Tuesday, January 26, 2010

When they’re not crying “murder!”, they’re crying “eugenics!”

| »

Oh, how I hate articles like this. From the pages of the Times Online, here’s yet another piece of anti-abortion nonsense whining about the slaughter of innocent unborn babies destruction of unknowing, unfeeling and uncaring embryos. It has a different twist on the usual “pro-life” buliatch, however; this one takes less common yet equally rancid “eugenics” approach. The subject is a lengthy list by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), a panel regulating fertility treatments and clinics, which contains over 100 genetic conditions known to be either lethal or hazardous, conditions that embryos are screened for before being cleared for implantation in a mother-to-be. Embryos found to possess defective genetic material in accordance with the list, which includes anything from critical anatomical defects to illnesses that develop later in life (such as cancer or blindness), are destroyed.

There’s much to say here already, but let’s just skip forwards to the article itself. This is as bad a case of a prejudiced and piss-poor excuse for reporting that wasn’t from some Faux News whacko.

FERTILITY regulators have triggered a new row over designer babies by allowing doctors to destroy embryos affected by more than 100 genetic conditions, including many illnesses that are not life-threatening.

The genetic “defects” that can now be routinely screened out include conditions carried by a number of leading figures, such as Pete Sampras, the tennis champion, and Sergei Rachmaninoff, the Russian concert pianist and composer.

*sigh* Two short little paragraphs and already so much nonsense to refute. I’m wondering if my propensity for taking pleasure in ripping into the stupid nonsense from others will overcome my already mounting sense of displeasure and tedium.

First off, you really gotta love that remark about “designer babies”. As if screening embryos for unwanted and potentially deadly genetic conditions was anything akin to building your dream baby from scratch. Also note how the writer, Lois Rogers (whom I cannot call a “journalist” for writing such tripe) attempts to demean the scale and impact of these disorders and handicaps via square quotes, the assertion that people can survive even if they have them, and that some famous people are known to have possessed them. Truly, if this is the quality of arguments you bring to a debate, be prepared to suffer one hell of an injurious loss.

Yes, people can live with genetic disorders. But, um, ask them if their disorders make them happy. Or if they’d rather, y’know, not have them and live with “normal”, healthy bodies untarnished by defects. I’m pretty sure the vast majority of people who are deaf, blind, stricken with lupus or fibromyalgia, or reduced to drooling wrecks hauled around in wheelchairs, would prefer to opt out of their handicaps if they had the chance.

Now, let me be clear (hey, sounded like Barack Obama just there). Anyone reading this and thinking, "hey, he’s advertising we kill crippled or sick people!” is a punch-to-the-face-worthy idiot. I’m not saying we should kill sick people to spare them having to live with their illnesses. That, in fact, is the whole freakin’ point, the crucial distinction that rational, pro-choice people are able to make whilst our anti-abortionist counterparts can’t: that there is a massive difference between killing someone who’s already led a life (or still has one to lead) simply because they’re sick, and terminating developing embryos who cannot feel, think, care, or even know anything at all about life and death. Rational, pro-choice people understand that destroying blobs of cells, as opposed to killing living persons, incurs no suffering of any sort, from anyone.

Finally, the argument that some famous, successful and beloved people have lived with some of the illnesses present on the screening list is, to put it simply, utterly worthless. Yes, some people have had disorders and were able to overcome them and still be great. But, what is this argument even supposed to mean? That we shouldn’t destroy (unfeeling, uncaring and unknowing) embryos simply because of a small chance that some of them may develop great skills later on? I’m not entirely sure how to classify this sort of fallacy, but it’s simply illogical. Furthermore, bringing up the names of famous people who’ve had conditions such as those on the list is a pure and obvious appeal to emotions. What the writer is saying amounts to nothing less silly than, “if we screen embryos for genetic defects, then … those talented people we have today will have been aborted!”.

I trust you see where this is going. So, let’s just move on.

The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), has published a list of 116 inherited conditions that fertility clinics can screen out without requiring special permission.

Although many of the conditions can cause gross deformity, protracted pain and premature death, the list also includes illnesses, including cancer and blindness, which can strike late in life after a victim has enjoyed decades of good health.

A number of the conditions are not life-threatening or can be readily treated because of advances in medicine.

First, of course there’s no need or requirement for any “special permission” for fertility clinics to destroy any embryos they wish; there no mothers who have them yet, no-one to be held accountable to. This is the same as whining about sperm banks having the right to reject whatever samples they choose for various reasons. It’s the exact same argument!

Also, that second paragraph is nothing short of stupid, almost to the point of being irritating. Right; so, sure, most of the conditions on the list are deadly or cruel, yet some of them are so much better! You know, what with blindness, and cancer. I’m sorry to say, but I would much rather never have been born if it meant I didn’t develop with the knowledge of an impending doom in the form of my eyesight being taken away, or being struck with malignant tumors, or any other debilitating and miserable illness that would appear slowly, gradually, almost tauntingly – and always helplessly in its inevitability.

Yes, who wouldn’t want to live like that?

After a bit more of that “those-famous-talented-people-could’ve-been-aborted!” nonsense, we arrive at logical fallacy #48:

However, David King, director of Human Genetics Alert, a pressure group, said he was concerned about the use of selection for non-fatal conditions. “It contributes to a social climate in which even minor deviations from ‘normality’ are seen as unacceptable,” he said

Ah, yes. You’re looking good today, Mr. Slippery Slope. I trust your inclusion in this piece was ridiculous and unfounded enough to your liking? You’re comfortable with the implied assertion that screening embryos for lethal or crippling disorders is on par with demeaning or terminating anyone who isn’t “normal”? All’s well, then.

We then finally arrive at the end of this puddle of chihuahua sick, with another emotional appeal that, unless I’m mistaken, actually appears to backfire rather amusingly (in a vindictive sort of way):

The HFEA is now considering adding a further 24 inherited disorders to its list of genetic conditions. Decisions on eight of them are expected this week. They include porphyria, a potentially painful condition caused by overproduction of red blood cell pigment that was linked to the “madness” of George III.

Karen Harris, of the British Porphyria Association, said: “I have porphyria, so does one of my three children and so does his child.” Although Harris said she would not have used PGD to select her own children, she would not condemn its use by other families. “If you have lived with someone unable to function and on constant morphine because of the pain, you would take a different view.”

So, in trying to argue that those poor sick people have a right to life (which no-one is denying or refuting as, once again, it’s the screening of embryos we’re talking about, not actual people with lives and loved ones), the writer actually included a quote by an actual sick person who said that she would understand if others took the measure of screening for such disorders, and that only someone who’s lived with such pain and sickness can truly know what it’s like, and what should be done about it?

Granted, this argument could probably be used both ways, but it does seem like a rather self-destructive thing to include in an irrational, anti-abortionist, eugenics-crying piece of pig slop such as this. That’s how it strikes me, anyway.

(via The Daily Grail)