Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Trying Not to Overreact

It's so easy to overreact to news stories these days, especially when the entire nation has become so polarized over issues ranging from health care to gay marriage and everything in between. Thus when I saw the headline "Aborted fetus cells used in beauty creams" I found myself feeling that gut-wrenching rage almost immediately. All sorts of pre-conceived biases and prejudices came wallowing up from somewhere deep in my digestive tract.

Almost reluctantly I followed the thread from The Jawa Report (a bunch of hyper-reactive bloggists if any such exist), through The Interested Participant (one of the Report's frequent bloggers), and on to the actual article posted yesterday at The Washington Times. All the while I fully expected my blood pressure to skyrocket.

Written by Valerie Richardson, the article seems meant to provoke precisely the kind of strong emotional response one expects from the pro-life movement when it comes to any discussion of abortion. Richardson quotes extensively from Children of God for Life, a watchdog group that apparently "monitors use of fetal material in medical products." The target of their wrath is a company called Neocutis, Inc, and they are said to have used "skin-cell proteins from an aborted fetus" in their anti-aging creams.

So far, so good. This is exactly the sort of thing that gets our pro-life dander up because we 1) hold all human life, even aborted fetuses, to be sacred, and 2) always suspect that the right-to-choicers would stop at nothing to profit from their perfidy. And, I suspect, the Washington Times would love nothing more than to see this issue become a major controversy which, understandably, would sell papers.

Still, the article bears deeper reading.

[DISCLAIMER: I know nothing of either Children of God for Life, or Neocutis, Inc. beyond what I read in this article. This opinion I express here is based solely on the strength of this single article and no other research has been made or attempted.]

The fetus (singular) was that of a 14 week old child who, doctors had determined, would not make it to term.

Now we enter that grayest of areas in the entire abortion debate. It has often been said by pro-life politicians that they only support abortion in the case of medical necessity. With few other details available to us, we may presume that a difficult decision had been made by the parents. Certainly there are strong emotions even for this kind of decision; many parents would choose to carry the baby until the inevitable end, even if that end were a miscarriage. Yet other parents may not be able to face the emotional drain for any longer than is absolutely necessary. This is one of those times that we cannot second guess the participants. This was a personal decision and the reasons are theirs alone.

Next comes another hard decision. Post-mortem organ donations have been commonplace for many years now. Vital organs, skin and bone grafts, even full facial replacements have been made possible by those who decided at some point in their lives to donate their bodies for that purpose upon death. In this case, Neocutis claims that the cells harvested from the skin of this baby were used to develop a treatment for "severe dermatological injuries."

Having nevered suffered a "severe dermatological injury" myself, I can only imagine the pain and emotional stress caused by third degree burns, for example. Were I thus afflicted, I would likely be crying out for any available treatment. The provenance of that treatment would be of lesser import to me at that moment.

So, if the company's statement is in fact true, that makes the headline of this article somewhat misleading. The cells weren't used in mere "beauty creams" as the headline would have us believe, but for something that may well have healing properties for someone in critical need. Beauty creams smack of vanity and the hypocrisy of ever-younger-appearing Hollywood elitists. But a dermatological treatment is something used in healing — whether physical or emotional. But healing nonetheless.

Hence I find that I am not quite ready to jump on the boycott demanded by the watchdogs in this case. Given the circumstances, the choices made, and the outcome, I choose to leave this one be. All I would ask is that all women give such careful, even prayerful, consideration to the young lives entrusted to their care, especially when those young lives have no ability to speak up in their own defense.

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