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Ice-buckets, IVF and mass-murderers

Ice-buckets, IVF and mass-murderers August 25, 2014

The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Cincinnati has warned parishioners not to participate in the ALS Association’s Ice-Bucket Challenge fundraiser, because the organization supports research involving embryonic stem cells.

This again. The Catholic hierarchy’s teaching is at least consistent. It seems perverse to me — and to the vast majority of lay Catholics — to portray the life-giving technologies of stem-cell research and in vitro fertilization as forms of mass murder rather than benevolent ways to increase human flourishing. But hey, at least the bishops aren’t contradicting themselves the way their Republican Party has been doing for the past 25 years.

As I wrote here eight years ago:

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 “youngest members of the human family” 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.

If you accept the anti-abortion premise and the anti-abortion logic of the Catholic hierarchy’s opposition to embryonic stem-cell research, then you must also believe that IVF fertility clinics are slaughterhouses far worse than any abortion clinic. You must also believe that couples who have used IVF treatments to have children are also morally repugnant killers complicit in mass murder.

I doubt you believe this. I doubt that anyone is capable of truly believing this — intellectually, ethically, emotionally, instinctually.

One of these things is not like the other.
One of these things is not like the other.

We’ve discussed this thought experiment before, but let’s do it again:

A fire breaks out in an IVF clinic. There’s a young girl, 10 years old, unconscious on the floor, and there’s a tray of frozen embryos in the freezer. You have just enough time to rescue either the girl or the embryos, but you cannot rescue both. Do you leave the burning building with a single human person — the girl? Or do you leave the girl behind and rescue the dozens of “snowflake babies” from the freezer?

I would rescue the girl, every time. And I would probably regard anyone who chose otherwise as monstrous.

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