Sunday, August 17, 2008

Natural family planning NOT ethically equivalent to embryonic stem cell research

Re: Differences surface in McCain-Obama Christian forum

To: R. Alta Charo, professor of law and ethics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison

Dear Professor Charo,

USA Today quoted You, "If (McCain) believes in human rights at the moment of conception, then he ought to be against embryonic stem cell research, IVF (in vitro fertilization) and even the so-called rhythm method."

If this quote is accurate, then it’s only two-thirds right. Certainly, the inalienable rights of a newly conceived human being ought to be protected, and embryonic stem cell research and IVF result in terrible violations of these rights.

However, the “rhythm method” and other forms of natural family planning involving periodic abstinence (such as the highly effective “Creighton Model”) involve acts of a much different sort, acts that do not result in injury or death to any human being. Couples who practice periodic abstinence exercise their reproductive powers in a responsible and loving way, without trying to manipulate, circumvent, or destroy either the nature of the sexual act or its natural consequences, namely conception and childbirth.

By contrast, IVF and embryonic stem cell research subject newly conceived human beings to manipulation and death by experimentation and selective extermination. Even if these activities are carried out for good motives, such as to further medical research or bring children to an infertile couple, they are ethically reprehensible because they involve the exploitation and killing of one class of human beings in order to obtain some benefit for another class of human beings.

It is no coincidence that couples who practice periodic abstinence as a means of regulating conception and childbirth tend to be strongly “pro-life”, believing that from the moment of conception, human beings have inalienable rights which must be protected by any just society. Those who hold such a position stand ethically on high ground.


  1. Professor Charo replied to me via email. Her entire response was:

    R. Alta CHARO

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.


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