Friday, December 4, 2009

A market in fetal organs? If you're 'pro-choice' ...

In a piece from earlier this year in the Huffington Post, bioethicist and medical historian Jacob M. Appel writes: "Professor Richard Gardner of Oxford University, a renowned expert on human reproduction and an advisor to Britain's Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority, recently raised the prospect of using organs from aborted fetuses for transplantation into adults" (emphasis added).

Appel (who's not exactly a fringe figure in bioethics) then suggests that creating a legal market in aborted baby organs is a good idea, both for the women who would benefit financially (by selling the organs) and for the other members of society who would be the recipients of transplantations.

Let me make two points. First, this is incredibly sick, morally speaking -- I believe (I hope) it would shock the sensibilities of most people. Consider, as Appel writes:
The supply [of fetal organs], for all practical purposes, is unlimited. ... Pregnant women who provide fetal kidneys could do so repeatedly ... If only a small percentage of those women [having abortions] could be persuaded to carry their fetuses to the necessary point of development for transplantation, society might realize significant public health benefits. The government could even step into the marketplace to purchase fetal organs for patients on Medicare and Medicaid. ... A market in fetal organs would empower women to use their reproductive capabilities to their own economic advantage. ... Someday, if we are fortunate, scientific research may make possible farms of artificial "wombs" breeding fetuses for their organs.
Sounds like science fiction, doesn't it?

Second, the moral permissibility of creating a market for fetal organs follows logically from the pro-choice position on abortion. Appel makes this case well: "I believe we have a moral duty to women to give due consideration to the legalization of such a fetal-organ trade. ... If a woman has a fundamental right to terminate a pregnancy, why not the right to use the products of that terminated pregnancy as she sees fit?"

If the human embryo or fetus merits no moral respect -- and may therefore be killed (by abortion) for any or no reason if the mother chooses, as NARAL, Planned Parenthood and others argue -- then there seems to be no good justification for prohibiting a market in fetal organs. The unborn offspring is the property of the mother, and she may do what she wants with it. And that includes growing babies in the womb in order to kill them to harvest their useful parts.

This disturbing conclusion is absolutely wrong -- evidence of the total bankruptcy of the pro-choice position. It should cause those who are pro-choice to reevaluate their initial premises.