Thursday, November 02, 2006

On stem cells and abortion

Scott Adams discussed stem cell research today, and I donated blood. The link between the two may seem a bit tenuous, but it was enough to make me decide that it would be a good time to talk about the stem cell issue.

Ignoring the potential benefits of this research, the destruction of embryos for the purpose of harvesting stem cells is little different from abortion, and should be governed by the same laws. I think most people on either side of the issue would agree with that, as the people who oppose abortion seem to be the same ones who oppose embryonic stem cell research. If anything, the stem cell research should be less objectionable than any method of abortion other than the morning-after pill, because of the stage of development at which the various procedures take place. In short, harvesting embryonic stem cells should be legally tantamount to an abortion 4 to 5 days after conception.

So, should such abortions be allowed? Most pro-lifers seem to be opposed to abortion at any stage of development -- including the use of emergency contraception, or "morning-after", pills -- and some even take this to the extreme of vilifying (male) masturbation and the use of contraception because they result in the destruction of cells that could potentially be used to create life. Not to dismiss these people off-hand as lunatics, but by this logic, menstruation and nocturnal emission are, at the very least, involuntary manslaughter.

Such people are usually opposed these things for religious reasons. I will not argue with these reasons, except to remind the reader that creating laws to enforce religious values is unconstitutional. Without the religious basis, all that matters is what rights the embryo/fetus has at what stage of development. A living creature has rights that a collection of cells -- such as the blood that I donated -- does not, anyone but the most hardcore vegans would likely agree that a person has rights that a living creature does not, and persons is a subset of living creatures, which is a subset of collections of cells. I am all three, and if you're reading this, chances are you are too.

Now this will sound cynical, but I'm not entirely convinced that a child achieves the level of self-awareness required for personhood until sometime after birth. Now, I'm not suggesting that post-birth abortions should be allowed, but I do think that the reason they shouldn't has more to do with the psychological effects on the mother and others involved than it does with the rights of the child.

Well, there's more to say on the issue, but I hope I've given you something to think about, and I'm sure some of you will have something to say about what I've already written (I'm looking in your direction, Lou), so I'll finish discussing the issue later.


Lou said...

As mentioned on Scott Adams' blog, 20 years of research on embryonic stem cells hasn't cured anybody. Nobody is happy that Michael J. Fox has Parkinson's, but let's be honest, embryonic stem cell research isn't going to cure him. For Michael J. Fox to get on the CBS News and shake for Katie Couric two weeks before the election is chicanery. The Democrats' message is that embryonic stem cell research would have cured the sick if it weren’t for the big bad Republicans who put a stop to it. But the Democrats' message is a lie.

If you honestly consider
President Bush's position on the matter
, you'll see that it has been well-researched and makes a world of sense. Decent people don't want a culture that devalues life. Self-awareness has nothing to do with it.

Also, I take issue with your premise that "creating laws to enforce religious values is unconstitutional". God Himself said "thou shall not kill". Does that mean that the cops will let you off because the law against murder "enforces religious values and is therefore unconstitutional"? It doesn't work that way. Most laws "enforce religious values" and that's the way it should be.

whosawhatsis? said...

Well, that was a little disappointing. I was hoping that after your response, I'd know exactly what I need to cover in my followup. This will take a little more consideration on my part than I had hoped, anyone else wanna take a shot in the meantime?