If Bill C-13 were to be a pro-lifer’s dream legislation, what would have to be different about it? What is the one thing that it needs to do but does not?
This bill has caused an almost unbelievable level of confusion. It is easy to see that people who have no idea what right or wrong is would have a problem saying anything intelligent about the ethics of stem cell research, but one generally hopes for better from publicly pro-life MPs. Relentless confusion and disinformation has characterized the whole of the debate process, whether in the House or among the public.
It is possible to get into almost endless intricacies if we start talking about the differences in cloning techniques, or methods of differentiating stem cells, or the arguments for and against the use of embryos in disease research. But how do we, as pro-life Canadians, understand all of this?
Myths regarding embryonic stem cell research persist: that it will provide miraculous cures for cancer, multiple sclerosis, spinal cord injury and on and on; that it will constitute a veritable fountain of youth. We have been told to look upon it as a holy grail in medicine. But that these promises have been shown to be inflated and unsubstantiated is actually beside the point.
Many arguments are being presented with high-sounding rhetoric given by people who suffer, in varying degrees, from currently incurable diseases. The tacit understanding is that a person with a disease cannot be gainsayed because of his suffering. It is a logical fallacy – a person who is suffering a disease can be just as wrong-headed and misled as anyone else and it is disingenuous of an organization to play the emotion cards.
However the case is presented, or by whom, it always comes to the same thing: that the born people with the disease matter more than the embryos. The argument for using embryos in research that kills them seems to be nearly identical in principle to the one that says, brazenly, “Yes, the unborn child is a human being, but not a very important one and her right to live does not outweigh the right of the mother to be free from nine months of inconvenience.”
We say about the embryo, “Yes, we know it is a living human being. It would not be useful for research if it were not. We would go back to using rabbits if it were otherwise. But the fact that it is a human being is not enough for us to consider its rights. Human rights now only apply to those who are born and a person who has a disease has a right to the life of an embryo by virtue of being older.”
What about the problem of the embryos that are already created in labs for in-vitro fertilization? What do we do with them? A lot of people have said that they should be used for research, that this would lend their lives importance, lives that would otherwise be lost and meaningless. But this too is specious. How does it lend meaning to a person’s life to be killed and used for spare parts?
The answer to all of the above is really quite simple. The embryo is a human being. This has been a fact acknowledged by science since the 1800s, a fact tacitly acknowledged by those who want to use embryos for research.
For a pro-lifer to sort the issue out, the same rule applies to embryos as applies to all of the life issues.
If we were talking about a five-year-old child, would we be saying the same things? Can we experiment on a five-year-old? Can we donate a five-year-old child for research, even “in accordance with the regulations and a licence,” as the bill states? Can we freeze a five-year-old child for later use?
The problem we are having in getting the message across is that embryos don’t photograph well. They are not cute. They are not cuddly. When you take one apart it does not make a bloody mess. We don’t have the advantage of playing the emotion card. We are stuck with the pure facts. So here they are: · C-13 is founded on the assumption that a human being is never a human person, that there is no such thing as a person, that we are all just walking packages of genetic material to be used as the state allows; · C-13 allows the creation of human life in order to destroy it. It is the ultimate triumph of utilitarianism – the idea that human beings are only valuable for what you can get out of them.
Hilary White serves as the director of research for Campaign Life Coalition in Toronto.
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