Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Human embryos as subjects finally gets debated at UD. Deo gratias!

This past weekend was the Ethics and Life Sciences
conference that I've been sweating over since May, - the one I
tried to get everybody I know who is pro-life and can write
to submit a paper to.

It turned out beautifully. Catholic Scholars at UD wound up sponsoring a
debate on embryonic stem cell research between Dr. Alfonso Gomez-Lobo (a
lovely guy from Georgetown who is also on the President's Council on
Bioethics) and Dr. Richard Hanley, who is from UD and debated Kate
Rogers last year on abortion. As moderator we got Representative Mike
Castle, Delaware's lone guy in the federal House. He is in favor of ESC
research and in fact spearheaded a bi-partisan effort to get Bush to
loosen restrictions.

Alfonso Gomez-Lobo was awesome. Alex Pruss first suggested him to me. He
reminded me of JPII in the way he spoke. He was humble, friendly,
erudite, and most of all he seemed to start from the assumption, as the
Holy Father does, that his audience was as eager to get to the moral
truth of things as he was. There was nothing antagonistic about his
talk. When he got to things that make embryonic stem cell research wrong
he used the phrase, "I find this very troubling", as if we might also,
and then gives the reason. Nothing condemnatory or negative or shrill
about his mode of argument. Richard Hanley was just as gracious. The two
of them were incredibly respect of each other. My heart sang just to see
reason put to such a beautiful use, instead of
being used to manipulate, obfuscate, etc. as has happened in this
political campaign on both sides.

I really could not have been more pleased with how it turned out. If
only all opponents could learn to have arguments in that manner, the
public would be so much better informed, and could make their own

Then Kate Rogers gave a talk later in the conference about how the "Prohibition
of Cloning and Protection of Research" bill that she and I fought in the
DE legislature was "A Model of Misdirection." Excellent.

There were far more talks at the conference that were truly ethical than
I had imagined. Since all of the invited speakers were inimicable to
Catholic ethical teaching, I had thought of the conference as being a
stacked deck, which is why I was so anxious to get "our side"
represented. Art Caplan, the keynote speaker, whom I'd gone up against
(and flubbed my time terribly) a week before on a television news show
(the news media know about Catholic Scholars now! I know how Frances Kisslinger feels now, what a riot to be a spokesperson for 5 people), is like Carl Sagan, popular and
shallow, a showman . But he only made a few digs during his talk, all at
the Presdent's Council on Bioethics, all ad hominem... but I can live
with that.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

stems and more stems... cells, that is.

Friday I went with Bess McAneny on WHYY tv speaking against embryonic stem cell research, with Art Caplan as the nationally known expert speaking in favor of it and Mark Greene as another local expert like Bess and me. This came after we couldn't find any other local folks to do it - Mike DePietro was going to but got bronchitis. The WHYY producer got Bess to go on by telling her I was all signed up for it, then called me to tell me Bess was going to do it so how about I join her? It was a bust as these things go, but I think I will know a lot more about what to expect the next time. First, it wasn't too scary and I didn't say "shit" on live television like I was worried I'd do. Secondly, I realized once and for all (I hope) that it does no good to talk about the science -- people don't care that adult stem cell research is more promising and the truth is that embryonic stem cell research would be fine if it did not kill embryos. Mark Greene helped me realize that when he said that if he were on our side he wouldn't even both about the science, he'd talk ethics. The science can change, but the ethics will hold if they are solid to start with. Thirdly, the more of this kind of stuff I do, the more I'll get called on to do it assuming I don't completely screw up. I don't _want_ to be a spokeswoman against ESC research but right now it looks like in Delaware there's a short list of folks who will speak out publicly and I'm one of them. So I need to learn to get solid sound bites, shore up my knowledge, and above all don't get so antagonistic. I felt like biting Art Caplan's head off and I'm sure that showed.

Maybe I should join toastmaster's to get more experience with public speaking.

Tomorrow Alfonso Gomez-Lobo comes for the first debate - Inquiry for Truth dialogue on therapeutic cloning. Will Metzger is sponsoring this one. Saturday will be the panel discussion at the conference. I hope Mike Castle does not back out, and I hope (pray) he is open to hearing a different POV.Oremus.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Christopher Reeve's death

I spent a good chunk of yesterday on the phone trying to arrange sparring partners for two television stations, both producing segments on embryonic stem cell research. CN8 said that Christopher Reeve's death makes this a hot topic of the moment. In the course of the day I finally got to talk in person to Alfonso Gomez-Lobo, who will be taking the "no destructive embryonic stem cell research" side in the debate Catholic Scholars at UD is sponsoring on Oct. 23. He told me something poignant (and important) about Christopher Reeve, gleaned from a Washington Post article. Early on after the accident which left him paralyzed, Reeve apparently revealed a wish to be a candidate for assisted suicide. Somehow due to his wife's unswerving support, his own internal transformation, and almost certainly the prayers of so many friends and fans, this desire to die turned into a desire to live life to the fullest capability, even though severely disabled. A candidate for Dr. Kevorkian became a poster guy for making the most of the life one has. So although Reeve got it wrong about embryonic stem cell research, he provides an instructive and inspiring example of a life lived fully, with meaning to self and great encouragement to others, despite being the "perfect candidate" for the assisted suicide folks and the philosophy they try to pawn off on the rest of us.

Of course, it could be argued that he had resources that were not available to others, due to his wealth and fame. But contrary-wise, you could argue that he lost more than others and perhaps had more "reason" to die, given that his health, wealth, fame and potential for continued living of the "good life" surpassed those of most people in his situation.

Sunday, October 10, 2004

Abortion Straddles Infanticide

I am heartened by an Op-Ed piece published in today's News Journal, written by John Ryan a member of The News Journal Community Advisory Board. His first sentence echoes what I have been trying to tell my pro-choice friends:" The argument about abortion just will not go away." It never will, and if the Democrats have any hope of regaining the vote of people like me, they'd better take heed and start to moderate their repugnant hardline pro-choice stand.

My mantra these days is this: I will not vote for a Democrat for national office again until Democrats for Life begins to wield real influence within the party.
Abortion Straddles Infanticide

Saturday, October 09, 2004

Saturday afternoon, after a dry spell

Gabriel married David Norton on Thursday, in a ceremony presided over by a Baptist minister with no family present, only the two witnesses. Although I welcomed the lack of stress that such an elopement brought, I cried a bit on Wednesday afternoon, thinking that I would not be there. Family... children... living lives of interdependence. Bill and I like David very much, as his parents like Gabe. His mother has been praying for him to marry a good woman, just as Bill and I have been praying for Gabe to marry a good man. A match made in heaven. I don't quite know when to send a present, though -- now or when they have a reception in Selma in December?

Politics has been brutal for me lately. At least three friends have preached the gospel of John Kerry to me recently, and when I did not hear the word and respond to it became as frustrated as any religious zealot trying unsuccessfully to save souls from hell. I am disappointed that my views are not respected. How can I vote for a man who is a contemporary Hitler, they ask. Those caught by the near-apocalyptic anti-Bush hysteria cling to the notion that we are at this moment like the Germans before Hitler took over, despite the obvious difference that Bush never wrote a Mein Kampf which anyone, on reading, could see was the work of a sick mind.

The media has not caught on yet that the abortion issue is THE defining issue of the times. Nor have my friends, who scold me for my intransigience in allowing an "evil fascist" like Bush to fool me with his fake Christianity. I do find it amusing, in a cynical way, to see folks who hate and fear "the religious right" (whoever they are) proselytizing as righteously as any Bible-thumper on the importance of electing Kerry to the presidency. Civilization will fall if Bush is re-elected! With what outrage folks view the deaths in Iraq, yet cannot understand the outrage with which those of us who oppose Roe v. Wade have lived for 25+ years. They really do not see the bodies. Am I to believe that Kerry is a savior, when Bush tries to ban partial-birth abortion and Kerry defends it? It is never medically necessary, a C-section could always been done except that a C-section will not guarantee delivery of a dead child. Those late-term abortions done in the case of multiple fetal abnormalities (like my son Eric had) are clear cases of infanticide, whether the baby's head has emerged from the womb or not. The failure of pro-choice folks to condemn this atrocity against human dignity renders all their rhetoric about choice not credible.

I will rejoin my book group, that I quit in a pique over politics. I have been reminding myself of the prayer of St. Francis a lot -- O Master, grant that I may never seek to be understood as to understand. I told my sister Marguerite the whole story of my confrontation with anti-Bush hysteria and, THANK GOD, she understood. Marguerite is to be loved and cherished - she is liberal through and through but not on abortion. People like her and Nat Hentoff are rare.