Winnipeg MP Steven Fletcher, who is a quadriplegic, is quoted in the Free Press as cheering Obama’s decision to fund embryonic stem cell research, since scientists will be able to work “free from manipulation and coercion.”
Fletcher paints opposition to stem cell research as hypocrisy:
He said anyone who is upset by stem cell research should ask themselves: if they or someone they loved had an illness that could be cured, would they turn down the cure because it came from stem cells? “I think not,” he said.”
There are a couple of serious problems with this portrayal of opposition to research that involves the destruction of embryos, and that’s without getting into the science, about which it will suffice for now to say that a number of respected scientists in the field believe embryonic stem cells to have no advantages over other forms of stem cells.
First, the hypocrisy charge. A measure of compassion is certainly owed to Fletcher, and most of us, thank heavens, will never be called upon to stick to our principles at the cost of a (tenuous) hope of a cure for such a crippling condition. Becoming an MP, and then a member of cabinet, at so young an age would be a remarkable achievement for anybody, let alone someone with such a difficult physical burden to bear, and these accomplishments are a testament to Fletcher’s mental fortitude.
But that doesn’t change the fact that this is an ugly and intellectually lazy point to argue. For those of us who believe an embryo is a human life, albeit at a very early stage of development, the difference between embryo destructive stem cell research and the organ harvesting of political prisoners that (allegedly) goes on in China is one of degree, not of kind. I would like to think that if I, or a loved one, required a heart transplant, I would not in my desperation advocate executing someone and harvesting his heart to save my life or my child’s. If I were driven by my suffering to push for such an action, I hope the broader society around me, while feeling compassion for my plight and doing everything ethical that they could to help me, wouldn’t endorse the suggestion.
The other problem is in the motives ascribed to Bush and others who didn’t sanction embryo-destructive research, thereby creating “manipulation and coercion.” Good people can disagree about the morality of stem cell research, as they can about IVF, and all the other issues related to assisted reproductive technologies. But a good faith debate isn’t possible when, as with Kathleen Parker’s distaste for “oogedy-boogedy” conservatives, pro-life advocates are assumed to be operating from an irrational, anti-scientific or superstitious worldview. Post-modern sophisticates (correctly) point out that pure objectivity is impossible, but they seem to make an exception when it comes to their own positions, which are so clearly enlightened and correct that opponents act not out of conviction or logic but out of some Snidely-Whiplash small-mindedness coupled with a fondness for fundamentalist religion.
I expect this kind of rubbishing of pro-life values from the Liberals and NDP; I expect better from Conservatives.
Andrea adds: I know people, who faced with their own suffering in disease, choose ethical solutions. One of them, Mark Pickup, has a blog that is worth checking out.
It’s a tough leap for people to feel wonder and sympathy for a mere embryo, perhaps especially because we abort 12 week old fetuses with abandon. Tough issues–ones to address with compassion to be sure. But hypocrisy charges? Uncalled for.
Tanya adds: What is a pro-lifer? Normally, it is someone who’s opposed to embryonic stem cell research, abortion, and euthanasia.
The opposite says it’s OK to abort a child with a deformity. The opposite says it’s OK euthanize someone due to undetermined and variable degrees of illness. The opposite says, in the case of embryonic stem cell research, the ends justify the means.
I may be biased, but it seems as though the pro-life side values life, whereas the opposite simply has contempt for sickness, illness, and deformity. It’s all a little Orwellian.
Andrea may be biased too: but also understands that we all are–and I’m pretty open with my bias. Seems to me I pretty consistently encounter folks in favour of embryonic stem cell research, in favour of euthanasia, in favour of abortion–none of these things should be forced, of course–and they think theirs is the “unbiased” position. I raise one eyebrow at them, that’s what I do. Later, I might bite my thumb at them, in a moment of Shakespearian anger.by