Thursday, July 20, 2006

Snowflake Holocaust 

Those among you who are disinclined to believe, or to care much, that human life begins at the very instant when handsome Mr. Sperm makes the acquaintance of lovely Miss Ovum have probably heard the old joke: How do you tell a pro-lifer? When the lab catches fire, he leaves the live baby and saves the five blastocysts. Mr. Bush did just that yesterday, exercising the first veto of his benighted presidency to deny medical researchers the use of embryonic stem cells that will now wind up in the dumpster instead:
Bush and his allies say that frozen embryos are tantamount to humans, and therefore are no more appropriate for medical research than are death row inmates. "If this bill were to become law," Bush said yesterday, "American taxpayers would for the first time in our history be compelled to fund the deliberate destruction of human embryos."

Others reject that analysis, saying it would make killers of every couple that produces an unused embryo, and every employee and official who allows fertility clinics to produce and store such embryos.

"If that's murder, how come the president allows that to continue?" asked Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa). "Where is his outrage?" Harkin called the veto "a shameful display of cruelty, hypocrisy and ignorance."
Mr. Bush openly pandered to his base, the dwindling group that eagerly embraces both A) the inalienable rights of the unborn, and B) torture, by surrounding himself with so-called "snowflake children," who grew from frozen embryos implanted in the wombs of strangers. (We prefer to think of them as "Bird's-Eye children" -- every bit as tasty as the day they were picked!) Less than three decades ago, when the procedure was introduced, in vitro fertilization was regarded in certain quarters as a crime against nature and/or God; the Catholic Church continues to condemn it for the reasons Sen. Harkin cites above, and because it infringes upon "the child's right to be born of a father and mother known to him and bound to each other by marriage."

However, the procedure works, and is now widespread, and most religionists have long since moved on to other pressing reproductive concerns: e.g., the moral unsuitability of Mifepristone (RU-486), an abortifacient not unlike the one used by the priest in Numbers 5, and the emergency contraceptives (or "morning-after pills") marketed as Plan B and Levonelle. You are probably aware that certain pro-life pharmacists have refused to provide their women customers with legally-prescribed emergency contraceptives, on the debatable assumption that progesterone-only pills work by interfering with the implantation of an already-fertilized egg, and are therefore equivalent to abortion.

We are distressed to report that, according to a recent paper by philosopher Luc Bovens, those same pharmacists may now be morally obligated to warn their customers off marital sex altogether:
The range of birth control choices may have become narrower for couples that believe the sanctity of life begins when sperm meets egg. The rhythm method, a philosopher claims, may compromise millions of embryos.

“Even a policy of practising condom usage and having an abortion in case of failure would cause less embryonic deaths than the rhythm method,” writes Luc Bovens, of the London School of Economics, in the Journal of Medical Ethics.

With other methods of contraception banned by the Catholic church, the rhythm method has been one of the few options available to millions . . . .

Now Bovens suggests that for those concerned about embryo loss, the rhythm method may be a bad idea. He argues that, because couples are having sex on the fringes of the fertile period, they are more likely to conceive embryos that are incapable of surviving.

As many as 50% of conceptions may not survive long enough even to disrupt menstruation, Bovens says. It is reasonable to assume then, he adds, that embryos created from sperm that has been sitting for days within the female's reproductive tract before ovulation may be disadvantaged.

The situation is similar, he suggests, for eggs that have been waiting around for sperm to arrive. These are the only two likely scenarios where fertilisation might occur using the rhythm method, he points out.

These embryos may then face a less-than-ideal uterine lining, he points out, since the uterus is not as receptive outside of the most fertile period.

Bovens calculates that, if the rhythm method is 90% effective, and if conceptions outside the fertile period are about twice as likely to fail as to survive, then “millions of rhythm method cycles per year globally depend for their success on massive embryonic death”
Call us old-fashioned, but we find ourselves more and more in tune with the ancient dictum that life begins at 40.

UPDATE (courtesy of our esteemed colleague Scootmandubious): Presidential spokeshole Tony Snow explains Mr. Bush's opposition to stem-cell research, which could "cure or treat a raft of diseases and injuries, from diabetes to Alzheimer's and spinal cord damage":
"The simple answer is he thinks murder's wrong," said White House spokesman Tony Snow.
But not, of course, when he's doing it.

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