Topics

Has Michael Kinsley Found Our Weak Spot? On the Logic of the Embryo

Michael Kinsley, now a columnist for Slate, thinks he has caught evangelical Christians and others in the pro-life movement in a net of hypocrisy. As he sees it, when many pro-lifers argue against the use (and necessary destruction) of human embryos in medical research, they are really acting (or thinking) in a basically hypocritical fashion. In other words, we really do not believe what we say.

His point comes down to this — if you really believe that destroying human embryos is inherently evil, then you cannot champion the use of certain fertility technologies (such as IVF). Here is his basic argument:

In any particular case, fertility clinics try to produce more embryos than they intend to implant. Then–like the Yale admissions office (only more accurately)–they pick and choose among the candidates, looking for qualities that make for a better human being. If you don’t get into Yale, you have to attend a different college. If the fertility clinic rejects you, you get flushed away–or maybe frozen until the day you can be discarded without controversy.

And fate isn’t much kinder to the embryos that make this first cut. Usually several of them are implanted in the hope that one will survive. Or, to put it another way, in the hope that all but one will not survive. And fertility doctors do their ruthless best to make these hopes come true.

In short, if embryos are human beings with full human rights, fertility clinics are death camps–with a side order of cold-blooded eugenics. No one who truly believes in the humanity of embryos could possibly think otherwise.

Kinsley’s argument is expressed in deliberately inflammatory language, but his point stands. That is why a consistent pro-life position cannot accept or endorse the willful destruction of any human embryo, whatever its intended “use.” Actually, I have been making this argument for years [see here and here].

Here is Slate’s response page to Kinsley’s column.