Bioethics, healthcare policy, and related issues.
Joe Carter, rising star in the right-wing religious think tank milieu and blogger of the always-interesting Evangelical Outpost, makes one of his not-infrequent visits to fetus-fetish loopyland today. He contributes an overwrought and, basically, just kind of weird open letter to early-stage fetuses:
Let me begin by congratulating you on making it through the embryonic stage. Too many of our fellow humans don’t even make it as far as you have now. Many died of natural causes. Others were cut down prior to implantation by an abortifacient. Still others are trapped in the freezers of IVF clinics, in suspended animation awaiting their fate. . . .
He then offers “advice” to fetuses on how to avoid abortion (don’t have birth defects, don’t be part of an at-risk multiple pregnancy, etc.). Joe, it should be explained, is not dumb enough to think he can talk to fetuses. He just does it anyway. Naturally, all his “advice” to the fetus is really veiled criticism of the pregnant woman: for failing to carry three or more fetuses to term regardless of risk, for failing to have a child with birth defects, for being one of the roughly 0.04% of American women who pursue sex selection, or for having genetic-health preferences he doesn’t approve of.
Naturally as well, the piece goes to lengths to paint every possible alternative for a pregnant woman, except, notably, the one he approves of, as evidence of that woman’s depravity. He explicitly quotes the facts that:
Carrying three babies to term would more than double the woman’s risk of developing the most severe diseases of pregnancy, such as preeclampsia. The average triplet is born two months premature, significantly raising the risk of disabilities . . . .
But he excoriates the choice to reduce multiple pregnancies to avoid these risks. He characterizes the implantation of multiple embryos to increase chances of pregnancy (because of the high failure rates in IVF) as efforts “to save money” – but he previously harshly criticized Amy Richards, the subject of an infamous New York Times profile who had a selective reduction of her unplanned, accidental triplet pregnancy as well. So, not only is it immoral to subject yourself and your fetuses to the increased risk of multiple pregnancies, but it is also immoral to do anything about it if you do find yourself in that position. And, being unable to afford multiple rounds of IVF at $10,00 – $20,000 a shot is, of course, mere selfishness, but you’re forbidden to assert your own worth even if you didn’t pursue a multiple pregnancy “to save money”. (His pretended concern for the risks to the woman of a multiple pregnancy is clearly window-dressing; no woman is allowed to act to reduce that risk no matter how or why she encountered it.) You’re bad if you implant more than two embryos, you’re bad if you can’t afford not to, and you’re bad if you reduce the risks you face after stumbling through the previous two problems. In other words, taking any positive action to control your risks and outcomes according to your own values and desires is immoral.
The rest is just typical emotive fetus-swooning (“May our Lord have mercy on your poor fetal soul”; ” society has decided that it is better for you to be put to death”; “Your best hope is to pray and hope that others are praying for you too”) and woman-hating (there is not one reference to a woman’s “choice” that suggests there would be any positive benefit to her to control her own biological destiny; women’s autonomy is, literally, for Joe, nothing more than “the right to kill a fetus for any reason you choose” – not one of which such reasons he mentions or acknowledges might even exist). In none of the situations he mentions – birth defects, unplanned multiple pregnancies, risky pregnancies, genetic diagnosis – is there the slightest hint that being denied the right to control your own and your offspring’s future could be of any benefit. In every case, he picks what he considers the least defensible exercise of a woman’s choice not to carry a pregnancy – Down’s Syndrome, “squinting” – and mocks the very idea that anyone should be allowed to have preferences about the matter. More serious choices – Huntington’s Disease, Tay Sachs – are never mentioned, and clearly form no barrier to forcing women to continue a pregnancy against their will.
But what else would this be? I didn’t expect any sudden access of insight or empathy in such a post. I do find it useful to chart the clinical course of right-wing dementia, however. Now they’re talking to fetuses. What next? More importantly, is there an end stage, or are they all just going to wind up like Strom Thurmond, 100 years old, babbling like a banshee and yapping offensive remarks at women in their intermittent lucid moments? (OK – maybe this is the end stage. But how long can this go on?)
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