Monday, August 17, 2009

Reproductive Technology

This is an intro to a topic I want to cover later, embryonic adoption. I know the subject has been covered (probably better) by others (more eloquent than I), but it's my blog, so here goes.

Most people I know dismiss the Catholic position on reproductive "technology" (abortion, fertility treatments) as being a "religious thing" and since they don't agree with the religion, they are absolved from having to consider the position at all. Yet to Catholics, these things are not a matter of faith, but a matter of careful reason, and we can't for the life of us figure out why anyone of any (or no) faith could fail to follow the reasoning.

So let's look at the issue for a moment. Without invoking God, or faith, or any aspect that is not totally secular. Let's use as our only guidelines science and history. The first part is scientific. An embryo is a complete unique human being. That is not a matter of opinion, or faith or belief of any kind, that is a scientific fact. By any reasonable definition, there is no lightning bolt moment of change that occurs from the moment of conception through birth that takes you from non-human to human.

The embryo is not part of the mother's body, nor is it a "potential-human" or any other of the terms people make up to try to defend a pro-choice opinion they already hold. All of those arguments are anti-scientific and are simply not supported by fact. Don't believe it? Get a textbook on embryology and find where it says the embryo is not human. For some web references, check out When Does Life Begin?, The Embryo as a Human Being and When Does Science Say Human Life Begins?.

So there's the scientific evidence supporting the Church's position. You could say "yes, the unborn is human, but it doesn't have rights." To which I will apply the second point, one which is made quite clearly in the Declaration of Independence. All men are created equal. They are endowed with certain unalienable rights. Among those rights are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. First, let's look at what this means, then why it is an important principle to hold.

With all due respect to those who argue for inclusive language, "men" as used here means "members of the human race" (if you don't believe me, look in a dictionary). So it is saying all human beings have equal rights. A human being's rights don't depend on his location, his skin color, his beliefs, his size or ability. Very powerful words, and words which this country has not yet lived up to. From it's beginning America practiced slavery, although it was not in accordance with these words. Today it is the unborn human being who has his basic rights violated.

But the Declaration of Independence says "life liberty and the pursuit of happiness". Doesn't the mother's pursuit of happiness count? Yes it does, but consider that (except in the case of rape) the woman chose to risk pregnancy (even if she did not desire it, it was a consequence of her freely chosen course of action), so her "pursuit of happiness" has not been violated, she just made a decision that was not consistent with her goals (if her goal was not to be pregnant).

In any case nine months of pregnancy doesn't ruin your chance at happiness forever, whereas losing one's life irrevocably destroys all one's rights for all time. Those three rights were not put in that order by accident, but in order to reflect a priority. Without life there are no other rights possible. Without liberty, pursuing one's happiness is not possible.

OK, so equal rights means we don't kill humans, form conception to death. But who's to say that we should have equal rights for all. Suppose I say that some rights are for "people", not just "humans" and I define "people" to mean those who are born. Let's follow this thought to its logical conclusion. Someone (presumably someone in power) has to decide who is a "person". Since there is no logical, scientific means of determining what "person" means (remember we're ignoring the scientific term "human being"), the definition is arbitrary, and will come to mean whatever those with that power choose to make it to support their goals.

Could this happen? History tells us it can. In colonial America (and until frighteningly recently) Africans were considered a "sub-human" species, not "people" and thus not subject to equal rights with white skinned people. Thus, slavery was acceptable. In Nazi Germany, there were several classes of people based on how close to the genetic Arin "ideal" they were. Jews, in particular, were "non-persons". Don't like that system? The government would declare you a "non-person". Off to the concentration camps to be a slave, and ultimately killed. We've seen numerous groups up to the current day that define one group or another as being "non-persons" to justify genocide. It has happened in Iraq, Darfour, China, and numerous other places in recent history. Once we allow any redefinition of person in order to remove someone's fundamental rights we are on a slippery slope.

Thus, the only logical, ethical, moral and just choice is to be pro-life. Only by protecting the rights of all human beings as they are clearly delineated by science can we avoid slavery, war, genocide (no, being pro-life is not sufficient to stop these, but it is necessary)!

And thus is the Church's position on abortion, and in-vitro fertilization and most other reproductive procedures (because they all involve killing human beings). Embryonic stem cells fall under the same logic (human beings are killed to harvest the cells). All arrived at without mentioning God (oops!)


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