Friday, July 29, 2005

Is it Hypocrisy or Irony?

This column is rated PG for creepiness and grossness and for the disgusting thoughts of its author
     Conservatives want to have their cake and eat it too, it seems. They loved the story of Susan Torres, the dead woman kept on life-support so her baby can be born. It's a great story for the self-proclaimed "culture of life" crowd. Life Survives Death! What a great headline.
     Susan was 21 weeks pregnant when she died. That's almost 5 months out of the normal 9. Typically, viability of the fetus is around 23-24 weeks, sometimes later. Susan's widower, Jason, decided to keep her body hooked up to machines so that the baby could have another month in the womb and have a chance to live. It's a decision that, while immensely creepy, has not met a lot of controversy. And who could really argue, knowing that despite using her body as a mindless tool for baby creation, they are helping to create a life? BTW, I'm using words like "creepy" and "mindless tool", not because I oppose these efforts, which I don't. I use these words because they are true. I think most of us find something unsettling about a baby being born of a dead woman, as miraculous as we think the baby is.
     Here's what I find funny. Many of the same people who love Susan Torres' story oppose stem cell research, in vitro fertilization, and abortion. At first glance, these stances don't seem to conflict. But look at their arguments: Abortion at any stage is murder, not because of intelligence (which doesn't exist in a fetus), not because of any identifying human characteristics like arms or a head (which doesn't exist in an embryo), but because of their unique DNA (which was unknown when late-term abortions were banned by the church in the middle ages and all abortions were briefly banned in 1588. They were made legal by the church again in 1591 until 1869.) The unique DNA of an embryo is the reason given by at least one commenter here as the reason why it must be allowed to live in the future, why it must not be used for any purpose, even to help save lives via its stem cells. But did Susan Torres not have unique DNA? It's OK to use her body as a baby factory, but it's not OK to use an embryo the size of the period at the end of this sentence for its stem cells?
     Let's take this example to its logical, yet extreme example. Say Jason Torres decides that his wife would have wanted to have 3 children. Presumably her brain cancer did not damage the other eggs in her body. What if he had doctors artificially inseminate Susan so she could have another baby, and another? Are we OK with that morally? What's the difference between the second and third baby and the first one? I can guess one answer - nod if you agree. It's because the first one was already on its way towards life, right? And stopping it would be murder while creating a new life in Susan's dead body would just be unnatural and therefore immoral. So let me throw this crazy idea out. You know all the fertilized eggs left over from in vitro fertilization that are just sitting around waiting to be destroyed? The ones that you say will be murdered if not used? Why not implant them into Susan to be born? And if it can be done in Susan, why not get people to volunteer their bodies to be used as baby factories when they die? Wouldn't that be just as wonderful and miraculous as Susan Torres' baby? No? Hmmmm.

24 comments:

ORF said...

Ok, wow, I had not heard about this, but that is seriously gross gross gross! UGH!

I spent a summer in high school as a candy striper in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at a nearby hospital. It was a pretty moving experience. Some of the babies were there a day or two, some all summer. Some looked fairly healthy and others could fit in the palm of your hand and their skin was paper thin-so thin you could see their heart beating through it. I was astonished at how incredible our medical capabilities were in that hospital and they've only gotten better today.

But here is where I have trouble understanding things like the Terri Schiavo case or this one that you mention, Scott. If the religious right is so concerned about letting nature take its course with regards to pregnancy, then why not follow the same logic when it comes to a catastrophic, nearly-lethal event in someone's life? Terri Schiavo's accident ostensibly killed her. Does anyone really think it was "God's plan" to have her lie in a bed for fifteen years while network news played a loop of her drooling and moaning? Scott is right, a lot of the rules about abortion were determined by the Church when the only thing known about it was that it meant death, not that it meant DNA or embryos or anything else. How does modern religion, as such, reconcile itself with modern medicine? The catheter, the bypass, the colonoscopy, the MRI, they're all man-made. If Ms. Schiavo had been injured even fifty years earlier, there is little we could have done to preserve her in such a magnificent state for so long.

This culture of medicical wonders creates a very dangerous paradox in the modern psyche in that we are less and less willing to accept the fact that death comes at any point in one's life. We are never guaranteed another day with the ones we love and as callous as it might sound, that is the course of life. Putting someone on a respirator for years on end is agonizing to everyone involved; I'm not sure I'll ever understand the desire to do that and I'd certainly never want that to happen myself.

Ben said...

Scott, sometimes when you take something to an extreme example, it's far more extreme than even the most extreme people would consider viable. Basically what I mean is that the word extreme is correct, but logical? Not a bit. There's a big difference between keeping someone alive so the baby that is already conceived can be born, and keeping an unpregnant person alive so you can pump them full of sperm. Your comparison is a bit dishonest. An in vitro inseminated egg that is frozen is not considered a baby by anyone I've ever heard of, except you in this example. I'd be willing to bet that 99% of women would say, "Hell yeah, keep me alive till my baby is born," if they were asked about what they would want in the same position as Torres. None will say the same regarding your illogical extreme example.

And just to throw your own criticisms back at you, not all Conservatives are ridiculously anti-abortion. In fact a good number of them are like me, fiscally Conservative, but understand that sometimes an abortion is the best option. So next time you whine at me for saying "liberals" do such and such, remember that you do the exact same thing, and this isn't the first time.

Scott said...

Trust me, I'd never do the exact same thing as you. I suppose I should have said "socially conservative extremists", and unless you just crawled out from under a rock, you should know that most of the nutsy anti-abortionists do consider frozen embryos to be babies. At least, that's the reason they give for wanting to outlaw abortion.

canuk said...

What a very thought-provoking post Scott, thank you. You are perfectly correct pointing out the rank hypocrisy from the anti-abortion crowd. Then again if they couldn't classify frozen embryos as life, King George couldn't have a photo-op with his "snowflake kids".

This is the same right to life bunch that wrap themselves in the flag and bible yet think nothing of all the lives needlessly lost due to an illegal war and occupation in Iraq.

Sylvana said...

At first I didn't think it was that creepy, but now I'm all sicked out! Y-UCK!

Dave said...

Got to give kudos to Sen. Frist...standing up to the president, risking his political support and putting the Hippocratic oath ahead of politics. For those that don't know, he supports stem cell research unlike the Prez and the bible thumping sheep. He's against abortion, but at least he's consistent in that both views support life.

sideshow bob said...

I don't know...maybe it's hypirony.

Why can't we just get stem cells from umbilical cord blood, and sell the fetuses to pagans for their godless rituals, and then funnel the profits into buying weapons (and possibly Bibles, or at least Sex in the City DVDs) for anti-insurgent, organized-criminal elements in Iraq? It's Win/Win/Win, baby!

Mike said...

Here is what I find hypocritical. People who vigorously defended Michael Schiavo's right to starve his wife to death being so quick to pass judgement on this man's right to keep his wife alive to save their child, calling it "creepy." It is obvious some of you have never spend years trying to conceive a child. It is obvious some of you have never felt the wave of joy in hearing a heartbeat or seeing a little hand wave at you through the ultrasound. When I relayed this story to my wife she said without hesitation, "If I'm ever like that, you WILL keep me alive to save the baby." I told her, "Don't worry, hon. I plan to." So go ahead and call me "creepy" and call her a "mindless tool."

Which brings me to my next point. Where do you get off saying only conservatives support this guy in his decision? I read the article and there was no mention of this being a conservative cause. I think if you did a poll you could find more than a few liberals who would do the exact same thing put in the shoes of these people.

Finally, for the record, I support this man in his decision, because it is his decision. I am not against stem cell research because the intentions are good. I am just against federal funding of it. I am not against in vitro fertilization, again because the intentions are good. I am against abortion because it is a selfish act by the mother. And when I say "selfish", it's not because I oppose it. I use the word because it is true.

Dave said...

Oh no....the endless pit of abortion arguments has begun!

Shannon said...

I'll agree partially with Mike on this- I don't think this is a liberal vs conservative issue. I don't really think it's that creepy that the man decided to keep his wife on life support until the baby could be born. If I were in his shoes, I could imagine myself making a similar decision. Granted, the idea of a dead woman giving birth is inherently creepy, but I don't think the man or his doctors are disgusting for this decision.

I don't see this as reflecting upon abortion.

sideshow bob said...

Dude- that little hand isn't waving at you.

I do have to say that I agree-partially-with Mike; I think that most couples, if they discussed the possibiltiy of the same situation happening to them, would probably want to do what's possible to give the baby a chance to be born.

But what I do find hypocritical is all the support for invitro fertilization, or just any artificial means to conceive a child at all, within the so-called right to life community. What clearer sign could God give than making you infertile? Why not take your infertility as a sign that you should adopt one of those babies given up for adoption rather than being aborted? Why not practice what you preach? Isn't it being selfish (not to mention "playing God") to take fertility drugs instead of adopting?

Mike said...

That's a good question, Bob. It reminds me of the joke where the man is on the roof of his house in a flood. A boat comes by to rescue him and he says, "No thanks. I have faith my God will save me." Another boat comes by and he says the same thing. Then a helicopter comes and he says the same thing. Eventually the waters rise and the man drowns. When he's in Heaven he asks God, "What happened? I had faith you would save me and you let me down." God replied, "I sent two boats and a helicopter. What else did you want?"

The moral of the story is we can't always wait for some miraculous sign. We have to remember God created everything, including abortion and in vitro fertilization. When we look at these things I think we have to look at the intentions behind the act. One creates life, the other takes life. That is how I differentiate between the two. To take the stance that in vitro is like playing God and thus we shouldn't do it leads down the path of saying all medical practice is playing God. Using a defibrillator could be seen as playing God. Giving CPR could be considered playing God. Some radical Christians take this stance. They are the ones you hear about letting their kids die from treatable diseases because they refuse to allow them medical treatment. I am not part of that sect.

Shannon said...

I've always felt that fertility drugs were selfish. If you're "fertility challenged," why not adopt? Of course, adoption isn't simple, but neither is fertility treatment.

Mainline Mom said...

I'm all in favor of adopting when fertility treatments don't work, but I can understand wanting to give birth enough to do everything possible to make it happen. Selfish? You bet. But sometimes only slight hormone imbalances need to be corrected by drugs to get pregnant. That's what happened with me. I certainly wouldn't have considered myself infertile. I'm still considering my position on IVF. Since I believe that all those frozen embryos are unique lives, I'm not sure I agree with the practice. I do NOT want to be hypocritical that way. But I don't think it's at all creepy to keep the braindead woman alive to save the baby. I personally have never thought twice about the issue of abortion being necessary in the event of the mother's life being in jeapordy. If I were ever made to choose between my life and the life of my baby, born or unborn, there would be no contest. I have lived a wonderful 30 years and that baby hasn't even had a chance to see the world yet. My position on abortion is based firmly in the Bible, namely where the Psalmist, King David, writes that "You, oh Lord, have knit me together in my mother's womb." God knows every baby, born and unborn, and I weep for the millions that have never seen the light of day.

Ben said...

I'm not going to get in to an abortion argument. I just wanted to state for the record that not allowing federal fudning of stem cell lines is very different from not allowing research of stem cells. As far as I am aware, the Constitution says nothing about health care or using tax money for health research.

Sylvana said...

I think fertility drugs are very selfish too. These people should be adopting. There are so many children that need adopting, and there is all this talk about adoption as an option- right, when people would much rather shell out thousands of dollars to bypass nature rather than adopt?

As far as this woman's body kept functioning in order to have the baby CREEPY! yes, but if that's what he wants, that's his decision. But only for the baby that has already been conceived, of course!

Mike said...

Has anyone tried to adopt an infant? The waiting list is years long. The problem is nobody wants to adopt teenagers. Everybody wants an infant. But you can't call infertile people selfish for using in vitro fertilization. They are only using medical procedures to correct their medical problem of infertility. Using your argument you could say anybody who naturally conceives a child is selfish because there are already lots of kids waiting to be adopted. It is not the fault of the infertile parents there are millions of unwanted kids. It is the fault of the parents who brought a child into the world and abandoned them.

ORF said...

Mike said:
It is obvious some of you have never spend years trying to conceive a child. It is obvious some of you have never felt the wave of joy in hearing a heartbeat or seeing a little hand wave at you through the ultrasound.

No, Mike, I've never been pregnant. Because, since I'm not married and don't really have the means to support a child at this point in my life, I've been responsible when making decisions about birth control methods. Being with child does not a compassionate person make, either. Just look at all those precious fourteen-year-olds you wish to deny abortions to, thus damning to a life on the welfare dole. Most of those girls are too young and selfish to possibly understand the beauty of raising their own child. Which is horribly unfortunate for both.

Ok, so I've never been pregnant, but please don't imply that that fact prevents me from being able to grasp what it's like. I'm sure you saw my post from Saturday where I announced that one of my best friends had a baby. She doesn't live anywhere near me and the kid is only days old, and even though I have yet to meet him, I know I'd move mountains to protect that baby.

Do I necessarily think you're creepy for telling your wife that you'd keep her alive for the sake of your unborn child? Perhaps, but I must confess that I'm not entirely certain what I myself would do were I in the same boat. It's a decision between the two of you and I never said that I questioned this man's right to do so, just that it's got an ick-factor. I must say that I'm surprised you're choosing to insist upon the integrity of a decision a man makes about his near-dead wife in this situation but you did not support Michael Schiavo, Terri's HUSBAND, in a similar situation.

Mike said...

The difference is in this case there were two people on life support. One had no chance to live but the other had a chance to live a full life. This man made a decision that allowed his child to live.

The other difference is here we are talking about "life support." Terri Schiavo wasn't on life support. She just had a feeding tube because she was not capable of feeding herself. What Michael Schiavo did was force his wife to starve to death. There are lots of people not capable of feeding themselves but we don't starve them to death. Schiavo also kept his wife on life support for seven years to win a medical malpractice suit, then he promptly began playing her "wish to die" angle.

Mike said...

Correction: Schiavo didn't keep his wife on life support for seven years. He fed her through a feeding tube. Slip of the keyboard.

ORF said...

Mike, you comment on Ms. Schiavo as if not being able to feed herself was the only malady from which she suffered. She wasn't able to do one GD thing herself with the exception of breathe and excrete and occasionally perform a la a tone deaf Stevie Wonder for video footage that would later be used to shred the ounce of dignity she had left.

A sidenote from the annals of irony: does anyone else find it fairly ridiculous that Sen. Frist was so gung-ho to use his medical "expertise" to diagnose Terri Schiavo merely from video footage as potentially able to lead a healthy life, which proved he's kind of an idiot but now he's leaning on that same medical training to part ways with Dubya in re stem cell research?

Shannon said...

A follow up to this post.

phil said...

"late-term abortions were banned by the church in the middle ages and all abortions were briefly banned in 1588. They were made legal by the church again in 1591 until 1869.)"

I think you'll enjoy learning the exact reasoning for the source of this Christian misunderstanding of abortion. Check out: http://www.chiefrabbi.org/thoughts/mishpatim5766.pdf

Phil said...

got cut off for some reason...
.../thoughts/mishpatim5766.pdf