The Corner

Culture

The Utilitarian Defense of Planned Parenthood

A recent Sarah Silverman tweet distilled one argument many liberals are making about the Planned Parenthood videos into a few characters: ”Abortion is still legal in the great U.S of A. It would be insane not to use fetal tissue 4 science & education in such cases. #StandwithPP.”
 
The death penalty is also still legal in our great country. Should we employ methods of execution so as to yield the highest number of usable organs? Should prisons be able to donate these organs in return for some compensation for their costs–maybe enough to break even, or do a little bit better than break even? For that matter, should we do experiments on death-row inmates before we execute them, in the name of “science & education”? (We could render these experiments painless, if that’s important to people, even though we do not require the anesthetization of late-term fetuses being aborted.) And remember, our reasons for saying no can’t have to do with respect for the convicts’ autonomy, since we are about to violate that autonomy in a bigger way.
 
We don’t do these things, it seems to me, because we treat even killings the law treats as justified as having a moral gravity and seriousness that precludes these actions; because we treat executions as the taking of human lives invested with dignity and not to be reduced to the level of objects for our use. Our squeamishness is only the beginning of wisdom in these matters. But it speaks well of us, and it would be a real loss if we trained ourselves not to feel it.

Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.

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