of them all, there’s nothing.

No 5k or 10k. No walkathon. No foundation promoting research. No research.

The deadly scourge that claims half of all human lives ever conceived is completely ignored.

Here’s Jonathan Dudley discussing this killer in his book Broken Words:

Due to hormone imbalances, genetic anomalies, and a number of unknown factors, between 50 percent and 75 percent of embryos fail to implant in the uterus and are passed with the monthly menstrual flow. If we agree with pro-life advocates that every embryo is as morally valuable as an adult human, this means that more than half of humans immediately die. This fact provides pro-life advocates with an opportunity to follow through on their convictions. Surely, a moral response to a pandemic of this magnitude would be to rally the scientific community to devote the vast majority of its efforts to better understanding why this happens and trying to stop it. Yet the same pro-life leaders who declare that every embryo is morally equivalent to a fully developed child have done nothing to advocate such research. … Even if medicine could save only 10 percent of these embryos — and we don’t know because no one has cared enough to ask — it would be saving more lives than curing HIV, diabetes, and malaria combined. One could say that this massive loss of human life is natural, and therefore, humans are under no obligation to end it. But it is not clear why the same argument could not be used to justify complacency in the face of AIDS, cancer, heart disease, and other natural causes of human death.

For anyone who genuinely believes the pro-life argument that “every embryo is morally equivalent to a fully developed child,” the sort of research Dudley describes ought to be an inescapable obligation.

And yet there are no charitable events to support the foundations funding such research. No such foundations exist to be supported. No such research exists to be funded.

That suggests one of two things. Either these pro-life advocates are complacent monsters every bit as callously unconcerned with saving unborn babies as those they oppose. Or else, just like those they oppose, these folks do not really believe that “every embryo is morally equivalent to a fully developed child.”

Perhaps there is some third explanation. There must be, right?

I mean there are millions of Americans who insist that every embryo, from the “moment” of conception, is a human person — the full moral equivalent of any other human person. That belief, more than any other, shapes our national politics, frames our national elections, and determines our national government. Because of that belief, millions of Americans will vote for Mitt Romney, regarding it as unthinkable to do otherwise.

Millions of votes will be cast based on this belief. Tens of millions of votes have been cast based on this belief. But there has not been even a glimmer of a notion of a thought in the direction of the sort of human-life-saving research that Dudley describes above.

Why not?

  • Lunch Meat

    Yeah, I’m not sure what she thinks of the fact that she got to hold a pro-life event in our college’s student center, while I not only was shut down when I tried to start a GSA, I wasn’t even allowed to announce LGBTQ-related events during class/chapel or reserve space anywhere on campus to hold them.

  • http://politicsproseotherthings.blogspot.com/ Nathaniel

     Obedience fetishists like you are what creep me out about religion.

    If God owns the world, then it must be okay with abortion, otherwise it would stop it. Owning the world and all.

    And hearts attacks, along with cancer and other big natural killers have billions of dollars of research poured into their prevention and cure. Being such a fervent pro-lifer, maybe you can explain why someone like you has a number of foundations to invest in for breast cancer or sickle cell anemia, but not the deadly scourge of pregnancy based fetuscide?

    Other than anti-abortion activists being full of shit.

  • Lunch Meat

    In what meaningful sense can an embryo be resurrected/sent to heaven? In other words, in what sense is a person in heaven the same soul as a person who was on earth for about three days, and during that time had no experiences, no emotions, no struggles, no joys, no sorrows, no thoughts, no hopes, no dreams, no wishes, no desires, no love, no beliefs, no actions? What is a person without all of that? Is there anything meaningful left? Even a baby that dies at birth experienced warmth and love and the sound of its parent’s voice in the womb, but an embryo that lasts for a week and never even implants has nothing.

  • Lunch Meat

    Perhaps a better way of putting it is, in what meaningful sense can a soul continue if it never really started doing/being anything?

  • Lori

    Speaking of dying in child birth, Ta-Nehisi Coates has written about why he is pro choice. The short version is that giving birth to their son very nearly killed his wife and he does not believe that anyone should be forced to involuntarily take on a job that could kill her. While being pro choice in the past he expressed serious reservations about abortion. He has now changed his beliefs about that.

    I no longer have “deep problems” with the termination of fetal life. I
    don’t think it’s my place. I don’t think I have much right to any
    qualms. I will never be pregnant. I will never be subject to the many
    biological functions that precede pregnancy and the ones that follow. I
    cannot know what it is to subject my body to such a process for the
    benefit of another. I don’t believe everyone’s opinion should be weighed
    equally. Some people carry more than others.

    He then tells the story of the peripartum cardiomyopathy that caused Kenyatta to nearly die of congestive heart failure. His take-away from the near-tragedy is this:

    For reasons beyond me, childbirth — in the popular American mind — is
    swaddled in gossamer, gift-wrap, and icing. Beneath the pastel Hallmark
    cards and baby showers, behind the flowers, lies a truth encoded, still,
    in our wording, but given only minimal respect: The charge of
    shepherding life is labor. It’s work.
    And you need only look to the immediate past, or you need only look
    around the world, or you need only come close to losing the love of your
    small, young life to understand a correlating truth–pregnancy is
    potentially lethal work.

    He makes some other comments and then concludes with something that I think every so-called pro-life man needs to think about long and hard.

    Every day women choose to do the hard labor of a difficult pregnancy. It’s courageous work, which inspires in me a degree of admiration
    exceeded only by my horror at the notion of the state turning that
    courage, that hard labor, into a mandate. Women die performing that
    labor in smaller numbers as we advance, but they die all the same. Men
    do not. That is a privilege.  

    http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2012/10/pregnancy-as-labor/264070/

    The comments are also well worth reading. One person commenting on the emergency C-section that she had, and nearly died from, summed up my belief on the issue very well (emphasis mine):

    My second child was born by emergency C-section because he had his cord
    around his neck. It was a last minute emergency in an otherwise perfect
    pregnancy. I came close to bleeding out on the operating table. It was
    pretty bad. No one should be forced to take that risk. Motherhood
    should be an all volunteer army.
     

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    I will never be pregnant. I will never be subject to the many biological functions that precede pregnancy and the ones that follow. I cannot know what it is to subject my body to such a process for the benefit of another.

    This? Is why for the last 20, 25 years (i.e. since I was old enough to grasp the concept of abortion and pregnancy) I have been adamantly pro-choice. As a man, I can do no other.

  • http://mistformsquirrel.deviantart.com/ mistformsquirrel

    That’s pretty much my own take as well; largely from listening to the women on Shakesville back in the day.  For most of us with boy-parts, it should be a no-brainer  to say “It’s not my decision, I don’t have those parts.”  (And I feel like that usually ought to be followed up with “… but I’ll support whatever you decide is best for you.”)

    But then I guess that goes back to what Lliira said at the start of the thread.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_2CUJHSQSQYTYT4DPZSKTVESYNQ B

    Yup.  Thanks to the miracle of modern medicine, we tend to forget that without said miracle, childbirth kills women ALL THE TIME, it kills the babies more often than it kills women, and even more often than either permanently injures one or both of the two participants.

    The aforementioned miracle of modern medicine has reduced the risk of death in childbirth dramatically, but it hasn’t taken it to zero.  Pregnancy and childbirth is still a major medical event.  It’s not like asking the woman to wear a backpack for nine months and at the end you unzip it and take the baby out.

  • reynard61

    “A post previously published in this space regarding a study about how hormones may influence voting choices has been removed.

    “After further review it was determined that some elements of the story did not meet the editorial standards of CNN.

    “We thank you for your comments and feedback.”

    Apparently CNN either (probably depending on one’s politics) grew a brain or a yellow stripe down it’s corporate back.

  • Carstonio

    Coates and Neutrino have it exactly right, and that’s why I’ve been pro-choice since my teens. “Motherhood should be an all-volunteer army” – now I wish I had come up with that phrase.

  • Carstonio

     When my college held a fair for student clubs, the pro-choice table was all females and the pro-life table was several males and one female. I asked one of the men why they were involved since they can’t get pregnant. (The unstated premise behind my question was exactly what Coates described.) His answer? “Because we’re selfless.” I felt then, and feel now, that a truly selfless person doesn’t use that word for hirself, either to others or in hir own mind.

  • Amaryllis

     Thanks for the link.

    And I’ll only add that I logged in specifically to “Like” this excerpt under my own handle.

  • Carstonio

     You’re not reading Fred correctly. Your post doesn’t say whether you simply believe abortion to be wrong, or whether you believe it should be illegal. But you use the term “pro-life” for yourself, which ONLY means the latter. And making it against the law would force women to carry pregnancies to term. It’s legitimate to ask why so many people focus on preventing women from having abortions instead of helping them avoid unwanted pregnancies. Maybe they really believe it’s the will of their god that those women get pregnant. My usual response is “You don’t know that.”

  • Münchner Kindl

    The only excuse I can think of for pro-lifers not campaigning for research about “natural” abortions is that they simply don’t know – given how little knowledge in general (and a lot of lies) they have about the female body and reproduction itself if from fundie background.

    Similar, it’s understandable (not acceptable) that it’s easier for a person to go along with boycotting an abortion clinic or demonstrating against abortion without giving a thought about what happens to families after birth through lack of good pro-family laws in the US, because that would require a lot of effort in many different areas and again, lack of knowledge might excuse.

    However, (as the example in this thread shows) it doesn’t really hold because once you ask the pro-lifers and tell them the information, they don’t stop to think over their position, they just handwave with “don’t exist” or “God wants it (and is unfathomable, ours is not to question why)” and similar excuses.

  • Wednesday

    I realize you’re just running with a hypothetical, but Down Syndrome doesn’t exactly work the way you seem to think it does.

    Down Syndrome is a trisomy (three copies of a chromosome instead of two). The extra copy can come from either genetic parent. Generally, chances of a trisomy (for any chromosome) increase with parental age. So harvesting the eggs early would already greatly reduce the chance of producing any trisomy. So if we’re controlling for maternal age already, unless there’s been some breakthrough about how trisomies happen I don’t know about, the only way that screening the _mother_ would tell you about the chances of offspring having a trisomy would be if the mother herself had a trisomy. Which doesn’t usually require additional screening.

    So you’d have to screen the eggs individually for having duplicate chromosomes, but I don’t think that can actually be done without destroying the eggs. The other option would be to create a bunch of blastocysts, let them replicate their cells a few days, and take one of those cells to run your genetic screening on.

    Really, screening the egg donor only gives you half the picture. I guess you can get rid of the nasty single-gene recessive diseases like Tay-Sachs by destroying eggs from carriers (so no blastocyst gets two copies), but to avoid the dominant diseases or the more complicated multiple-genes-involved conditions, you’re going to need to screen the sperm donors as well

  • Lori

     

    “Because we’re selfless.”  

    That guy desperately needed a visit from Inigo Montoya

  • Carstonio

    Heh! I had a head-desk moment when I read this quote: “If scientists discoverd a fetus on Mars, would they consider it life?” I guess that’s the modern version of showing a fetus and whale with the caption “Guess which one isn’t protected?” #falsequivalence

  • EllieMurasaki

    Huh. The ovulation-influences-politics article was there yesterday. I checked before I posted the link.

  • EllieMurasaki

    …if there’s a fetus on Mars, either it’s dead, in which case it is not life but evidence of past life (however recent), or it is part of a (much more fascinating) living female specimen.

  • Lori

    I assume they caught some serious flak for it, because it was taken down pretty quickly.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    I prefer to think a brain. Yellow-stripe indicates cowardice, but cowardice implies that they would double down and refuse to take down an article clearly offensive to the cognitive capabilities of women.

    You … may want to rethink your phraseology.

  • Consumer Unit 5012

     

    “I do not want to stand
    before God and tell him why I supported someone who is okay with killing
    babies.”

    How about killing babies AND grown-ups (such as Iraqis, or Iranians, since they seem to be next)?  Is God supposed to be OK with that?  (History and cynicism says yes, but I suspect most religious people would rather say no.)

  • NoDoubtAboutIt

    So you’re saying then that God didn’t create Adam and Eve.  Clearly, if Adam and Eve messed things up, it’s because the manufacturer’s design was faulty.  

  • Consumer Unit 5012

     To your second question: He didn’t create the system faulty.  Adam and Eve messed it up.

    Well, if all it takes to hopelessly screw up God’s Divine Plan was someone eating the wrong fruit, God obviously never heard of the concept of ‘error recovery’.

  • http://thisculturalchristian.blogspot.com/ michael mcshea

    Surely the brilliant idea of perfecting the science of embryo transplants from an un-wanting to a willing parent must be discounted by the fact that females don’t have or don’t deserve the outrageous unfair health care costs that would be dumped on and be a burden to the Health Care Industrial Complex. Mere life is one thing. But profits are GOD!!!

  • http://twitter.com/chris_laning Chris Laning

    I may have missed it since I don’t read this site regularly any more, but has Fred ever written about just HOW some conservatives have come to regard ALL contraception as equivalent to abortion?

    If it was clear from the evidence that by employing certain methods embryos were conceived and then lost, then I could see condemning THOSE methods as  running too high a risk of abortion. But I can’t imagine how a method that actually does what “contraception” means — i.e. prevents the fertilization of eggs — could be regarded as a form of abortion.

    Surely in some cases it’s magical hand-waving and claims that it doesn’t matter because sinful women who have sex are getting what they “deserve” (which, BTW, I don’t believe for an instant).

    But there are some clearer thinkers out there, and I’d like to know how they are coming to such a conclusion (if they are). Either they are being given data on what happens in contraception that is simply not true, or their reasoning is very odd.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Either they are being given data on what happens in contraception that is simply not true, or their reasoning is very odd.

    Some of both, is my understanding. Though there are certainly people who oppose both contraception and abortion without confusing the two.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

     Last week we established that a good many people don’t know (or “know” but don’t have functional use of the knowledge) that the urethra and the vagina have separate openings.

    With that in mind, it is not hard to see how a lot of people might similarly fail to grasp that “conception”, “fertilization”, “implantation” and “ejaculation” aren’t all the same thing.  (Which is totally not helped by educational films which show  the whole process via time lapse making it look like the whole thing takes only seconds. Heck, I probably would have said it only took a minute or so until I had cause to look it up a few years ago)

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

     

    Down Syndrome is a trisomy (three copies of a chromosome instead of
    two). The extra copy can come from either genetic parent. Generally,
    chances of a trisomy (for any chromosome) increase with parental age. So
    harvesting the eggs early would already greatly reduce the chance of
    producing any trisomy. So if we’re controlling for maternal age already,
    unless there’s been some breakthrough about how trisomies happen I
    don’t know about, the only way that screening the _mother_ would tell
    you about the chances of offspring having a trisomy would be if the
    mother herself had a trisomy. Which doesn’t usually require additional
    screening.

    My understanding is that current thinking is that the eggs exhibiting trisomy don’t develop the abnormality  over time, but start out that way, and the reason they’re linked to age of the parent is that the extra chromosome literally makes the egg slightly heavier, and this makes them gravitate to the bottom of the pile, as it were, causing the lighter non-trisomy eggs to be “launched” first.

    If that’s true, harvesting the eggs early won’t reduce the incidence of trisomy without screening (and might, I suppose, increase it, depending). Though if I’m right about it being a literal matter of weight, screening should be easy enough.

  • Jason C Person

    But then cancer is also natural by that definition. Do Catholics not care about cancer research?

  • http://www.facebook.com/jrandyowens Randy Owens

    I don’t know if you do Facebook or not, but one picture I’ve seen several times around there over the past few days has a fairly typical picture of a developing embryo at a late stage, or maybe very early fetus, with a big caption (all from memory, wording may vary) saying “this is not a human,” and a smaller caption underneath, “does this piss you off?  It shouldn’t.  This is an elephant embryo.”

  • Lunch Meat

    This one? http://qpwoaksl.tumblr.com/post/34247372168/umad-moralfags

  • http://www.facebook.com/jrandyowens Randy Owens

    Yup, that’s the one, thank you.  Though, really, did they have to throw “moralfags” in there with it?  WTF.

    ETA: Looking at the minor differences between my remembered wording, and the wording in the actual picture, suddenly gives it a different interpretation in my mind. “Ceci n’est pas une pipe.” After all, it points out it’s “a picture of an elephant embryo.”

  • Wednesday


    My understanding is that current thinking is that the eggs exhibiting
    trisomy don’t develop the abnormality  over time, but start out that
    way, and the reason they’re linked to age of the parent is that the
    extra chromosome literally makes the egg slightly heavier, and this
    makes them gravitate to the bottom of the pile, as it were, causing the
    lighter non-trisomy eggs to be “launched” first.

    If that’s true, harvesting the eggs early won’t reduce the incidence
    of trisomy without screening (and might, I suppose, increase it,
    depending). Though if I’m right about it being a literal matter of
    weight, screening should be easy enough.

    Oh, that’s pretty cool! Thanks for correcting me. :)

    Hmm… if that’s the case… uterus-having-people who are on hormonal BC for most of their fertile years should be less at risk of conceiving an embryo with a trisomy if they do try to conceive at a later age than uterus-having people who use other methods (controlling for risk due to sperm provider’s age, etc). Since they’ve ovulated less often and therefore have more of the lighter eggs.

    Oooh, does this give us a non-invasive way to test the “heavier eggs are released later” hypothesis?

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    I guess you could test the eggs released every menstrual cycle and weigh them. That doesn’t require any poking about.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jrandyowens Randy Owens

    I think the point was that if the premisses are correct, then women who used hormonal birth control considerably should have fewer babies with trisomies if they become pregnant at an older age.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

     Wouldn’t that also imply that women who use hormonal birth control reach menopause later (Another one of those things I heard qualified by “researchers aren’t sure but the leading theory is” is that menopause is triggered by the low-egg warning light coming on.) by roughly the same number of months as they were on birth control?

  • Wednesday

    I should’ve said “inexpensive and non-invasive”.  I was thinking that obtaining the eggs released every menstrual cycle would be a major PITA, because even if everyone in the study used a menstrual cup and the full contents of those were gone over in a lab, you could still miss a lot of eggs since they’re so damned small and even cups aren’t going to capture every single cell of menstrual flow. And you’d have to keep this study up for a while to get the necessary data.

    Whereas you could just survey women giving birth in their 30s on their previous use of hormonal BC and a few other things you’d want to control for, and check whether their infants had a trisomy.

  • Jhgtiv

    Citation needed? I was not aware of that statistic and the stated error bar was not exactly inspiring confidence in the method.

  • Rachne

    This. I found the whole fiasco on Terry Shiavo incongruent when it was going on, and that was when I was a practicing faithful conservative catholic.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    MRI or X-rays, then. More eggs = more protons or more absorber material for scattering, so you might get an idea of the weight of the eggs if the mass is proportional to the volume.

  • Rachne

    This is even more confusing when you try using it the other way around on them. This mother has no intention of killing this embryo, but she cannot allow it to implant, or continue to use her uterus to grow because that will cause her to take weeks away from her job that she needs to feed her children. So isn’t contraception and abortion ok because of her intent? Catholic church says: nuh uh. 
    Double speak.

  • Diane

    The vast majority of the embryos “washed out” before implantation are not viable. That is, there is no chance that they could ever live. As current technology stands, we cannot make them live. There is no “massive loss of human life” as a result of the body shedding non-living embryos. Dudley has no argument.

  • http://www.facebook.com/peter.jukkola Peter Jukkola

    For those of us who believe in Creation, death and disease ARE unnatural.  God created this world “very good,” and death and disease came about because of man’s sin and the resulting curse upon Creation.  Research and medical treatment to reduce death and disease are completely in line with this concept.

    Your comment is more in line with evolutionary thinking, in which nature only improves as a result of the “less fit” being allowed to die.

  • EllieMurasaki

    If we must go there, why did God create a world so easy to break and so hard to fix?

  • http://www.facebook.com/henning.micah Micah John Henning

    Perhaps the concept of pro-life is as simple as this: Do all that’s possible to avoid death, natural or not.  Though that’s not the same thing as ‘ensure there are as many lives out there as possible.’

  • Bakakurisu

    Once a child is conceived, he or she is ALREADY “in the world”.

    Abortion isn’t just some frivoulous non-issue like gay marriage or something – legalized abortion is a holocaust.

  • AnonymousSam

    No, once an egg is fertilized by sperm, there’s still a better than even chance that this baby-to-be is going to be flushed out of the uterus-owner’s system along with everything else that month. In the statistically unlikely scenario that the fertilized egg implants in the uterine wall, there’s still an incredibly high chance that, through mechanisms and for reasons medical science doesn’t even really yet understand, the uterus-owner’s body is just going to hiccup it out in a miscarriage.

    So no, conception ≠ “in the world.” Conception = “developing tissues.” Potential is not the same as actuality.

  • Lunch Meat

    If legalized abortion is a holocaust, what did you call it back when abortion was illegal, but women risked their lives to get them, thus leading to dead women and dead fetuses?

    And what would you suggest I do if say, a condom breaks and I find myself pregnant without being able to support a child? Suppose I already have a disabled child that I had to quit my job to take care of? Suppose we are three of the 40 million people living below the poverty line (that’s less than $20,000/year for a family of three)? Suppose I am worried about how that child will feel if I have a baby and give it up for adoption? Suppose I am worried about my ability to take care of my disabled child when I’m very pregnant? Suppose our parents are on fixed incomes or otherwise unable to help out? What do you think?

  • Carstonio

    So can we assume that you support effective and humane strategies such as sex education, access to contraception, economic opportunities, and support for mothers? Instead of, say, sending women and their doctors to prison? Because surely your goal is reducing abortions, and not the cruel and vindictive idea of punishing women who don’t wish to become mothers.


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