|Pregnant Pause Home||Bio-ethics||Search this site|
I just read a review by Roger Ebert of the movie Sister's Keeper. Ebert makes a statement that demonstrates such a complete mis-reading of the pro-life philosophy that I found it rather jarring. I certainly comprehend that there are prople out there who disagree with me. But it surprises me when I learn that they don't even know the most basic elements of what we're saying. Don't these people even bother to listen to what their opponents say before they begin their rebuttals?
Let me clarify that I am not commenting here about the movie itself. I haven't seen it; I haven't read the book. I have no idea if I'd like it or hate it. I'm talking here about the review, not about the movie.
Apparently the gist of the movie is that a girl has leukemia and needs blood, bone marrow, and stem cell transplants. So her parents have another child, using in vitro fertilization techniques to insure that this child will be a suitable donor for her older sister. The little sister comes to resent the endless operations. When she reaches the age of 11 and her parents plan to take one of her kidneys for her older sister, she rebels and gets a lawyer to block the operation.
At this point the reviewer writes:
The movie never says so, but itís a practical parable about the debate between pro-choice and pro-life. If youíre pro-life, you would require Anna to donate her kidney, although there is a chance she could die, and her sister doesnít have a good prognosis. If youíre pro-choice, you would support Annaís lawsuit.
Wow. Has this guy been paying attention to the debate? He has the pro-life position completely backward.
Remember the whole embryonic stem cell debate and cloning debates? Pro-lifers said we were against children being conceived just to serve as organ donors for others. Pro-choicers defended this idea. George Bush, the pro-life president, put restrictions on funding of embryonic stem cell research and pushed through a ban on cloning. Barack Obama, the pro-choice president, lifted both. Pro-lifers fought against letting children be conceived to be used as stem cell or organ donors. Pro-choicers fought in favor of not only allowing it, but paying for it with tax dollars. Perhaps Ebert has not only the pro-life position wrong, but also the pro-choice position. While I've never heard pro-choicers say they would be in favor of forcing an 11-year-old child to donate an organ, they have clearly said they are in favor of forcing an 11-week-old unborn child to do so.
The essence of the pro-life position has always been that no human being, and especially a helpless child, should ever be used as an object for the convenience of others. If a month ago you wanted a baby and so you deliberately got yourself pregnant, but now your boyfriend has left you and you don't want to be pregnant anymore, that's too bad, we understand that this can be a huge burden, but you cannot dispose of a human life simply because it has become inconvenient to you. Children are not toys to be picked up when they are fun and thrown away when they no longer amuse you. If you had no desire or intention to become pregnant to begin with, but just wanted some quick and fun sex and condoms ruin the pleasure for you, again, sorry, too bad. You knew that was a possibility when you had sex. Now there's another human life involved. You do not have the right to kill another human being to make up for your poor planning.
The only sense I can make out of Ebert's thinking is that perhaps he has an old straw-man pro-abortion argument in mind. It goes like this: By forbidding an abortion, you are forcing the pregnant woman to donate her uterus -- her bodily organs -- to preserve the life of another person. Would you do this in any other case? Suppose that person A has kidney failure. The only suitable donor we can find is person B. Would it be right to force person B to donate a kidney to person A? If not -- and most would agree it is not right -- then how is forcing a woman to donate her uterus to keep a baby alive right?
We discuss this analogy in some detail in our article, The Kidney Patient Analogy. But briefly put, the analogy fails on a number of points. To use the scenario from the movie:
Pro-lifers would not say that this little girl should be forced to give up her kidney for her sister. While I haven't taken a survey on the subject, I suspect that most pro-lifers would be against it: She's just a child, and no one has the right to ask this of her. If someone asked the parents to donate a kidney to save their daughter, I -- and I think most pro-lifers -- would say that they should, but that the law should not require them to do so.
I have never heard pro-choicers discuss this particlar issue, so I don't presume to know what they would say. But if you take their arguments for stem cell research and cloning to their logical conclusion, they should say that they are in favor of such forced organ donations. After all, the whole point of their defense of this research is that "saving lives" is a great and noble thing, and if we can save lives by creating a new human life for the sole purpose of killing him and then "harvesting" his stem cells or body organs to help someone else, that is a great technical and moral advance. Of course they always talk in terms of killing the person before birth. But suppose that the developing baby could be kept alive in an artificial womb in a laboratory -- whether it's some big glass tube filled with clear bubbling liquid and the baby floating in the middle like you see in the science fiction movies, or whatever. Clearly the advocates of embryonic stem cell research would have no ethical problem with keeping this baby growing for 8 months and then killing him and harvesting his organs for transplant. Would it make a difference if it was 10 months? As long as he is never "born", i.e. removed from the tube, what difference would another two months make? What about 11 months? Two years? At what point would it cease to be "medical research" and become "murder"?
July 4, 2009.
|Pregnant Pause Home||Bio-ethics||Search this site|