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Anna Quindlen


argued that the stem-cell controversy would be good for abortion rights a few years ago. I can’t find a link to her column, but here’s what I said about it at the time. Michael Kinsley wrote a smarter column (natch) that was more analytical about the link, drawing the same conclusion with less celebration.

When embryo-destructive research first became a controversy, the late Robert Bartley argued that it would end up being the reverse of partial-birth abortion. Just as pro-choice arguments look their weakest and most theoretical at the end of pregnancy, pro-life ones look the most abstract and least compelling at the front end. Focusing attention on partial-birth abortion thus weakened the pro-choice movement generally, and Bartley thought that stem-cell research would weaken pro-lifers.

That’s probably the way to bet. There is, however, another possibility. The risks pro-lifers made in raising partial-birth abortion as an issue is that it would a) make other abortions seem better, and b) end up increasing liberal support for infanticide. The debate over stem-cell research carries some risk, how big I would not venture a guess, for pro-choicers. So much of the time they are turning their argument on the fact that the early human embryo has no limbs, has no heart, is “undifferentiated,” etc.–the more they stress this, perhaps, the more it will begin to seem wrong that they believe it should be possible to kill young human beings when they do have hearts, limbs, internal differentiation, etc. I may be grasping for a silver lining here.


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