I was prompted to post this after reading Mike Rivage-Seul's article on the Pope's Amoris Laetitia. It is from my website while running against Hatch a few years back, voteutah.us. It is not 100% on point, but I believe close enough.
Recently I received a letter from a visitor to this website, asking the following: "I see that you are running for Senate. I would like to know your stand on the following issues:
3. Embryonic Stem Cell Research
4. Same sex marriage
5. Human Cloning
My answer follows: I appreciate your asking and investigating my take on these matters of great importance. I am happy to attempt to address them.
Abortion. I believe that many people place this as their central issue in voting, I think because they view it as the destruction of a soul, presumably immortal. That is actually the position I took in a college speech class, several decades ago. I had graduated 12 years of Catholic school, with some very strict nuns. Since then, I've grown physically and spiritually, read countless articles on the topic, known a number of women who had an abortion (probably many more than actually talked about it to me), and thought about the subject from many points of view.
First, I do think many people take the topic too lightly, whether one believes in an immortal soul or not. Clearly, if a person believes, for whatever reason, that abortion is the taking of innocent human life, I can understand their abhorrence of such an act. Not to stand up for that belief would be a disregard of one's own morality. Of course, there can be an infinite spread of further complicating issues. Is the mother's life endangered, does the fetus have serious medical problems that will cause a life of misery or a very short life anyway, and the list goes on and on.
That said, the view that a fertilized egg has a soul, mortal or otherwise, is ultimately a personal, generally religious one. At the same time, even if there is no soul, as many believe, this is not something many women I've known take lightly. It is a major, life-changing event, either way. Given the variables, the timing, the medical aspects, the nature of conception (e.g., was it rape?), and the simple fact that I am a male who doesn't want to poke his nose into other people's life (and don't think doing so is moral in itself, except in extreme cases--e.g., I would do my best to help someone being beaten on the street), I believe whether or not to have an abortion is a woman's decision and the state should stay out of it. A woman, her doctor, and the relevant people in a woman's life are the ones who should be making this choice.
Briefly, personally, I would look closely at the state of consciousness of the unborn and try to factor that into this weighty question. A freshly conceived egg is smaller than the period at the end of this sentence, and I am far more concerned in general with our country killing other fully conscious and innocent men, women, and children around the world (calling it "collateral damage" and now using robotic drones to do it), and sending our own young men--with so much potential to do real good in their lives--to foreign countries to take over resources, namely oil, as we've done in Iraq and Afghanistan. Euthanasia. Again, we have definitional issues right off.
When I was lying in the LDS Hospital in June and July of August 2005, on an artificial heart and other machines, waiting for a real heart from a then living donor, I wanted to be "disconnected" many times. I am glad now that I wasn't, but I actually had a living will somewhere saying that I wanted no part of being on medical life-support. Also, for the year before that time, I was living like a vegetable, with a 15% ejection fraction, and a helpless burden to those I lived with. For life to go on like this was becoming more and more unfathomable, and I was beginning to ponder how to end it. Yes, suicide, another form of euthanasia.
If one is considering this question seriously, I would strongly encourage them to watch Million Dollar Baby, with Clint Eastwood. I cannot think of a more potent and compelling movie to give deep insight and provoke thought on this incredibly weighty issue. Again, it comes down to one's own conscience. My friend, Dr. Robert Weitzel, was up on murder charges which you may have been following in the press a few years back. He was adhering to strict and clear directives from relatives regarding his geriatric patients, to not keep these elderly, badly ailing folks on life support, but instead to give them end-of-life care. That meant to reduce their pain and suffering to the greatest extent possible. 60 Minutes did an excellent and I think objective piece on this, which takes about 12 minutes to watch: click here Dr Jacob Kevorkian , who died not long ago [2011, based on a video I re-recently watched and most strongly recommend], I think was ahead of his time, and certainly not some kind of "mad killer," as he has been portrayed. Countless Americans would love to have him or another like him around near the inevitable end of their life (please note: Dr. Weitzel was NOT taking an active role in anything but rather helping his five patients exit life on earth with dignity, and he makes a very big point of this distinction).
I think his was a five day trial, with a jury of 12 lay person peers, and the decision came in unanimously to vindicate Dr. Weitzel on all counts. The only reason they took an hour to deliberate, we later learned, was that they had pizza for lunch. This was in Davis County, north of Salt Lake, and a very conservative place (I hate labels, but I think this is fair to say here). So euthanasia has many sides and definitions too, near as I can tell.
I once saw a high school student who was crippled and completely paralyzed and in need 24 hours of care. I don't really know all his circumstances, but he appeared to be barely aware, if aware, of his own existence. My heart bled just to see this, and I could not possibly imagine how the parents must have been suffering all those years. I would not make such an unfathomably difficult and personal decision for someone else. I also do believe that the vast majority of doctors are not leaping for joy when such cases arise.
Again, I'd leave the state out of this sphere of any person's life, while realizing there could exist cases where a decision had to be made by someone. Generalizing on these topics and passing laws based on such generalizations is, I believe, not a good idea. My father is 90, btw, [now deceased, at 93, due to a stroke; he was trying to "break his half mile" walk the week of his stroke!] and [at the time I wrote this] doing well after yet another surgery. His new wife, a few years younger, is wonderful company for him. If decisions of this nature were to come up in their relationship, I would NOT want to be in a position to call the shots.
Embryonic Stem Cell Research. I am glad that scientists are in large measure bypassing this issue by learning to use other than stem cells for research and conclusions and findings they would not otherwise be able to reach. From all I've read, stem cells that would be used for this kind of research would die off anyway. Since I believe we should use the tools we've been given to alleviate human suffering--I see this as our moral duty--I am in favor of stem cell research, though this is seeming less and less relevant with each passing week. Had medical technologists been able to grow a heart for me, a kidney for my friend or brother-in-law (who wound up with one of my sister's kidneys, risking her life), I would have been most pleased.
Same sex marriage. As I've written on my website: "Establish marriage equality. If a person wants to marry a potato, a slug, or a stinkbug, let them. Many already have, and this has had no known effect on the marriage or relationships of others." I can't add to that in any meaningful way, except to say that I've known many same-sex oriented people and read tons on the subject and believe this is genetically determined (with a few possible exceptions, that would be none of my business). Just remembered, I did write about this some years back: click here Nothing has changed since I wrote that article that I am aware of.
Human Cloning. There have been many times when I thought a few clones of myself would have been very helpful, particularly in the classroom (a very scary thought at the moment!). Likewise, I have known many beautiful people who it seems like we should have more of. However, my gut feeling is that this is unnecessarily playing God (and one can take that term in whatever way they want, I merely mean this would be taking our technology too far too fast, when we don't really know what we're doing). I have little doubt that the philosophical complications that would come from this would be overwhelming, just as they are already on the question of whether we should use gene manipulation to create "super humans" (which I oppose, due to the vastly complex issues this creates).
A few last thoughts. I was in biology for four years and have followed much of the work in that field since I left college. I say this to give a better sense of where I'm coming from. I DO think that how a society treats the weakest and least amongst its members is one major direct measure of its greatness.
Hence my interest in improving education (literally, "to lead out of the dark"), ending poverty, ending wars, and creating a viable and sustainable society. I am a firm believer in bona fide sex education (parents would be free to opt out if they wished), free contraceptives and much contraceptive information from clinics, and even free vasectomies. This would eliminate many of the problems I've written about here. Sadly, at least to me, over 60% of the pregnancies in the U.S. are unplanned. I believe we've all seen the deleterious effects of this, probably more than once. I think not taking the issue of bringing new life into the world most seriously is itself immoral.
I have one biological son, another adopted, and more recently an autistic step-child who I spend much time working with. To the person who sent the questions: Thank you for prompting this article and causing me to spell my thoughts out in more detail. Most appreciated.
(Article changed on April 11, 2016 at 09:13)
(Article changed on April 11, 2016 at 09:18)