Abortion, Stem Cells, In Vitro Fertilization, and Tribalism

Michael Kinsley sums up the ethical inconsistency of the Blastocyst Liberationists:

Third, although the political dilemma that stem cells pose for politicians is real enough, the moral dilemma is not and never was. The embryos used in stem-cell research come from fertility clinics, which otherwise would discard them. This has been a powerful argument in favor of such research. Why let these embryos go to waste? But a more important point is, What about fertility clinics themselves? In vitro fertilization (“test-tube babies”) involves the purposeful creation of multiple embryos, knowing and intending that most of them either will die after implantation in the womb or, if not implanted, will be discarded or frozen indefinitely. Even if all embryonic-stem-cell research stopped tomorrow, this far larger mass slaughter of embryos would continue. There is no political effort to stop it. Bush even praised in vitro fertilization in his 2001 speech about the horrors of stem-cell research. In vitro has become too popular for politicians to take on. But their failure to do so makes a mockery of their alleged agony over embryonic stem cells.

This ‘pro-life’ position has nothing to do with ethical reasoning (which is why Kinsley’s argument will fail to convince any of the Fetus Fetishists), and everything to with tribalism. In that sense, it is part and parcel of the ethical mess that is the ‘pro-life’ position of punishing doctors who perform abortions, but not the women who have–and request and pay for–them. There is a tribal morality play to be acted out, wherein the mindless Christopath Uruk-hai get to be the good guys. Inconveniences like reason simply are not allowed to get in the way. Exposing moral incongruencies only strengthens their resolve: if ‘liberals’ (i.e., those who haven’t undergo full-immersion baptism in the Kool-Aid) oppose the ‘pro-life’ view must be just.
That’s how tribalism works.
I bring up tribalism because tribalism is a superb way to manipulate the vanguard (often violent) of a political movement. Usually this does not end well…

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2 Responses to Abortion, Stem Cells, In Vitro Fertilization, and Tribalism

  1. Derek James says:

    I disagree.
    While I’m a strong advocate for embryonic stem cells research, I don’t think it’s inconsistent to argue that legalizing the use of surplus embryos would lead to the intentional production and sale of embryos solely for research purposes.
    I don’t necessarily agree with the reasoning, but I also don’t think the issue is morally clear-cut, and I’d be reticent to label people who oppose experimentation with embryos with the broad brush of simple-minded tribalism.

  2. mirc says:


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