Mrs. Q’s Corner: Fetal Tissue Research And The Slippery Slope

by Frances Quaempts

[This, the latest installment of Mrs. Q’s Corner, responds to the discussion of the Trump Administration’s ban on fetal tissue research, and the issues raised in this post particularly.]

I know slippery slope arguments can be annoying, however we have seen, for example, how the years of race-baiting rhetoric that “all cops hate blacks” has led to the current madness. In that spirit I wonder, regarding this issue, just how far the commodification of unborn baby parts could go.

Once upon a time, child sacrifice in some societies was acceptable and even the rule. It would be nice to think we have evolved behaviorally to never entertain such horror, yet after seeing the way recently groups of teens and wild-eyed adults have chased and surrounded those they presume guilty of wrong-think, like jackels, could such barbarism make a comeback?

Could we justify using women to become “tissue-makers” if only they are compensated? Could we justify using the unborn for things like soda flavoring or hair products? Is that already happening? Could we jump from using the unborn to born but with defects or some other issue? Can we justify cannibalism as a means to “save the planet?” Is utilitarianism sometimes an excuse to rationalize the dehumanization of people in order to push through some grand and supposed ideal of humanity that isn’t even possible in a Star Trek episode? Will sacrificing a child or adult make the harvest plentiful when it has in the past?

The “downstream” issues that come up after supposed good ideas are well implemented can be the cause for even greater problems that generations have to deal with later. We have seen the good idea that women are equal turned into women degrading themselves in the name of a sexual revolution that mainly has benefited immature men.

We have seen how the good idea of fighting racism has led crowds to burn down the businesses of those most affected by racism. We have said the Red Scare was utterly without merit while Marxism has slowly poisoned our county using the arts, education, and media as a means for indoctrination.

Of course women should be equal, people of all races should thrive, and if someone wants to believe in some secular utopia where the proletariat magically rules the world, in this country they can. The downstream of it all is not simply the what of something or even the why, but the how. How do we avoid justifying dehumanization in the name of helping humanity? How do we use materials of any kind wisely and with respect? How do we check our unethical rationalizations so we don’t do more harm than good, no matter how utilitarian or beneficial the item or action is? Continue reading

A Response To “Comment Of The Day: ‘Ethics Escape, 8/24/2020: The Not Watching The GOP Convention Edition. Item #3, Fetal Research Ban'”

I promised a response to Chris Marschner’s provocative Comment Of The Day on Item #3 in the post, “Ethics Escape. 8/24/2020: The “Not Watching The GOP Convention” Edition. Here it is…

Chris begins,“Before I go any farther, I believe that fetal tissue is crucial to research.” That’s an excellent stipulation; I concur. Thus we agree that obtaining fetal tissue is beneficial, and an objective with positive value for society.

That leaves as the sole issue for ethical debate as whether using the source of such tissue creates such a counterbalancing negative effect that the positive effect, which has been conceded, is overcome and rendered moot.

Chris says he “can see an argument in favor of the Board’s decision to deny access to such tissues.” I can see the arguments; I wouldn’t make the arguments. I’m assuming Chris not only sees them but agrees with them to some extent. Chris goes on,

I may agree with Turley that such research use of fetal tissue does not incentivize women to have abortions. However ,I do believe it incentivizes sellers of such tissues. Such sales make a commodity of aborted fetal tissues and the of other human tissue donations; this is not some far-fetched fear. Do we want to be like China, which forcibly removes kidneys so that others can have a transplant?

I don’t think “may” is reasonable here. Professor Turley states unequivocally that women do not have abortions to harvest fetal tissue, and while it is impossible to prove a negative, there is literally no evidence that indicates this is a problem. Hospitals sell medical waste, including organs for transplant. Chris’s logict applies with equal force to all things removed from patients, who have a right to deny the medical institution from selling it or using them themselves. The patients, by law, cannot sell their tissues and organs themselves, however, and few choose to take the items home as souvenirs. Almost all the time, patients let health care providers dispose of such things as they see fit, and why wouldn’t they?

The “Coma” scenario, where doctors intentionally kill patients to harvest and profit from their organs, has been around for decades, (The Robin Cook novel was written in 1973.) It just hasn’t materialized, and in the case of fetal tissue, nobody would be killed, in the eyes of the law, if medical professionals were selling it as profit center. The argument is a straw man, a separate theoretical problem related to the issue being discussed, but not strictly relevant. In this it is like the anti-cloning debate. Opponents of cloning worry about how the technology might be abused, but that’s a downstream issue. There is nothing inherently unethical about cloning, just as there is nothing inherently unethical about using fetal tissue for research. If unethical practices emerge, you deal with them directly, not by eliminating the otherwise neutral or beneficial process that creates the opportunity for abuse.

Chris:

Imagine a society that becomes insensitive to the concept of the sanctity of life. It is not outside the realm of possibility that we could begin to allow doctors to withhold life saving but costly treatments in order hasten the demise of a potential donor.

The first sentence is irrelevant in the context of this discussion  because, via Roe v. Wade, the law of the land does not acknowledge fetuses as human life. I think Roe was and is a terrible decision; I am certain that the pro-abortion position that unborn children are like warts or parasites is intellectually dishonest and a belief made necessary by the political objective of abortion access rather than justified by reality, but that doesn’t matter. The U.S. position isn’t insensitive to the sanctity of human life because society and the culture, through the courts, have absorbed the legal fiction that fetuses are not human life. If and when that fiction is rejected—personally, I don’t foresee it happening—then the sanctity of life issue becomes relevant. As for the rest of Chris’s statement: that is happening already, thanks in part to the costs of treatment and the limits of insurance.

I won’t say that doctors pressuring a family to take a brain-dead loved one off of life support because a 17-year old woman needs a heart and lung transplant stat is unethical. It theoretically violates Kant’s Categorical Imperative, but Kant wasn’t considering brain dead patients before such patients could be kept alive. This is when Utilitarian balancing is called for. “Are we willing to let doctors or insurers make that call to take the patient off the vent so he can become a heart donor? I certainly hope not, ” Chris asks. Well, we don’t, and shouldn’t, but the input of those not emotionally involved in the decision is valuable.

Chris continues, Continue reading

Comment Of The Day: “Ethics Escape, 8/24/2020: The “Not Watching The GOP Convention” Edition.” Item #3, Fetal Research Ban

Bioethics is perhaps the most murky area of ethics of all.  I am grateful for Chris Marschner’s Comment of the Day taking on the task of making the counter-argument to yesterday’s post highlighting Professor Turley’s objections (and mine) to the Human Fetal Tissue Research Ethics Advisory Board, appointed by Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar, voting to block 13 out of 14 applications for fetal tissue research. Chris makes as good a case as can be made in defense of the decisions, but I don’t think he has much to work with; as I suggested in the post, this is an uncharacteristically easy call. I’ll return at the end to explain why; in the meantime, here is Chris Marschner’s Comment Of The Day on Item #3 in the post, “Ethics Escape. 8/24/2020: The “Not Watching The GOP Convention” Edition:

Before I go any farther, I believe that fetal tissue is crucial to research. With that said, I can see an argument in favor of the Board’s decision to deny access to such tissues. [Commenter Ryan Harkins] and I may agree with Turley that such reasearch use of fetal tissue does not incentivize women to have abortions. However ,I do believe it incentivizes sellers of such tissues. Such sales make a commodity of aborted fetal tissues and the of other human tissue donations; this is not some far-fetched fear. Do we want to be like China, which forcibly removes kidneys so that others can have a transplant?

Imagine a society that becomes insensitive to the concept of the sanctity of life. It is not outside the realm of possibility that we could begin to allow doctors to withhold life saving but costly treatments in order hasten the demise of a potential donor. For example: assume we have a 28 year old MVA victim with severe head trauma. His intercranial pressure has exceeded 30 for weeks and doctors have told the family that it is unlikely that he will ever recover significantly. After 3 weeks in the ICU the medical costs have risen to about $275,000. Are we at the point that we are going to say, “Let’s stop throwing good money after bad. The guy is an organ donor and he is a match for a person in need.”  Are we willing to let doctors or insurers make that call to take the patient off the vent so he can become a heart donor? I certainly hope not. Continue reading

Ethics Escape, 8/24/2020: The “Not Watching The GOP Convention” Edition

The fact that Bill Clinton was going to speak at the Democratic National Convention was sufficient to justify my personal boycott of that event, and the fact that Scott Baio (“Happy Days,” “Charles in Charge,” “Joanie Loves Chachi”) is speaking at this convention is enough to to keep me away from the Republicans. I assumed that Scott was a speaker the last time because the Republicans were shunning Trump, forcing the nominee to scrape the bottom of the barrel, but he’s the President now. I refuse to accept that there aren’t better choices than Scott Baio available. He’s not only a washed up actor, he’s a washed up actor whom other actors never liked when he wasn’t washed up. He couldn’t even get along with Dick Van Dyke! Baio starred in one of the most degrading reality shows yet—that’s saying something—in which he visited all of his old girlfriends who he had abused when he was a star, admitted how horribly he had treated them and begged for forgiveness, resulting in about half of the women excoriating him on camera. Baio also has been accused of sexually assaulting one of the teenage girls Charles was supposed to be in charge of. Nice.

“the best people…”

1. I don’t understand this story at all, but I do know that the people who run the Susan B. Anthony museum are grandstanding jerks.  Last week President Trump pardoned suffragist Susan B. Anthony, who died in 1906, for her conviction in 1872 for voting before it was legal for women to do so. I wrote about it and rated the pardon a cynical move even for Trump, and a transparent sop for  feminists. Then, based partly on the completely unproven theory that  Anthony would not have wanted to be pardoned, and partly on the now familiar efforts of “the resistance” to deny the President the opportunity to engage in the most benign uses of his legitimate power without being attacked for it,  the leaders of the Susan B. Anthony Museum declined the pardon on her behalf, and the news media dutifully reported that the order had been declined.

The museum has no more power to decline a Presidential pardon for Anthony than I do. Continue reading

The Seventh Annual Ethics Alarms Awards: The Best of Ethics 2015, Part I

Sweet Briar montage

Welcome to the Seventh Annual Ethics Alarms Awards, our blog’s retrospective of the best and worst in ethics over the past year, 2015.

It was a rotten year in ethics again, it’s fair to say, and Ethics Alarms, which by its nature and mission must concentrate on episodes that have lessons to convey and cautionary tales to consider probably made it seem even more rotten that it was. Even with that admission, I didn’t come close to covering the field. My scouts, who I will honor anon, sent me many more wonderfully disturbing news stories than I could post on, and there were many more beyond them. I did not write about the drug company CEO, for example, who suddenly raised the price of an anti-AIDS drug to obscene levels, in part, it seems, to keep an investment fraud scheme afloat. (He’ll get his prize anyway.)

What was really best about 2o15 on Ethics Alarms was the commentary. I always envisioned the site as a cyber-symposium where interested, articulate and analytical readers could discuss current events and issues in an ethics context. Every year since the blog was launched has brought us closer to that goal. Commenters come and go, unfortunately (I take it personally when they go, which is silly), but the quality of commentary continues to be outstanding. It is also gratifying to check posts from 2010 and see such stalwarts who check in still, like Tim Levier, Neil Dorr, Julian Hung, Michael R, and King Kool.  There are a few blogs that have as consistently substantive, passionate and informative commenters as Ethics Alarms, but not many. Very frequently the comments materially enhance and expand on the original post. That was my hope and objective. Thank you.

The Best of Ethics 2015 is going to be a bit more self-congratulatory this year, beginning with the very first category. Among other virtues, this approach has the advantage of closing the gap in volume between the Best and the Worst, which last year was depressing. I’m also going to post the awards in more installments, to help me get them out faster. With that said….

Here are the 2015 Ethics Alarms Awards

For the Best in Ethics:

Most Encouraging Sign That Enough People Pay Attention For Ethics Alarms To Occasionally Have Some Impact…

The Sweet Briar College Rescue. In March, I read the shocking story of how Sweet Briar College, a remarkable and storied all-women’s college in Virginia, had been closed by a craven and duplicitous board that never informed alums or students that such action was imminent. I responded with a tough post titled “The Sweet Briar Betrayal,” and some passionate alumnae determined to fight for the school’s survival used it to inform others about the issues involved and to build support. Through the ensuing months before the school’s ultimate reversal of the closing and the triumph of its supporters, I was honored to exchange many e-mails with Sweet Briar grads, and gratified by their insistence that Ethics Alarms played a significant role in turning the tide. You can follow the saga in my posts, here.

Ethics Heroes Of The Year

Dog Train

Eugene and Corky Bostick, Dog Train Proprietors. OK, maybe this is just my favorite Ethics Hero story of the year, about two retired seniors who decided to adopt old  dogs abandoned on their property to die, and came up with the wacky idea of giving them regular rides on a ‘dog train” of their own design.

Ethical Mayor Of The Year

Thomas F. Williams. When the Ferguson-driven attacks on police as racist killers was at its peak (though it’s not far from that peak now) the mayor of Norwood, Ohio, Thomas F. Williams, did exactly the opposite of New York Mayor Bill de Blasio in response to activist attacks on the integrity of his police department. He released a letter supporting his police department without qualification. At the time, I criticized him for his simultaneously attacking activists as “race-baiters.” In the perspective of the year past, I hereby withdraw that criticism.

Most Ethical Celebrity

Actor Tom Selleck. In a terrible year for this category, Selleck wins for bravely pushing his TV show “Blue Bloods” into politically incorrect territory, examining issues like racial profiling and police shootings with surprising even-handedness. The show also has maintained its openly Catholic, pro-religion perspective. Yes, this is a redundant award, as “Blue Bloods” is also a winner, but the alternative in this horrific year when an unethical celebrity is threatening to be a major party’s nominee for the presidency is not to give the award at all.

Most Ethical Talk Show Host

Stephen Colbert, who, while maintaining most of his progressive bias from his previous Comedy Central show as the successor to David Letterman, set a high standard of fairness and civility, notably when he admonished his knee-jerk liberal audience for booing  Senator Ted Cruz

Sportsman of the Year

CC Sabathia

New York Yankee pitcher C.C. Sabathia, who courageously checked himself into rehab for alcohol abuse just as baseball’s play-offs were beginning, saying in part,

“Being an adult means being accountable. Being a baseball player means that others look up to you. I want my kids — and others who may have become fans of mine over the years — to know that I am not too big of a man to ask for help. I want to hold my head up high, have a full heart and be the type of person again that I can be proud of. And that’s exactly what I am going to do.”

Runner-up: MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred, who dismissed the ethically-addled arguments of Pete Rose fans to reject his appeal to be have his lifetime ban for gambling lifted.  For those who wonder why football never seems to figure in this category: You’ve got to be kidding.

Ethics Movie of the Year

SpotlightTIFF2015

“Spotlight”

Runner-up: “Concussion”

Most Ethical Corporation

Tesla Motors, the anti-GM, which recalled all of its models with a particular seatbelt because one belt had failed and they couldn’t determine why. Continue reading

Planned Parenthood Videos Surprise: Forced To Defend Abortion Ethics Acknowledging The Existence Of A Second Human Life In The Equation, Advocates Run Out Of Arguments, Part Two: Bad Analogies

The involuntary liver transplant from Monty Python's "The Meaning of Life." Why, you're RIGHT, Amanda! It's EXACTLY like a pregnancy!

The involuntary liver transplant from Monty Python’s “The Meaning of Life.” Why, you’re RIGHT, Amanda! It’s EXACTLY like a pregnancy!

(Part One is here.)

If an advocate has persuasive, honest, strong arguments not based on fallacies and rationalizations, I assume that those would be the ones he or she would use.

The recent Center for Medical Progress videos featuring employees of Planned Parenthood and StemExpress describing in graphic detail the process by which fetal tissue is harvested for research, and in some cases showing the process itself, have made abortion advocates squirm by making it difficult for them to deny that a tiny, growing human being is sacrificed in the act of abortion. This makes the evasive “choice” defense of abortion inadequate. Why shouldn’t unborn lives matter? Either because of neglect (“It’s legal” and “it’s my right” have been used to cut off debate for decades), because the rationale for debate has been built on a convenient fiction (“Life? I don’t see any life!”), or because there really aren’t any ethically satisfying justifications for abortion on demand, the pro-abortion lobby’s attacks on the videos have been notable for their lack of substance and abundant desperation.

This has been especially true of the analogies offered for the relationship between a mother and unborn child, and the fetus itself.

In the Washington Post last week, Margo Kaplan, who as an associate professor at Rutgers Law School should be skilled at analogies, attacked anti-abortion advocates with what she seemed to think was a definitive “gotcha!” She notes that there is nowhere near the same level of attention paid to frozen embryos that are donated to research as aborted fetuses, and from this concludes all manner of horrible things about abortion opponents: Continue reading

Planned Parenthood Videos Surprise: Forced To Defend Abortion Ethics Acknowledging The Existence Of A Second Human Life In The Equation, Advocates Run Out Of Arguments (Part One)

The Center for Medical Progress released a trailer yesterday promoting its yet to be released eighth undercover investigative video, this one, like the last, focusing on StemExpress, a biotech company in northern California, that has worked with Planned Parenthood to obtain aborted fetus tissue to be used in research. In the clip, StemExpress CEO Cate Dyer explains that her company receives “intact” aborted fetuses from the abortion clinics they work with.

“Oh yeah, I mean if you have intact cases – which we’ve done a lot – so we sometimes ship those back to our lab in its entirety,” Dyer says on the trailer.

Later, she jokes about shipping little aborted heads. “Tell the lab its coming,” she chuckles. “They don’t want to open the box, go, ‘Oh God!’”

I can’t wait.

Undoubtedly the allies of abortion-on-demand feminists and progressives will attack this video as they have the rest, focusing on anything and everything but the single powerful issue it raises that the abortion movement has successfully obscured, denied and obscured since Roe v. Wade and before. These are small, helpless, innocent human beings being killed, chopped up and distributed like prime beef, and the adults doing it and insisting on it have devolved into callous, cold-eyed mutants incapable of considering what their conduct is. They have not had the courage or integrity to confront the ethical conflicts that abortion raises. These videos are making that avoidance increasingly difficult. As I wrote yesterday, bravo for the The Center for Medical Progress and their allies, who are finally forcing the passive public and cynical political class to consider the issues.

The most fascinating revelation is how weak the case for abortion appears to be, once its advocates are required to stop pretending that there is only one human being—the mother—involved. We know it is weak because the attacks on the videos have largely not addressed the ugly fact on display in them—that human, unborn babies with beating hearts and functioning organs are being killed—nor found a persuasive justification for it.

They haven’t had to do either since Roe v. Wade. “It’s my right!” has been enough, though this is a rationalization that does not address the question of right and wrong. Meanwhile, by adopting the deceitful and misleading label “pro-choice,” aided by lazy and sympathetic journalists to facilitate a deceptive framing of the issue (we are seeing the same process now as “immigrant” is substituted for “illegal immigrant”), the pro-abortion lobby has warped all policy debates into a discussion of the effect of an unwanted pregnancy on women, and never about the effect of ending those pregnancies on the women’s’ off-spring. (They die.)
Suddenly, the videos have made the existence of other human beings in the abortion dilemma is unavoidable, so what are the pro-abortion advocates and their allies doing? Let’s survey them; I’m not going to rehash all the earlier deflections of the videos by Planned Parenthood and pundits (“All medical procedures are hard to look at!”) and the usual hyperbolic accusations of evil motives (“This is a war on women! They want to control our bodies!”). I’ve covered them before, and they should be self-rebutting anyway.

“The videos are illegal!”

Continue reading

Ethics Hero, Maybe For The Ages: The Center for Medical Progress

As I said with the release of the first surreptitious “sting video” of Planned Parenthood released under auspices of the anti-abortion group, the Center for Medical Progress, such videos are, in principle, unethical. However, while the unethical should be used in pursuit of a greater good only with great reluctance, moral certainty and a minimum of harm, there are instances when utilitarianism must apply.

This is one of them.

In the case of abortion, the prospect of saving the lives of millions of unborn is certainly worth the incursion on the ethical values of honesty and respect for privacy implicated by these videos. Indeed, it is worth a great deal more. With the seventh video, released yesterday, the conclusion is unavoidable that we, the public, the nation, and humanity, owe a debt of gratitude to the Center for taking radical action to force  confrontation with the reality of abortion so that there can be a real, open and honest debate  that doesn’t duck the central issue. That issue  is not women’s control over their lives, but the ethics of killing innocent human beings to achieve it.

The latest video, like the earlier ones, compels any fair, emotionally functioning and rational observer to accept the brutality and near complete callousness towards human life that the abortion machine creates and requires. In this respect the seven videos—with more to come— are abortion’s equivalent of “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” forcing genteel, moral, good people by their own confident assessment to confront the horrors that have been occurring under their noses with their passive approval. Because they chose not to think about what abortion really involved, just as so many Americans had no idea what  slavery was like until Harriet Beecher Stowe forced them to consider it as more than an abstraction, abortion advocates, passive and active, have an ethical obligation to watch these videos. Those who refuse are admitting that they are incapable of letting facts disturb their ideologies. Continue reading

Interview Ethics: CNN’s Alisyn Camerota Shows Why News Anchors Need Training In Basic Ethics, Not To Mention Journalism Ethics

Alisyn

This morning, as I rush to get my act to together to fly, sick, to Rhode Island where the bar will allow me to teach ethics to its members in the first two of three planned seminars, I made the mistake of checking in on CNN’s New Day to see what trouble Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota could get themselves into. Sure enough, there was Allison interviewing Oklahoma Senator Jim Lankford regarding Republican efforts to de-fund Planned Parenthood over the revelations of the surreptitiously taken “sting” videos showing various Planned Parenthood personnel seeming to haggling over the prices for tiny little human organs successfully harvested from embryos whose tiny wittle heads have been crushed juuuust right. These individuals discuss unborn human beings with the sensitivity a normal person bestows on a Jimmy Dean sausage, but Planned Parenthood acknowledges that they need to practice a more pleasant tone in case somebody who cares about these inhuman organ bags is listening.

Is that an unfair characterization?

Let me know why you think so.

But I digress…

Camerota’s questioning demonstrated in multiple ways just how ethically ignorant the highest levels of our broadcast journalism are: Continue reading

Planned Parenthood’s Callousness Toward Life On Video, ACT II

In her op-ed for  USA TODAY, Kirsten Powers, one of the token liberals (she’s a moderate conservative, really) on Fox News, does an excellent job of compiling the inadequate and indeed damning responses of Planned Parenthood and the pro-abortion establishment to the video evidence of its executives’ stunning lack of respect for  unborn human life. (I covered much of the same territory here and here.) There is now a second video, and that means that the “this is just an aberration and one woman’s mistake” rationalization for Planned Parenthood’s senior director of medical research, Deborah Nucatola casually talking about crushing the heads of living human beings to preserve their organs for medical research. Powers quotes her “friend and former Obama White House staffer Michael Wear” as tweeting “It should bother us as a society that we have use for aborted human organs, but not the baby that provides them.”

Well said. Does it bother us? It certainly doesn’t bother Democratic presidential candidates, none of whom have breathed a word about the videos. Neither have they been asked about them, because with the exception of the evil Fox News, none of the news organizations have treated the first video as anything but a one day story. Writes Powers, accurately,

It’s a measure of how damning the video is that Planned Parenthood’s usual defenders were nowhere to be found. There was total silence from The New York Times editorial board and their 10 (out of 11) pro-abortion rights columnists. Hillary Clinton and Nancy Pelosi — both recipients of Planned Parenthood’s highest honor, the Margaret Sanger Award — have been mum.

They want the story to go away, and the reason is that the ethics of abortion is extremely vulnerable to facts and honest discussion. Shouldn’t the news media be promoting both? Let me rephrase that: wouldn’t objective, unbiased, ethical journalists have a duty to examine the issue in the light of the videos, and not shrink from them?

Of course. Continue reading