I said in my last (real, non-Friday Fun) post that I would do a piece on ABORTION. And I will. But not just yet.
I'd like to do a bit on EMBRYONIC STEM CELL RESEARCH first, because the two issues often get conflated and IMHO they are completely different. What’s more, to demonstrate this, I will offer a simple proof which shows you can go as far as prohibiting ALL abortions and yet still allow ESC research completely unrestricted AND do this in a logically consistent, principled way. (Completely banning all abortions IS NOT my position, BTW, but the point of this is to demonstrate that being “pro-life”, regardless of how strongly you feel about it, simply does not enter into the ESC debate at all.)
One last thing, before I get into the proof. I am not, and do not claim to be, approaching this issue from a completely objective POV. This is a highly personal issue for me, and I feel that I should disclose that right up front. I have two sons with Autism. And while Autism is not one of the disorders that you hear about very often with regards to the promises of ESC research, and while I am very realistic about the fact that in the unlikely chance that ESC research finds anything to help autistics, it will likely come far to late to have a huge impact of THEIR lives, I am still part of that community. And I am sympathetic to their POV. And many of them DO see this as promising research. It does not drive my entire philosophy on this, of course, but I think it’s important to disclose up front that I DO kind of have a dog in this fight.
Now… ON TO THE PROOF:
First off, we need to define terms:
1) UNIVERSALLY AGREED UPON LIFE: OK. Obviously there must be a line drawn on one end of the spectrum that represents a milestone in which EVERYONE (other than metaphysical philosophers and certified sociopaths) agrees that we have full-fledged human life, and that the entity in question is ABSOLUTELY entitled to ALL legal protections that the law provides. Although there’s always some nutter who'll will quibble about this, to keep things simple we’ll take this to be a live birth. This is the point in time after which we agree there is NO DEBATE, from ANYONE, that this LIFE must be protected. (Note: Henceforth if I refer to “life” THIS is the condition I am talking about!)
2) POTENTIAL LIFE: Here’s where the compromise comes in. “Potential Life” represents everything between the point in which the potential for life begins until we reach the milestone of "universally agreed upon life." It is a concession to the liberal camp to acknowledge the existence of this grey area. In what is a HUGE concession to the conservatives, we’re going to go ahead and agree that ANY AND ALL potential life will receive EVERY LEGAL PROTECTION that “LIFE” does. So, while we don’t accept the “life begins at conception” theory, we WILL extend every legal protect potential life that we do to life. That should satisfy the conservatives moving forward, correct? Good.
3) POTENTIAL: This is the key. And this is where the real test lies. POTENTIAL, relative to LIFE, means that, left on it’s own, we’re dealing with an entity that, given nothing but time (traditionally around nine months, give or take) has a GREATER THAN ZERO PERCENT chance of developing into universally agreed upon life. NOTICE: I did not say 100% chance, 10% or even 1%. I’ve given the conservatives the most generous threshold I can: Greater than ZERO. So if there is ANY CHANCE AT ALL, as long as it’s not IMPOSSIBLE, that we will, at some point in the future have universally agreed upon life, we will extend ALL LEGAL PROTECTIONS to that entity? We game so far? Good.
SO NOW… THE MILLION DOLLAR QUESTION: What is the earliest point in which we can establish the POTENTIAL for LIFE and thus be obligated to protect that entity?
Obviously this line will be drawn well before BIRTH. So we’re not even looking at TRIMESTERS here or anything even like that. Save that for the ABORTION debate. Let’s look at the other end of the spectrum...
Let’s start by applying this logic to the earliest possible entitles: Individuals sperm and egg cells. (Just to test it.) I think it is apparent to all but the most insanely devout Catholics (meaning: limited primarily to the non-pedophilic priesthood) that there is simply no anyone will argue that individual sperm and egg cells can ever, EVER, become “life” on their own. So we all agree that their potential is “zero,” and thus most ration peoples views regarding contraception, masturbation, IVF, surrogate/sperm donation, research, etc... So those (and most rational peoples' views on such matters) both pass the test, and thus the the test WORKS, in this case.
NOW… let’s look at EMBRYO’S; the sperm / egg combination. Potential? Perhaps. Immediately, at CONCEPTION? No. That’s right, I said: NO. Not one bit. Absolutely IMPOSSIBLE for an embryo to develop into “life.” Won’t happen…
IMPLANTATION. That’s right, folks! Until the embryo is implanted in the uterine wall, it's chance on developing into universally agreed upon life is exactly: ZERO. Thus the appropriate milestone at which the POTENTIAL for life is established is thus IMPLANTATION, not conception! What sane person can argue otherwise? Whether the embryo is frozen in hydrogen, swimming in a Petri dish, sitting on a counter-top, being flushed down the toilet or for that mater ANYWHERE in the physical or anti-matter universerse OTHER that implanted in the uterine wall it WILL NOT become LIFE. Period. Not in nine months, not in a million years. It will NEVER be anything other than what it is, and if not frozen in hydrogen, after a fairly short time even the cells themselves will simply die. Since ESC Research take place BEFORE implantation, the is no rational reason that this research should be taboo. (How can you have LIFE if you don't even have POTENTIAL?!)
Bottom line: We can argue that the ABORTION line be drawn anywhere between IMPLANTATION and BIRTH, but there is just no reason to draw the line any farther back than IMPLANTATION. (Did you know: PRIOR to implantation, you body shows no signs of pregnancy, is not aware of the embryo’s presence and no pregnancy test in the world can detect it? So how COULD you have an abortion if no one, every your own body, can detect the pregnancy?!) Concepcion is an irrelevant milestone. Until implantation, as far as I’m concerned, the debate doesn’t even begin.
Embryonic Stem-Cell research should thus:
1) Be completely legal and without restriction. (Come on! Grow a set Barack!)
2) Be federally funded, just as most other medical research is.
3) Only have restriction placed based on it to make sure that the limited resources (embryos, money) be used for the best possible projects. We don’t need ESC research looking for the next big thing in lip gloss.
As for ABORTION… Well, according to this we can debate all the way back to implantation, which still cover any and all abortions. (Sorry Lib’s!) But the point here was to separate the two issues, not to ban abortion. So we can take that one up in the next post!
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(And, BTW... for all you shade-tree economists out there, that diddy on Keynes is still coming! I didn’t forget. But it’s been on and off the back burner for a little while now… so it’s not ready just yet. It’s coming though! Important stuff! LOL.)