I wasn’t going to run with this because bioethicist Jacob M. Appel seems to be following the same business model to career success as Julian Savulescu and others: stake out the most wild and radical positions conceivable and you are sure to get attention–and perhaps big speaking fees–as Peter “Professor Infanticide” Singer’s $20,000 per pop illustrates. (As I have previously noted here, Appel has supported assisted suicide for the mentally ill, genetic engineering of progeny, and the acceptability of bestiality.)
But this fetal farming boost appeared in the Huffington Post, perhaps the most influential blog on the Left, with millions of readers. And it is pernicious in the extreme. From Appel’s column:
Opponents of reproductive choice will object to such a market on the grounds that it will increase the number of abortions — which will indeed be the logical result. However, such a market might also bring solace to women who have already decided upon abortion, but desire that some additional social good come from the procedure. Like the families of accident victims who donate the organs of their loved ones, these women could well find their decisions fortified by the public benefit that they generate. An additional economic incentive would further assuage any doubts, and might even make the procedure more palatable to otherwise equivocal spouses or partners.
Hmm. That sounds familiar. One week before Appel posted his column, I sarcastically wrote much the same thing here reacting to calls by UK scientists for using abortions as source of organs. From my post of March 11, “Fetal Farming, Here We Come: UK Scientists Say to Use Aborted Fetuses as Sources of Organs”:
Hey, I know: When a woman wants an early term abortion, we can pay her to gestate a couple of extra months so her fetus can be of societal use! And imagine the possibilities when artificial wombs are created: We can gestate fetuses to order. The road to fetal farming is already being paved.
I am beginning to think Appel uses SHS as a source of ideas and then restates what I criticize as a positive. Let’s look at Appel’s conclusion, which reinforces the last point:
Someday, if we are fortunate, scientific research may make possible farms of artificial “wombs” breeding fetuses for their organs — or even the “miracle” of men raising fetuses in their abdomens. That day remains far off. However, the prospect of fetal-adult organ transplantation is a much more realistic near-term possibility. A market in such organs might benefit both society and the women who choose to take advantage of it.
Again, I don’t intend to react to every Appel column because that would support his business model. But that the Huffington Post considers this a legitimate and acceptable argument to run on its site–it would never countenance a racist utilitarian rant–shows, in my mind precisely the dark place where the utilitarian Left is more than happy to go. And it reminds me of the wisdom of the late Fr. Richard John Neuhaus, who once wrote:
Thousands of medical thicists and bioethicists, as they are called, professionally guide the unthinkable on its passage through the debatable on its way to becoming the justifiable, until it is finally established as the unexceptionable.
That was true when he wrote those words for Commentary in 1988. It was more true when I used this quote in Culture of Death in 2001. And it is true in spades and exclamation points today.