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Slippery Slope Is The Blackest of Diamonds

This is Dark Cloud on Wednesday, July 18, 2001.

Stem cell research is the skier peering through his skis and seeing the Lodge below. Not only a slippery slope awaits the next move, but a fast moving, dangerous, and irrevocable journey. It is very much like the abortion debate, with many of the same issues, and like abortion, the conflict engendered isn't really about what it purports to be.

The abortion debate is a fraud. If you eliminate those pregnancies that were unintended and unwanted, there is almost no statistical weight to the discussion. The problem is that the religious right has removed the debate from birth control and sex education and focussed attention on the horrors of eight month term abortions, which almost never happen and then only for medical reasons. And virtually nobody wants an abortion; it is just better not to have unwanted children. The cretinous right says 'don't have sex if you can't face the kid,' as if the vast middle ground of birth control and common sense didn't exist. But then, an ignorant, sexually frustrated public is their flock.

A slightly smaller part is simply hypocritical. Senator Orrin Hatch, a Mormon, is for stem cell research, and he okays the use of what he calls fetuses in the abortion debate, which is to say a glob of about one hundred and forty cells, only sitting in a petri dish rather than a mother's womb. Yet some of those previously frozen embryos who were unnaturally attached to a mother's womb - perhaps surrogate, perhaps not - have now grown up to testify at Senate hearings on this very debate, and brought there by the likes of Hatch. Hatch wants stem cell research, possibly because the diseases most likely to be cured by their usage are, coincidentally, ones that he himself might face in the near future. He says there is no conflict with his opposition to abortion, because it is not just conception but attachment to the mother's womb that defines the child. Really? That could be true, but given the variations for birth here and on the horizon, this is all unstable medicine, philosophy, and religion. So many of the pro-lifers are like the unrecovered Mormon Orrin Hatch: anti-abortion unless it helps them. With the exception of devoted Christian Scientists, you never hear of the religious denying themselves the benefits of medical procedures gleaned from social behavior for which they condemn the practitioners to Hell everlasting.

Understanding that stem cells are only currently for research and not the magic bullets themselves, let me be up-front: I am for stem cell research from any source except harvesting, by which is meant producing an embryo for the sole intent of harvesting its cells to the detriment of the donor, but I have no idea how that could be policed. Recall that two years ago parents with a very sick child in need of a bone marrow transplant deliberately got pregnant for the purpose of producing a baby that could deliver the goods to the older sibling. They did, it worked, and apparently both kids are fine. And will couples now produce, and be allowed to produce, children for not only bone marrow but stem cells or any body part? And if for a sibling, why not for the parents? Can a cancerous father induce his wife to get pregnant to produce a child that can save him? What law prevents it now? Would that couple have saved the first child if they knew the second child became at risk? We don't know and those who have never been in that situation have no right to judge.

Or do we? We need to decide, and soon. Again, the problem with all this is that it brings up the issues of the abortion debate, which I have always considered a straw dog for birth control and all the implications of who controls women and the production of the species. If children are taught how not to produce children until they are prepared, much of the issue dissolves, but many people - perhaps most - are terrified of a sexually experienced population. There are those who don't want the issue to dissolve because it keeps the village elder personality type in charge, or at least within that illusion.

And there it is. Stem cell research is a straw dog for the abortion debate, which is itself a straw dog for the birth control debate. And that, of course, is the ultimate canine hay for who controls women, reproduction, and the species.

Well, looks like they've got the hot tubs going and its Happy Hour at the Ski Haus Lodge. But, you know, this slope is the blackest of diamonds.................