Tuesday, April 30, 2002
Folks have probably noticed I've made a bunch of anti-cloning posts. I'm not sure why that is. I haven't worked out all the details of my feelings about the whole question, but I'm certainly not a clean anti-cloning vote. Indeed, I suspect I'm a pro-research-cloning vote, in the context of the proper regulatory infrastructure. I think reproductive cloning would be extremely dangerous - like, the clones would be sickly and the doctors should be liable for doing harm to people for bringing sick people into being - and so should be banned at the present time for that reason alone. I'm very leery of any process that results in the legal ownership of other human beings, and I don't think we have a good definition of a human being yet that would guarantee that such a thing wouldn't happen. I'd like the regulatory architecture to prevent outcomes like that to develop before the outcomes happen, not after the fact.
But I don't think abortion is always unjustified, nor that a zygote has the status of a human being. I lean towards a capacities test for humanhood, which would suggest I am absolutely against abortions beyond some date but not before it, and I'm certainly not opposed to IVF or other procedures that create embryos that will inevitably be discarded. The body, after all, does much the same. I think that genetic manipulation to eliminte disease is not only justified but morally necessary, the same as other kinds of medical treatment. And I am reluctant to have the government intervene in private decisions; I don't think women undertake abortions lightly, and in general I prefer to trust parents to make moral decisions rather than the government.
I do very much worry about the slippery-slope, however, particularly in the context of the necessary vaguess of application of any kind of capacities test. And because of that I am willing to entertain arguments that are more aggressive than those I might make myself in the pro-life direction. I don't think we're on a good moral footing on these issues in this country. And specifically, I am very distressed by the degree to which rights-talk has usurped wrongs-talk in this area. Where something is asserted to be a right, it is very hard to argue that that something is wrong. And as the rhetoric of the right to choose has escalated, I feel very much like I am watching a repeat of the 1850s, as an institution that was accommodated because eliminating it seemed to be a graver injustice than tolerating it became an absolute right that could never be challenged, warping the political and moral fabric of the country. Not that I'm expecting civil war over abortion; I'm certainly not. Not am I comparing abortion to slavery as an enormity; I'm not. But the rhetorical and legal aggression of NARAL do remind me of those of John Calhoun - as the extremism of Randall Terry reminds me of Garrison and John Brown - and these thing give me pause.