Under the aspect of the good

The Rational Catholic blog has recently been cited in reference to the role of Theresa Deisher’s participation in the discussions regarding the videos newly released showing profoundly disturbing conversations between high level staff at Planned Parenthood and a potential buyer of fetal tissue.

 

These videos left many of us simply without words.  To see such nonchalance in describing the deliberate killing of a child in such a manner as to leave his or her organs in the best state for purchase is beyond what I could have imagined.  I am horrified for the children who were treated as convenient vehicles for the procurement of human organs.  I am horrified for the mothers who may have chosen abortion, who now have to wonder what exactly happened to the children they chose abortion for.  I am moved with pity for the doctors, the nurses and support staff who have performed or supported these procedures.  I am angry that this is the world in which I live, and raise my children: where a human child can be seen as having less intrinsic value than his dismembered body can fetch on the open market.

 

These videos depict evil, and evil almost always comes through good people who are acting with varying degrees of good intentions.  People don’t do things thinking that they are evil.  All things are done under the aspect of the good, in pursuit of the good, although what we perceive as good and what is actually good are not always the same.  This is what has happened when good doctors who have seen great suffering decide to provide as a service the deliberate destruction of human life at the request of the parents of the child to be disposed of.  It also happens when good people who oppose abortion are willing to find any possible, plausible sounding reasoning to use to make other people more pro-life, never mind the collateral damage caused.  We stand firmly in favor of good science and good ethics, and believe that both science and ethics lead to a pro-life and pro-vaccine position.

 

A pro-life position is pro-science position.  There can be absolutely no question that a human zygote, embryo or fetus is an individual member of the human species.  Toddler, teenager, senior… these are all positions on the continuum of personal development.  That spectrum doesn’t begin until conception, but it doesn’t begin after that point either, at an arbitrary number of weeks or faculty gained.  Any qualification concerning who counts as a human person beyond simple belonging to the human species is ultimately not a scientific one, and is often an utilitarian tool used to decide who has earned existence and who can be treated as less than human.  Artificial lines such as race, sex, infirmity, disability, sexual orientation and age have all been used as justifications to abuse and disenfranchise human persons throughout history.  And they have all been evil.  The doctors performing these abortions, by their own descriptions of how they perform these procedures, are well aware of what… of who they are crushing and turning into breech positions.

 

To be pro-life and to be pro-science is to be pro-vaccine.  Science tells us that vaccines work.  A pro-life conviction tells us that we have an obligation to ourselves to treat our bodies well (including preventing preventable diseases) and that the weakest among us have a particular claim to our defense.  This is particularly true in the case of vaccines, when so many of them protect the weak, including those babies who have not yet reached birth.

 

To the pro-vaccine community, I urge you to take seriously the concerns of those who are so deeply outraged by the treatment of fetal remains.  Immunization is an universal good, but it is something that requires that we all be able to walk together towards control or eradication of these diseases.  It is legitimate to be concerned about whether a child before birth can be so worthless as to be killed but their organs to have sufficient value for a doctor to crush their small bodies in the manner best for the purchaser of their tissue.  To belittle these concerns undercuts everything you work for, and it makes it difficult for people with pro-life convictions to trust in the ethics of the medical community at large.

 

To the pro-life community, I ask you to not allow your righteous anger, sadness and frustration to be placed on anything other than where it rightly belongs: the deliberate destruction of human life and the sale of bodies of children who have been killed.  Focusing on other issues will only make these legitimate evils seem like one in a laundry list of complaints by members of a minority position, and we lose all claim to respect when in our zeal to fight against abortion we are willing to endanger the lives of the innocent by taking as important a tool as immunization (acknowledging the moral issues with some vaccines) and lumping it in with the absolutely horrifying evils we have seen discussed in these videos.  

 

The actions described in these videos have no place in a just society.  They have no place in a compassionate society.  We can and must do better than this.

 

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5 thoughts on “Under the aspect of the good

  1. Genevieve, I’m wondering if It is your impression that the pro vaccine side is aware that the cell lines used in some vaccines were obtained by means similar to what’s described in these recent videos? ie. babies dissected while alive for tissues, abortive mother probably not aware that baby is being dissected alive, mother and baby prescreened and even possibly given added persuasion to choose abortion by doctors looking for and profiting from tissues. I ask because I frequently see things written by the pro vaccine side that suggest maybe they are not aware. Comments like “the baby was dead anyway”, or “at least something good came from the mother’s decision”, or comments portraying the medical research side as innocent of any wrong doing in connection with the gruesome killing of a child. Do you think they believe that this is how it happened?

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    • My experience has been that on average, many pro-vaccine people are not aware of the fetal cell culture issue and that it is such a painful topic for so many people that I think many shy away from it, especially when the good of immunization on a whole is so incredibly clear. I will agree wholeheartedly that a line of reasoning that says “at least something good came from that abortion” is inconsistent with Catholic ethics, but I’m not comfortable conflating what Planned Parenthood is doing with willingly discussing crushing children’s bodies in the most profitable manner with the cell culture research that was going on so much in that era on all sorts of tissue with no meaningful concept of consent and patients’ rights. The evil of abortion is one issue. The evil wherein a child’s body is worthless enough to be crushed and valuable enough to crush it in ways that give greatest commercial value is another issue. The evil wherein someone takes the body of a child who has been killed and performs research on it is yet another issue. Whether people can accept knowledge or products that exist as the result of grave injustices performed by doctors is another issue on top of the rest (anatomical knowledge gleaned from concentration camps would fall under this category as well.) I can see why it might seem that there are parallels, but I think that they are actually very different creatures.

      Truthfully, in pro-vaccine circles the most frequent sentiment that I see is that this is a manufactured controversy by people who are anti-vaccine who know that many people are uncomfortable with abortion and are willing to play on those feelings to induce vaccine rejectionism. This concept seems even more credible when prominent people in the ethical vaccine discussion spread a whole lot of anti-vaccine misinformation.

      The fetal cell culture issue is incredibly complicated and it is a conundrum that I truly can’t wrap my head around, especially when newer vaccines are sometimes being developed in fetal cell lines. But then I also wonder what I don’t know because I am not the one doing clinical trials, so, for example, does a vaccine grown in fetal cell culture have fewer side effects than one grown in other media? At least with the rubella vaccine that was the case, which is why the rubella vaccine grown in human diploid cell culture was chosen over the alternatives for inclusion in the MMR. If it is the case otherwise (complete speculation), how would a concrete reduction in risk of harm to those who receive an immunization square with the known albeit remote cooperation with evil? It’s such an incredibly complex issue and I think that platitudes like “at least something good came from XXXX” do disservice to everyone of conscience who grapples with this topic.

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  2. Thanks for your reply. So there’s one issue I’m trying to hone in on as I continue learning about this issue, and that is the role of the researchers that were involved in procuring fetal specimens, in particular at the Wistar Institute for the work involving human fetal cell cultures and vaccine production. Frequently their role is described as removed from the abortion itself, ie. the fetus was aborted and the tissues would have been discarded if not for the intervention of researchers. A restating of “at least some good came from it”.

    However, it seems from my reading on the subject, that the researchers were actively engaged in seeking out potential fetuses and that they coordinated with the abortion efforts in order to get “live” tissue. There are some descriptions that even seem to indicate that fetuses would be most useful if they could be obtained alive, by hysterectomy, for dissection, which would mean that those dissecting were actively involved in the killing of the children. In other words the researchers involved were willing to intervene, coordinate and cooperate with the abortion procedure to procure valuable specimens, but they were not willing to intervene in any way to save the child for abortion or not participate. They did not profit, perhaps, in receiving cash for specimens, however they served their interest over the interest of the child. We do not know whether, perhaps the mothers involved were persuaded by the fact that doctors and researchers were eager to cooperate with the process of aborting the fetus to be used. This is why I liken it to what is happening at PP. There is a vested interest in the abortions occurring, by parties who are not the mother.

    Have you looked into this issue in depth? I would be very interested.
    Thanks again, Genevieve

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  3. Quick question here, as I am not by any means an expert on the science of vaccines. Would it have been possible for vaccines such as MMR, varicella, and others that used fetal cell lines to use cell lines from a baby that had been miscarried rather than aborted? That would avoid cooperation with evil, and would be more akin to situation of organ donation from a person killed in a car accident rather than someone who was murdered for the purpose of harvesting organs. Was there a reason that it did not happen in this way? Thanks.

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    • I’ve wondered that myself, Sandy. I’ve also wondered whether one could try to grow cell lines from a placenta obtained during a cesarean birth or through cord blood or tissue even. Even if one could, though, it’s a lot of money to get those lines developed and then to go through all of the testing and approval process to switch from one cell culture to another. That cost is passed along to the consumer, and then we really may be looking at a scenario where we have a morally unambiguous vaccine but more people dying because impoverished countries where these diseases are more likely to cause death can no longer afford to protect against them. It’s a deeply complex situation.

      The difficulty of this particular time in research is that basically if there was any human tissue hitting the lab from any kind of surgery at all and the lab had the capacity to try to create a cell line, it was doing so. So, everything that could possibly become a cell line was being tried as one. A good, approachable read about this topic would be the Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. We don’t actually know all of what and who had their cells cultured to try to create cell lines. We don’t actually know that a ruptured ectopic pregnancy didn’t have cell cultures attempted. We don’t know much about what was tried, only what came out successfully, which includes these deeply problematic cell lines.

      Thanks for the question!

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