Kinsley vs. Douthat on Stem Cells
“If I felt you were serious, we would have a quandary as well. But there’s no quandary because you’re not serious. Your actions are too different from your words. You are doing absolutely nothing about the millions of fertilized eggs that are destroyed naturally every year (in miscarriages so early that the potential mother is not even aware of them), or the thousands that are produced and unused by fertility clinics going about their normal work (which are either discarded or pointlessly frozen in the hope of some miraculous ethical breakthrough).”
“Pro-lifers are often damned for being uncompromising zealots; here Kinsley is taking a case where the pro-life movement pretty clearly hasgone in for compromise – drawing the line at having their tax dollars used for embryo-killing, rather than trying to get the practice banned outright – and damning them for being morally unserious. Heads he wins, tails we lose, I guess. ..As should be clear from other examples, at home and abroad, most pro-lifers would like to heavily regulate fertility clinics, and would support efforts to give every embryo a chance at life. (I will pass over his line about miscarriages, which seems to imply that a “serious” pro-life movement would be trying to pass laws against accidental deaths.) But that’s not where the national debate is at the moment, to put it mildly, so instead pro-lifers have done what you’re supposed to do in a democracy, which is to meet the general public where they are. This doesn’t make them insincere; it makes them sensible. “
Now, Douthat says much that is sensible, and I especially appreciate his on-the-mark response to the idiotic comment about miscarriages (I fail to understand why people think this constitutes an argument). But he doesn’t fully address Kinsley’s main point, which is that there is an inconsistency between those who oppose ESCR but who are content to leave the IVF clinic more or less alone, even if they might personally disagree with the act. If this sounds familiar, it is. While pro-lifers might differ on strategy, very few would argue that what really matters is public funding of abortion and that the government turning a blind eye to private abortion is fine. Focusing on ESCR while ignoring the IVF clinics is tantamount to the same thing. Don’t get me wrong: I fully realize that the use of public funds steps everything up a notch and that the discarding of human life in the service of a cold and calculating consequentialism is particularly odious, but I am still surprised by how little attention is devoted to what goes on inside these clinics.
If I were to hazard a guess, it would be that there is a general reluctance to interfere in the so-called “private” decisions of middle class life. That is why we hear so little about divorce, about adultery, about contraception, and about attempts to “improve” fertility. After all, in many circles, having a child is seen as an individual right, to be coveted as yet another possession that goes with the big house and the SUV. Is the reluctance to denounce IVF as the evil it is a matter of culture?