Friday, February 15, 2013

Legislating Morality – Abortion and Stem Cell Research/Use

I will attempt to take on another hot-button topic while not committing blogging suicide here. As always though, I start with a brief disclaimer. I, personally, do not believe in abortion as an acceptable means to deal with an unwanted pregnancy. However, my position does not make me anti-abortion. Allow me to explain this seeming contradiction. I believe that human beings and the society in which we live dictate or establish acceptable behaviors. Whether we like it or not, or for whatever reason this option has become socially acceptable, it is a person’s right to decide what they can do with and to their bodies. Although I see abortion as an act of murder for which there are laws in this country that deal with that crime, “society” has deemed it acceptable to take an unborn child’s life. Abortion is the law of the land, but it does not mean you have to participate in its practice. Therefore, I do not agree with abortion, but recognize that it is the law of the land, and more importantly, a choice that should be left up to an individual without the need for legislation.

                I think that this issue is important because many tend to judge people and their moral standing based on which side of this issue they stand. Like most Americans, my position on abortion, stem cell research and use does not define me or who I am. My position here should not be judged as Conservative, Liberal, Evangelical, or uninformed. Take my opinion for what it is… apply your own critical analysis on the topic with my words above and develop your own informed position on these topics.

                Before we get down to the nitty gritty, I would first like to comment on the concept of “legislating morality”. The whole concept of legislating morality really befuddles me. To reiterate the point I made above, I do not judge an elected official on his or her position on moral issues. But, the thing that always makes me shake my head is the actions taken when it comes to moral legislation. Let’s take this one step further… United States Senators and Congress members will talk out of one side of their mouths about moral issues as if they were the moral authority all while their actions reflect the total absence of any personal moral compass. In other words, we should not be subjected to such hypocritical actions and votes on the floor of Congress by a body of people whose moral compass generally points to those positions that garner the most money or influence.

Now, back to the topic of abortion… I do believe that the act of abortion is wrong. However, society has decided that abortion is not only acceptable but a right. Roe v. Wade (January 22, 1973) established via Supreme Court decree that abortion is a fundamental right under the United States Constitution, thereby subjecting all laws attempting to restrict this right to strict scrutiny. Again, this right was established via court fiat. This is an act of moral legislation, although not specifically passed by Congress. I understand and support the Supreme Court’s decision on abortion. The reason I can support this ruling with a clear conscious is because I believe in God. I believe that God has given every one of us the gift of free will. I believe that God enlightens us as humans to choose that which is right and just. If you individually judge that abortion is acceptable not just socially, but morally, you should have the ability to receive this treatment. Having made this and other moralistic decisions in your life, I believe that when you have your day of judgment in front of God, you will answer for all of your decisions and actions on earth. Either way, we do not need to rely on an act of legislation or a court decision to validate what we all know is a moral question.

Another area of moral legislation that I don’t quite grasp is that of stem cell research and use. Stem cells are biological cells found in all multicellular organisms that can divide (through mitosis) and differentiate into diverse specialized cell types and can self-renew to produce more stem cells. In adult organisms, stem cells and progenitor cells act as a repair system for the body, replenishing adult tissues. In a developing embryo, stem cells can differentiate into all the specialized cells (these are called pluripotent cells), but also maintain the normal turnover of regenerative organs, such as blood, skin, or intestinal tissues (Wikipedia So, what does all that scientific mumbo jumbo mean? What it means is that the cures for many known and unknown diseases lie in the potential to be uncovered and gained through stem cell research and transplant. The political “right” has tied stem cell research to the abortion question. Again, staking a political position tied to a moral belief. Let’s be clear on this issue and draw the proper distinctions before we attach the “moral’ stigma to it.

I will state for a third time in this blog that I am personally against abortion. However, abortions are legal and happen in this country every day, unfortunately. I feel that if there is an opportunity to turn something as horrible as abortion into something positive, like the use of embryonic stem cells, we should consider the opportunity. I know my position here is a bit confusing. I cannot/will not validate a person’s decision to have an abortion. I will also premise my next statement by saying that I am a very strong supporter of organ donation and transplantation, as it gave me an extra 22+ years with my brother Don. Let’s use the cells of these aborted babies to advance or save another human beings life. This may be the only way that we can honor a life that will never live. The reality is stem cell research is not the driver behind decisions to have an abortion. Medical scientists continue to develop amazing medical advances through the research and use of embryonic stem cells. I think, under the circumstances, the government should not restrict the use of embryonic stem cells for this research and use based on a moralistic position alone. The technology is there to use these cells in a responsible way, and this advancement will potentially improve or give life to another human being. In my view, this is not much different than organ transplants or blood transfusions with the exception of where these cells are harvested.

In closing, I would say that if I could save or improve one life through a tragedy like an abortion, it is the right thing to do. I have a child with special needs, had a brother that lived to have a family as the result of a heart transplant. I have also seen many friends and family members suffer and die at the hands of cancer and heart disease. God not only gives us a choice, he also gives us opportunities. Let’s leave politics out of such questions. If there needs to be some regulation over certain areas, that is something we can consider, but don’t let politics take away an opportunity to improve a life. I believe that the doctors and scientists along with politicians in this country have an obligation to share with us those medical breakthroughs without having to maintain a political or special interest scorecard. Just one man’s opinion… Happy Reading!


  1. Vito, from a fellow-blogger, I appreciate the compliment. Thanks!


  2. I think I'm going to start a blog and call it "My friend Shack got me thinking..." :-)

    Seriously, though -- I do want to address the issue of abortion from a different perspective. Let's start with the fact that I am a devout atheist, so my comments have no religious basis. And although I believe abortion as a means of birth control is morally wrong, I also appreciate the reality that some (if not many) unwanted pregnancies, if forced to term, could have profound negative consequences for the parents and the child over their lifetimes. No child should be unwanted, and it is for this reason that I am effectively pro-choice. I choose to support what I believe is the lesser of two evils for society overall.

    That said, I also appreciate the perspective of faithful Americans who believe that life begins at conception and, for this reason, that abortion should be outlawed. While I save my strongest political objections for even a whiff of religious encroachment into public life, this question is not necessarily religious even if someone's position on abortion is rooted in their religious beliefs. Fundamentally this is a question about the role of government in the protection of its citizens.

    To wit: if someone believes that life begins at conception, and if a principle tenet of government is to protect life, isn't government therefore obligated to do so in-utero as well as out? If so, doesn't that person have a moral obligation to work to outlaw abortion?

    Forgive me, but accepting abortion because it is legal under current law strikes me as hollow. If you believe that abortion is murder, you should work to outlaw it. Period. I have no problem with that. People like Todd Aiken and Richard Mourdock may be outliers -- even nutjobs -- but their positions on this issue are crystal clear. I respect that.

    Understanding the objections of both sides in this way helps make the whole debate more manageable. It may even establish some potential for finding common ground. I can certainly understand why public funding of abortions would be so objectionable to pro-life Americans, and I have no problem with frameworks being established that prevent such support. I want pro-life tax dollars being spent on abortions as much as I want my tax dollars being spent to support church groups -- not at all.

    Anyway, just some more food for thought. Bon appetit!

    1. Jim... I completely respect your response. The truth is, you are one of the most thoughtful people I know. My faith gives me more freedom than restrictions, if you know what I mean? I wouldn't say I am a "typical" christian, for whatever that means. I believe that I have no right to cast a stone in judgement because I am imperfect and not with sin. I have never been directly impacted by abortion.

      Jim, you and others have to decided what is right for you in all cases. Society provides the limits, if you will, but we as individuals make the choice. The moral basis from which I see the world is tied heavily to my faith. No matter what you believe, I know you and you are an honorable, moral guy. That is why we are friends... and will always be friends. I value your opinion... keep them coming. Thanks for reading! :-)


    Another perspective...

  4. Well............ when I think of the brutality of the event, I think it would be best if we ask the unborn child if the child would mind if we jam a suction spike into his/her skull and extract the body parts with brutal force. If the child is okay with it then feel free to proceed.
    It is amazing that we do a better job of protecting a tree or some unique bird or frog then we do children who can not object to being torn in half. Our nation is more careful on how and when we breed types of dogs then we do with each other. Yes I understand criminal rape would be a change of direction that I would understand, but what I don't understand is the whole late term abortion... that is disgusting and depressing. I am very pro-birth control but abortion is not birth control sad topic, do you ever wonder what terror those innocent lives must have felt at that moment?