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Navigation: SOS Sisson > Life Ethics Blog
Jack Sisson's Life Ethics Blog
We must find new ways through many ethical issues, especially regarding bioethics, medical ethics, and criminal justice. Jack Sisson's 'Life Ethics' blog focuses on numerous areas of concern, including the philosophical and ethical dilemmas surrounding stem-cell research, abortion, medical research, and health care.
Sunday, July 29, 2007
Tom DeLay Connects 40 Million Dots
...and forms a picture eerily symmetrical with America's leaky borders.
DeLay, former GOP Congressman and House Majority Leader from Texas, has noticed what he believes to be a non-coincidence -- one which I bet has not been pointed out by your local baby-killing professor of statistics, no sir: a rough correspondence in the number of abortions since Roe v. Wade, and the number of "illegal" immigrants to the US in that same period. In an address to the recent National Convention of the College Republicans organization, DeLay said:
If you believe abortion, if you believe that doesn't affect you... I contend it affects you in immigration. If we had those 40 million children that were killed over the last 40 years, we wouldn't need the illegal immigrants to fill the jobs that they are doing today. Think about it.I have thought about it, Tom, although it took your asking the question to open my eyes. Also hauntingly corresponding to that 40 million figure:
(Creepily, DeLay has not been the first -- let alone only -- speaker on the right to make the connection between abortion and illegal immigration. He was preceded a few months back by Zell Miller, former Georgia governor and one-time Democrat. Miller, however, also credited Roe v. Wade for its negative effects on US military strength and the Social Security System, and hence diluted his message somewhat. Miller used a figure of 45 million abortions rather than DeLay's 40 million, and maybe it was the additional 5 million who could have been in Iraq or Afghanistan and/or paying into Social Security -- if only their mothers had cared about them!)
It's possible, we would contend, to discuss reasonably the question of whether there might or might not have been too many abortions (legal or otherwise) in the last 40 years. But tying that discussion to random hot-button issues like "illegal" immigration is cheap, unconstructive, misleading, and flagrantly inflammatory. Not to read too much into the former Congressman's words, but the least stupidity with which we can credit him is to imply that 40 million aborted fetuses might have grown up to occupy the cheap-labor jobs held by so many "illegal" immigrants. They sure wouldn't have grown up to become College Republican keynoters forced out of their elected positions because of finance scandals, eh, Tom?
(By the way, DeLay's "40 years" isn't quite right; it's been only 34 years since Roe v. Wade. Perhaps DeLay's loosey-goosey way with numbers led to some of his off-camera troubles.)
For the record, here's a YouTube video of DeLay's address; advance the time slider to around 3:45 unless you want to see all the stuff that precedes it:
Sunday, July 22, 2007
"It is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma..."
And the rest of the quotation, originally from Winston Churchill, regarding what used to be the Soviet Union: "...but perhaps there is a key."
Mike Doonesbury's daughter Alex joins the rest of us who are confused about the Russian-nesting-doll of puzzles for our time. See the complete strip here.
Sunday, July 15, 2007
Surgeon General Nominee's Final Thoughts on Stem Cell Research
Wired Science -- Steven Edwards, July 14, 2007 -- Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA) offered James Holsinger, the nominee for Surgeon General, a final opportunity to defend himself against the accusations that he is anti-gay. Holsinger's answer demonstrated that he has no problem writing a paper to support a "specific purpose," which isn't likely to raise his support among Democrats.
Holsinger ended by responding to questions about embryonic stem-cell research, saying that President Bush's plan is an effective one that is allowing progress. He also explained his opposition to a Kentucky bill that would have criminalized embryonic stem-cell research, but neglected to say whether he would support therapeutic cloning.
This final testimony -- particularly calling President Bush's stem-cell program effective -- probably sealed his fate. When asked whether he agrees with the scientific community that expanding Bush's pogram would allow greater progress, Holsinger again dodged by saying he has had no reason to keep up with the science since 2002.
Read part of the exchange between Sen. Kennedy and Dr. Holsinger here, in which Holsinger elaborates somewhat on his beliefs.
Friday, July 13, 2007
Former Surgeon General Carmona Says Bush Administration Blocked Him From Speaking About Stem Cell Research
From Medical News Today, 14 July 2007 -- Former Surgeon General Richard Carmona on Tuesday in a hearing with the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform said the Bush administration routinely blocked him from speaking out or issuing reports on human embryonic stem cell research, abstinence-only sex education, emergency contraception and other sensitive public health issues while he was serving in the position, the Washington Post reports.
He said the administration often edited his speeches for politically controversial content and encouraged him to attend internal "political pep rallies," the Wall Street Journal reports (Meckler, Wall Street Journal, 7/11). In addition, Carmona said he was required to mention Bush three times on every page of his speeches and was asked to make speeches to promote Republican political candidates, the New York Times reports.
Carmona said the Bush administration told him not to speak about the national debate over whether the federal government should fund embryonic stem cell research (Washington Post, 7/11). Federal funding for embryonic stem cell research currently is allowed only for research using embryonic stem cell lines created on or before Aug. 9, 2001, under a policy announced by Bush on that date. Bush last month vetoed a bill... that would have allowed federal funding for research using stem cells derived from human embryos originally created for fertility treatments and willingly donated by patients (Kaiser Daily Women's Health Policy Report, 6/22).
"Much of the discussion was being driven by theology, ideology (and) preconceived beliefs that were scientifically incorrect," Carmona said, adding, "I thought, 'This is a perfect example of the surgeon general being able to step forward, educate the American public.' ... I was blocked at every turn. I was told the decision had already been made -- 'Stand down. Don't talk about it.' That information was removed from my speeches."
Go to Medical News Today to read the complete article. You will also find links to video segments of some of Carmona's television interviews from a few days ago.
Sunday, July 08, 2007
Pizza and the Beginning of Human Life
I love "Seinfeld". My husband John and I now own DVD sets for the first 6 seasons, and we plan to eventually buy them all. The other night, while watching an early episode in season 6, we both suddenly sat up and looked at each other as the show took an unexpected step into the abortion issue. (This was especially interesting to me because I'd so recently posted to this blog a newspaper column from the late '80s in which the author referenced the great divide between pros and anti's. Now here's Seinfeld, in 1994, using making pizza as a metaphor for creating a human being.) And while the show asked, "when does a pizza become a pizza?", this blog continues to ask, "when does an embryo become human life?"
We just cannot seem to resolve this question , can we? Here's part of the Seinfeld episode, "The Couch," which first aired on October 27, 1994, and which features Poppie, Kramer's restauranteur friend, who once grossed Jerry out by not washing his hands after using the bathroom:
JERRY: Poppie, I was just curious...where do you stand on the abortion issue?And the debate continues.
If you'd like to see more Seinfeld scripts, here's a link to a site that has all of them.
Sunday, July 01, 2007
The Beginning of... Rodent Life?
A few days ago, Reuters summarized two papers published in the current issue of Nature on using mouse and rat embryonic stem cells in lieu of those from humans, which "should speed up research into regenerative medicine and help in the hunt for cures to a range of diseases." That the two papers -- one from a team at Oxford, the other from a Cambridge group -- were developed concurrently and independently "is a sign of momentum picking up in stem cell research," says the Reuters piece:
Laboratory mice have long been a favourite model for human disease but researchers have been frustrated by the fact that human and mouse stem cells behave very differently.Here on this blog we tend to focus (rightly or wrongly) on the stem-cell debate as a case of common sense at odds with deep-seated religious moral and/or religious beliefs. But it's interesting to think about how the use of non-human embryonic sources both (a) seems to sidestep the debate altogether, and (b) doesn't really sidestep anything after all -- just shoves the real issue out of sight, by removing it from the scrutiny of partisans (on both sides) otherwise focused on the word "human." The issue, not to put too fine a point on it, is that human life is a subset, a special case, of animal life. Hence the question: If we can comfortably come to a consensus about the use of non-human embryonic stem cells for the betterment of human life, can't we come to a consensus about the use of human embryonic stem cells for that purpose? Particularly when the cells in question are earmarked for no other purpose other than disposal?
Note that I'm not arguing here for what the consensus should be. (It would hardly be a consensus if I just told everybody what to believe, hmm?) Given a Sophie's Choice-type dilemma requiring that I save the life of a human or the life of a mouse, but not both, I'd choose the human just as I suppose most of you would. It would be fair to say that I hold human life to be sacred, just as most of you do.
That very notion of the sacredness of human life, perhaps, is where the potential for consensus is greatest. If a human embryonic stem cell is destined for the waste can anyway, why not use it instead to affirm the sacredness of human life as it is or will be lived by actual living, breathing erstwhile embryos who at some time come to term?
Roe v. Wade
Stem Cell Fight!
Bush the hypocrite
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