An Extra Chromosome And A Cause For Hope

Modern medicine has found many ways to test for problems with unborn children. This is a good thing. It allows for prenatal diagnosis, treatment, and even surgery to address medical issues for babies in the womb. But it also has some diabolical consequences — like the fact that about 90% of unborn children who are diagnosed with Down Syndrome are aborted.

90%

If you happen to be among those who don’t think that’s a problem — who don’t think that’s a sad and horrendous injustice — I give you Karen Gaffney. Karen can speak for herself but, before you listen to what she has to say, let me give you a few facts about Ms. Gaffney:

  • Karen is 38 years old
  • Karen is president of the Karen Gaffney Foundation which is funded in part by honorariums she receives for her public speaking engagements (like the one below)
  • Karen has swum across Lake Tahoe, Boston Harbor, and 16 times across San Francisco Bay
  • Karen is a graduate of the University of Portland
  • Karen received and honorary doctorate in 2013
  • Karen advocates for people with Down Syndrome
  • Karen “rocks the extra chromosome”

I realize that Karen is unique because she represents a “high functioning” case of Down Syndrome and I am in no way attempting to represent her as the norm. And let me be clear that I don’t tout Karen’s success story and inspirational life as the reason to oppose abortion.

My point is simply that the pro-life cause has its foundation in the idea that all members of the human family are valuable, not because of what they do, but because of who they are — human beings made in the image of God.

Karen is an exceptional human being and she would still be an exceptional human being if she didn’t have Down Syndrome. She is proof that all human beings are valuable. Let’s pray that her message reaches far and wide as an example of the value of every human life and that Karen’s story becomes a cry that will awaken those who would have never given her the chance to prove it.

Throwing Cold Water On The ALS “Ice Bucket Challenge”

I really don’t mean to be a killjoy. I love the fact that millions of people are engaging in the latest “Ice Bucket Challenge” to elicit donations for finding a cure for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS – Lou Gehrig’s Disease). I’ve seen the moving story on ESPN about the gutsy baseball star (Pete Frates) from Boston College who initiated the whole movement. I pray that the almost 1000% increase in donations to the ALS Association as a result of this “Ice Bucket Challenge” phenomenon will accelerate the finding of a cure that cannot come too soon.

ALS is a heartbreaking, debilitating, evil disease. I know this because I’ve been watching my father-in-law suffer with it for almost 8 years now. I hate ALS.

But I hate the willful and selfish destruction of innocent human beings more.

The “Ice Bucket Challenge” has become a cultural phenomenon that only the modern social media monster could create. But those who engage in it need to know that the ALS Association’s search for a cure includes their own unapologetic support for Embryonic Stem Cell Research (ESCR). Stem cells offer an exciting area of research that may prove to lead to the most powerful cures for some of the most horrendous diseases mankind faces. But we all need to distinguish betweens Stem Cell Research and Embryonic Stem Cell Research. When it comes to ethics and how we all value human life, the differences between them couldn’t be more stark.

I and others at the Life Training Institute have written about the failures and ethical issues surrounding ESCR before (here, here, here, here, and here among other places). The moral issue centers on only one thing: From what source do you derive the stem cells? ESCR destroys frozen or cloned embryos of a small, defenseless human beings for the benefit of others. The simple fact is that the clinical promise and moral superiority of adult stem cell and induced pluripotent stem cells (IPSC) over ESCR is undeniable and avoids the destruction of innocent human beings. We don’t have to resort to barbarism to seek a cure for diseases.

So, what to do?

You can begin by reading a short news story on “What’s Wrong With The Ice Bucket Challenge?” It gives a short overview of the issue and a couple of solutions:

1) There is an alternative research group that does not engage in ESCR, the John Paul II Medical Research Institute. Feel free to dump a bucket of ice water on your head if you are so-inclined, but then send your money to an institute that respects the value of human life at all stages.

2) Alternatively, if you want to donate to the ALS Association anyway, include with your donation a stipulation that your funds are not permitted to be used in any ESCR program. The Association’s Chief Communications and Marketing Officer, Carrie Munk, has made a public commitment that they will not use your funds to support ESCR if you do so.

To be fair, the ALS Association does support a wide array of alternative research programs. I don’t want to disparage an organization that is doing so much to try to find a cure for ALS. But please, if you choose option 2), do so with great trepidation because Ms. Munk also claims that “under very strict guidelines, The Association may fund embryonic stem cell research in the future.” Seeing that there are no “very strict guidelines” that are strict enough to allow for the destruction of innocent human beings, this doesn’t seem like an acceptable risk to take.

Let’s end ALS, but let’s end it the right way.

Is There A Human In The House?!

Season 3, Episode 17 of the popular TV show, “House”  ignited quite a discussion among those with wildly differing views on the subject of abortion. As is usually the case, the conversation gets heated, tempers flare, and not much useful comes of it all. I have no desire to enter that debate today. But I would like to register my support for the willingness of the show to tread where most in Hollywood never dare. This episode of House gave a rare positive outlook to the view that abortion is not just about a woman’s right to choose. It is about the status of the unborn and whether or not we recognize it for what it is, not just for what it can do or how it affects the mother’s life.

Let me reiterate that a reasoned pro-life position acknowledges and supports a “woman’s right to choose.” As my friend Scott Klusendorf says, I think a woman should be able to choose her husband, her job, her religion … anything she wants … unless that choice involves an immoral outcome such as one that ends with taking the life of another innocent person. The abortion question is not about a woman’s ability to choose, or about her privacy. It is about whether the unborn child in her womb is a human being. If it is not, abortion requires no justification. If it is, there is no possible way to condone it.

That said, this episode of “House” included the usual debate about how to prioritize whose life to save in the event the mother’s life is in danger. In this particular episode, the dilemma that arose was how to save a dying, pregnant mother whose baby was labeled “not viable.” Of course, the mother had been impregnated by the donated sperm of a homosexual co-worker. Though this fact played absolutely no part in the plot, it was jammed into the story for reasons only Hollywood could explain. But I digress…

There were several medical and moral issues involved in the story, especially after it was discovered that the baby was the source of the mother’s rapidly deteriorating condition. Once that fact came to light, House’s response was immediate and unrelenting: “Terminate the pregnancy to save the mother.”

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